Breakers too hot for Blaze
LAST year the burden of being runaway minor premiers hung around the Breakers' necks like a festering albatross as they trudged through their final few meaningless regular-season games.
Last night they played like a team without a care in the world. That can swing both ways, but in a blistering demolition of the Gold Coast Blaze this Breakers team showed it is just as dangerous in party mode as it is with backs to the wall.
Last season's breakthrough championship seems to have done good things for this team's psyche. History is no longer against them, no longer a barrier to be smashed, but there to be moulded.
Sitting in third but with a finals spot far from guaranteed, the Blaze could hardly have been more motivated. But their desperation was no match for the Breakers' freedom and utter lack of fear. What a difference a year makes.
Mika Vukona made an interesting start to the game, missing a close-range jump shot and committing two fouls to earn a seat on the bench in just 26 seconds. Vukona is no stranger to foul trouble, but that was going some even for him.
Whether it was a signal the Breakers' weren't quite on the ball or a ploy to gain a key player some rest was hard to tell. Certainly their rebounding, particularly at the defensive end was uncharacteristically poor, with the offensive rebound count at one stage 10-1 in the visitors' favour.
The early foul count also heavily favoured the Blaze to the tune of 8-1, however none of that much mattered. If they were a little down in the effort areas, the Breakers certainly shot the ball like millionaires. With Daryl Corletto, and CJ Bruton leading the way they edged to a 23-18 lead at the first break. By half time that had stretched to 58-46, with Bruton and Corletto combing for a perfect 5/5 shooting display from beyond the arc.
Overall the Breakers shot an impressive 22/34 for the half at impressive 65 per cent clip.
That was far too hot for the Blaze, despite the visitors having three more shots and connecting at a far-from-terrible 47 per cent. The big difference was at the three-point line, with Blaze hitting just one of nine attempts.
While the Breakers will be keen to insist they aren't changing their approach ahead of the finals, the sighting of little used bench warmer Dion Prewster two minutes before the break said everything about how this contest was viewed.
Win at all costs it certainly wasn't. Winning comfortably it most certainly was.
By three-quarter time the lead was 22, with Corletto drilling a freakish banked three to rub the Blaze's noses in it right on the buzzer.
An 25-19 final quarter by the Blaze restored a little respectability, however the Gold Coast club will require a significant improvement when the teams meet again in the final regular season game on Sunday wee - and potentially in the opening round of the playoffs.
Thomas Abercrombie led all scorers with 24, Gary Wilkinson had 20 and Corletto 17.
The win improved the Breakers to 20-6, and a club-best13-1 at home. The Blaze drop to 15-11, tied with Townsville and just a game ahead of the fifth-placed Taipans with two matches remaining.