The New Zealand Breakers have drawn first blood in the best of three NBL semifinal series against the Tasmanian JackJumpers with an 88-68 victory at Auckland’s Spark Arena tonight.
The home side, who finished in last place last season, are in the playoffs for the first time in five years and had too many offensive weapons for the JackJumpers in the second half.
They were led by Will McDowell-White, adjudged the player of the match with 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and forward Dererk Pardon, who hit a game-high 15 points and pulled in nine rebounds.
Barry Brown Jnr, adjudged the best sixth man in the league this season, took the court despite a wrist injury – his availability had been in question all week.
“It just makes everything worth it – what we’ve been through and coming back to this home crowd,” McDowell-White said immediately afterwards.
The Breakers will now head to Tasmania, weather permitting, for the second match of the series scheduled for Thursday. If a third game is required it will be held at Spark Arena next Sunday.
New Zealand had an early 12-2 lead which was built on defensive pressure but the visitors gradually came back to close it up to 19-12 at the end of the first quarter and they outscored the Breakers 25-20 in the second, which included a 20-6 run.
It meant the Breakers took a 39-37 lead to halftime, but they began the third quarter in a style which suggested coach Mody Maor’s team talk contained a few home truths.
A Rayan Rupert steal and foul for a three-point play gave them an early advantage and then Thomas Abercrombie went strongly to the rim in finishing another turnover.
In all, the Breakers began the third quarter with 10 straight points and while a three-pointer from Tasmania’s Jarrad Weeks, a former Breaker, closed the gap to 65-54, the Breakers had the momentum.
At 77-60, they had the biggest lead of the game in the fourth quarter and that grew.
A three from Izayah Mauriohooho Le'afa with just under two minutes put the Breakers on a 15-4 run and there was no way back for the JackJumpers.
The Cairns Taipans will play the Sydney Kings in the other semifinal series after the Taipans beat the Perth Wildcats 91-78.