Fresh off winning the last two NBL championships, the Breakers continue to show that they are ready for more improving to a 17-3 record for the 2012-13 season after a comfortable 17-point win over the struggling fourth-place Wollongong at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Saturday.
The victory was New Zealand's ninth straight this season, a club record in the NBL, and sets up a top-of-the-table clash with the 13-4 Perth Wildcats, who also have won five straight, at Auckland's 10,000-seat Vector Arena on Friday night.
Wollongong might be still sitting in fourth position on the NBL ladder, but have now lost seven straight matches and have lost starting guards Lance Hurdle and Rhys Martin to season-ending knee injury, and veteran Glen Saville went down hurt early against the Breakers as well.
The Hawks now have slipped to an 8-10 record to be leaving the door open for Melbourne (6-10), Cairns (6-11), Adelaide (6-12) and Townsville (6-12) to still make the playoffs.
Wollongong simply didn’t have enough tools at either end of the court to match New Zealand, though, with the Breakers powering away in the final period outscoring the Hawks 23-8 to end up winning by 17 points.
Star import point guard Cedric Jackson flirted with a triple-double finishing with 18 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Leon Henry scored a career-high 14 points with Tom Abercrombie adding 11, Daryl Corletto 11 and Mika Vukona 10.
Centre Alex Pledger had eight points and 14 rebounds and after the match was happy with the win over the Hawks, but was already focused on Friday's clash with the Wildcats.
"We have a lot of guys who like to penetrate, Cedric in particular, and that sucks in the defenders so if they put up shots then sometimes it can leave someone like me wide open for those offensive boards. I'm pretty tall and I like being around the rim, so I come up with a few of those," Pledger said.
"It was a pretty solid effort tonight to come into a place like this against a team who has been a bit of our bogey team who we have struggled against the last couple of years. We came out with a good win, though, and hopefully we come out with a similar performance against Perth next week.
"Perth are playing very well right now as well and they are a very good team. They are just relentless for 40 minutes and it's very difficult to deal with. They send everybody to the boards and are just a relentless team, and are very difficult to play against.
"They're not the biggest team out there, but they are extremely physical and fast. It's going to be a pretty good game that's for sure."
Point guard Adris Deleon finished with 24 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists for Wollongong, but also six turnovers. New import guard Malcolm Grant had an encouraging 10 points and four assists with Oscar Forman scoring 10 points also and pulling in seven boards.