THE New Zealand Breakers head to Perth with the chance of securing their third consecutive Australian NBL title after victory in game one of the final series against the Wildcats at the weekend.
They defeated their great rivals 79-67 at Auckland’s Vector Arena, and should they win the second match later in the week, they will become only the second team to win three titles on the trot in the competition’s history.
History is against them doing it in two however, as the Breakers have lost on the road in the finals in the previous two seasons.
“Mentally, it’s not tough to play, you’re excited, there’s a buzz around knowing you’ve got a chance to win it in Perth,”Daryl Corletto, who scored 19 points in game one, told Fairfax NZ.
“I know a couple of the boys have spoken that there would be nothing sweeter than winning it in Perth.”
Despite their emphatic victory in match one, they didn’t go crazy in the celebrations, knowing the challenge that lay ahead of them.
“Last year we went there and lost game two, so we know what it’s about and we’re not getting too far ahead of selves,” coach Andrej Lemanis said.
“It’s funny. I was watching the replay of game two [of the semifinal] in Sydney and they had a shot of our bench with a minute to go and everyone was just sitting there completely focused, and I’m hearing [commentator] Andrew Gaze say ‘wow, they’ve just made the Grand Final, you’d think they’ve just lost’.
“That’s what we’re about. We’ve got a great group that understands what winning is about.
“[This] was one part of the journey and we’re very well aware of that, and we’re going to go to Perth and it’s going to be another hell of a game and we need to play well to give ourselves a chance to win there.
“That’s where our focus goes now.”
Perth have won 14 straight on their home court, and will look to improve their shooting stats, having hit only 28 percent from the floor and six-of-34 from beyond the arc in game one.
There was also a lack of fire from a team that likes to assert itself physically.
“That was not the Perth Wildcats, that’s not us,” their coach Rob Beveridge said.
“I didn’t think we played hard enough. They won all the ‘one-per centers’, they won the effort areas.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on, and why we got beat. They played a lot harder than us, and they wanted it more.”
Lemanis said the campaign now became all about responses, from both sides.
“We’ll make adjustments, they’ll make adjustments, and it’s about ensuring when you come into game two with a 1-0 lead that you come out with the right mindset,” he said.
“As I said in the Sydney series, whenever you play someone facing elimination there’s just a natural desperation and urgency that comes with that.
“As the team that’s got the lead it’s easy to just cruise around a bit and get kinda knocked between the eyes before you wake up.
“It’s important we come out and understand the urgency and desperation we need to play with to give ourselves a chance to get over the line there.”
The Breakers have no major injury concerns, with Tom Abercrombie nursing a bruise to his hip and Cedric Jackson a bang to his knee, neither of which are serious.