There’s a lot wrong with the Breakers at the moment. Sitting three games under 50% after eleven matches isn’t ideal, nor is the fact that they’ve only won consecutive games once all season. Losing the last four in a row is pretty bleeding average too. The last Breakers thing I wrote was about the ways they’d teased this juggernaut offence… but unfortunately since then any further evidence of that capability has been buried between what’s emerging as a rather useless defence.
We can talk more about their defensive issues later on since the international break has put a bit of a bracket around the season so far. Basically, while they’ve topped a hundy three times already this season, they’ve also conceded a hundy points three times. Not once have they limited a team to under 80ppg and the current four game losing streak has seen the worst of it. Scoring across the board is up this season but this has still been a bit rubbish.
Something else seems to be going on too though, something that drastically affects how well a team can play defence (and offence too for that matter). Something which has gotten Kevin Braswell in a little trouble and which has lightened the weight of his wallet. After the loss to Melbourne the coach unloaded on the refs and was fined around five hundred bucks for the outburst. If he thought that was bad then the game at home against Perth was much worse and so was the fine he got for talking about it, a cool grand.
Kevin Braswell: “It's so hard for me to do this press conference right now. My frustration is through the roof. You can't tell me we fouled 35 times and they fouled 18. You can't tell me you have a chance of beating a team when they shoot 43 free-throws and we shoot 18. There's no fun in basketball if you're going to constantly do this game after game. Every time I look at this, it's the same. In NBA games they play 48 minutes and they don't shoot 43 free-throws. They got 34 points from the line. I've never seen this in my life.”
He said a lot more too but let’s cut it short at that, you get the point. So… does old mate have a point here?
He sure bloody did in the Perth game. It was quite astounding, five different Breakers players fouled out as the Wildcats, playing in Auckland by the way, shot 43 free throw attempts (making 34 of them). That’s 34 points of bonus offence in a game that they won by five in overtime. The Breakers, meanwhile, shot 15 of 18 in the defeat. They ended up with a lineup of Weeks, Ili, Ngatai, Richard and Majok… which you can be sure was not the way Kevin Braswell wanted to draw it up in overtime and you can be sure he won’t be turning to that particular lineup ever again if he doesn’t have to. Shawn Long, Tai Wesley, Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster and Armani Moore all fouled out. For Long it was the third time this season.
Oddly this seems to be a recurring theme every time they play Perth. Their biggest rivals, the team they split all those championships in a row with until Melbourne snapped the streak last season… first time they played was over in Perth and the Cats won pretty easy, 92-78. It was the Breakers’ second worst offensive effort of the campaign so far (behind the opening loss to Brissie) and perhaps a little part of that was that across a forty minute game they only got to the line three times. Three free throws. At least they didn’t miss any. And the most recent game was over in Perth where they only shot 5 of 9, compared to 19/23 from the Wildcats. I’ll put those in a cheeky list for you so you can peruse ‘em in a more palatable format…
It doesn’t seem massively fair, does it?
Of course, it’s possible that the Wildcats are just a really good defensive team that doesn’t foul a lot and the Breakers are a team that doesn’t force the issue enough on offence, doesn’t grind out buckets when things go astray (which we know is true from some of their extended points droughts) and it’s possible that we could go through every single play of the Breakers season one by one and determine whether an accurate decision was made by the referees each time and it’d still end up somewhere like where it is… but I’m not going to do that and I doubt you will either so all we’ve got to go by are the stats and the narrative that’s emerged from players and fans alike. Tai Wesley agrees. He’s going to a tribunal after he gets back from international duty with Guam because of comments made directed at the referees last week.
What about when they’re not playing Perth? That’s a closer deal, to be fair. But there’s still only been one game out of eleven where the Breakers have taken more free throw attempts than their opposition… that was when they limited Sydney to nine FTs a week and a bit ago and still managed to lose by double figures. Don’t really need to shoot the free ones when you’re already hitting 62% from the field, do ya? Didn’t foul ‘em because they couldn’t even touch ‘em.
Unsurprisingly then the Breakers are getting the fewest foul calls per game in their favour, while the Wildcats are getting the most. The Wildcats also foul the least. You get the idea, based on that graph the trends are made very clear and any time the Breakers played the Wildcats it was going to be a mess.
Because, you know, officiating only does so much. Shawn Long in particular has had trouble with fouling, a guy who played NBA recently and he’s finding it hard to adjust to the lack of physicality allowed for in the NBL. Not a coincidence. When your starting centre is in foul trouble then the game gets harder, fair to say. And why for the Breakers more than anyone? Because their run and gun ideals on offence meant they don’t really have another guy who can do what Shawn Long does within this structure, damaging the efficiency of the team at both ends. Damaging how hard Long can play when he’s in there too – this guy is legit one of the three best fives in the comp and he’s not getting the chance to hammer that fact home.
The refs are gonna call it the way they’re gonna call it. You can make it a public thing and hope to influence that, which Braswell has done, but you also need to adjust as a team. The Breakers want to play transitional offence. Letting other dudes shoot freebies means there is no transition. It wrecks them doubly. Can’t really let that keep happening or else it’s going to be a very long season. At least they’ve got a bit of extra time now between games to try figure something out.
MVP Points vs Perth (L 98-93 OT)
3 – Tai Wesley
2 – Shea Ili
1 – Patrick Richard
MVP Points at Perth (L 91-86)
3 – Armani Moore
2 – Tom Abercrombie
1 – Tai Wesley
MVP Points vs Melbourne (L 108-101)
3 – Corey Webster
2 – Tai Wesley
1 – Shawn Long
MVP Points at Sydney (L 100-87)
3 – Shawn Long
2 – Patrick Richard
1 – Tai Wesley
TOTAL MVP STANDINGS
1) Tai Wesley – 18 points
2) Shawn Long – 11 points
3) Corey Webster – 10 points
4) Patrick Richard – 9 points
5) Tom Abercrombie – 8 points
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