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Sixers crumble to blow lead v Breakers

By Chris Pike
29 December 2012 02:59AM EST

THE pressure is continuing to mount on the Adelaide 36ers after they blew a 21-point half-time lead and crumbled late in the game to lose to the New Zealand Breakers 71-66 at Adelaide Arena on Friday night.

Much was expected of the 36ers coming into the 2012-13 season after the signings of Olympian Adam Gibson, former NBA centre Luke Schenscher and Gold Coast Blaze pair Anthony Petrie and Jason Cadee, but Friday's loss at home was their fifth straight to continue the pressure to mount on coach Marty Clarke.

The Sixers have now slipped to a 5-8 record after winning five of their first eight games, but their first half against the two-time defending champion Breakers saw them look set to break out of their form slump.

With big men Schenscher and Daniel Johnson unstoppable, the 36ers dominated the Breakers in the opening half and led 49-28 at half-time to be in complete control of the contest.

Despite scoring just 12 points in the third quarter, Adelaide still led by 14 points at three quarter-time but that was soon evaporated when New Zealand scored the first 13 points of the final period.

Adelaide did briefly steady with a three-pointer to Stephen Weigh, but the choke was in full swing with the 36ers coughing up turnover after turnover in the dying minutes, as New Zealand big man Will Hudson and point guard Cedric Jackson took over, and led the Breakers to the five-point win.

The 36ers scored just five points in the final quarter with New Zealand piling on 24 to remain on top of the ladder and improve to a 10-3 record on the season.

Hudson had his best game of the season for the Breakers since replacing championship-winning import Gary Wilkinson.

Hudson had a solid season in 2011-12 with the Gold Coast Blaze and has been playing behind Alex Pledger so far for the Breakers, but came up big on Friday night in Adelaide finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and a block.

He was especially dangerous on the offensive glass with four rebounds and they resulted in several put backs.

MVP favourite Jackson didn’t have a great shooting night for the Breakers going 7-of-20, but he still had a big impact on the victory with 17 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.

No other New Zealand player reached double-figures but Mika Vukona pulled in 10 rebounds as he worked hard to get the Breakers back into the contest.

It was New Zealand's 13th straight victory over Adelaide and Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis never gave up believing his team could come back despite falling down by 20-plus points.

"We just kept believing the whole game and that was the most important thing whether we won it or not," Lemanis said.

"We kept believing the whole second half and keeping them to 17 points in a half after they scored 49 in the first half was a big key for us. They kicked our arse in the first half and one of the things I said to the guys is if you get down 21 points in a half, you can get up by 21 points in a half."

Most of Adelaide's turnovers came in the second half and the majority in the dying stages of the game with Schenscher finishing with six, Weigh five, Johnson three and Gibson three.

Schenscher still had a monster game, though with 25 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks even though he was well held in the second half. His big man partner Johnson had 15 points and eight boards with Weigh scoring 10 points and pulling in six rebounds.

It was a shocked Adelaide coach after the game with Clarke lost for words about how the 36ers couldn’t rise a level when the Breakers did in the second half.

"It's devastating for everybody from the staff, the players and the fans," Clarke said.

"The guys serviced Luke (Schenscher) well in the first half and got him the ball, but somewhere, somehow something changed and the game became more physical. They cranked up the defence and that's the reason they've won two championships. We just couldn’t go with them."

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