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Breakers stay top with seventh straight

By Chris Pike
20 January 2013 10:00PM EST

THE New Zealand Breakers won its seventh straight NBL match to remain on top of the ladder with an 84-66 victory over the Adelaide 36ers at the Adelaide Arena on Sunday.

New Zealand improved to a 15-3 record with the 18-point victory on the road to remain clear on top of the NBL ladder ahead of the second-placed Perth Wildcats (12-4).

Adelaide's loss consigns the 36ers to a 6-12 record having now lost remarkably nine of their last 10 matches. Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that the Sixers are far from out of the playoff hunt with third and fourth positions still wide open.

The Sydney Kings sit fourth with just 10-9 while the slumping Wollongong Hawks are fourth with 8-9. That leaves the bottom-four teams Melbourne (6-9), Townsville (6-11), Adelaide (6-12) and Cairns (5-11) still with hopes of finals action for the 2012-13 season.

Both New Zealand and Adelaide went into Sunday's game without starting centres Alex Pledger and Luke Schenscher respectively, and it was a tight first half with scores tied at both quarter-time and half-time.

However, the Breakers had another gear to step on that the 36ers didn’t and the two-time defending NBL champions pushed it down in the third period scoring 24 points to Adelaide's 10 to set up the eventual 18-point triumph.

Hard man Mika Vukona had a terrific game for the Breakers finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Fellow veteran Daryl Corletto shot well to score 15 points on 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point territory.

Leon Henry added 10 points for the Breakers with Thomas Abercrombie scoring 11 and point guard Cedric Jackson 11 to go with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Corletto and his seasoned and experienced teammates went into half-time knowing they needed to lift at both ends of the floor, and that's exactly what they were able to do to win their seventh straight match, five of which have come on the road.

"They had a couple of easy lay-ups in the second quarter so we spoke about that at half-time and the Breakers pride ourselves on our defensive pressure, and we stepped that up in the second half and that showed," Corletto said.

"We pride ourselves on running 10 players deep and everyone comes in to play their role, and we have different players stepping up on different nights. We never feel like we are out of a ball game and we feel that over 40 minutes we can outrun most teams in the league with our depth.

"Winning seven straight is good, but obviously we still have work to do. Out of those seven wins, a couple of them have been by one or two points, and we have a lot of things to build on. We have another tough game next week against Sydney and then we go to Wollongong."

Anthony Petrie stepped up big for Adelaide in the absence of Schenscher finishing with a game-high 19 points and six boards. Only one other 36er scored in double-figures and that was Adam Gibson with 10 to go with his four assists and three boards.

Big man Daniel Johnson had nine points and nine rebounds but shot 1-of-9 from the field.

While mathematically Adelaide can still make the finals if its form turns around, having won just once from 10 games since an impressive performance to beat the Wildcats at the Perth Arena on November 16 suggests it's going to be tough.

Adelaide has also already played 11 of its 14 home matches for the season and having just won four of them, will now need to put on some big performances on the road in the run home to be any chance of turning the campaign around.

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