The New Zealand Breakers are one win away from an NBL finals appearance but, as ever, they have had to cope with more adversity on the way.
Soon after their dominant 88-68 victory over the Tasmania JackJumpers at Spark Arena last night, both sides decided to travel to Auckland airport at 3am in order to make a 6am flight to Melbourne due to the worsening weather conditions in the city.
With the second game in the potential three-game series scheduled for Hobart on Thursday, the teams could not afford to be stranded due to flight cancellations forced by Cyclone Gabrielle.
So, after Will McDowell-White and Dererk Pardon led the Breakers to their convincing win – helped by a strong second-half performance – Mody Maor’s team boarded a coach instead of sleeping.
Last season, amidst the Covid-enforced disruptions which saw the Breakers based in Australia, the team finished dead last. Now they are on the brink of a first grand finals appearance since 2016.
They will qualify if they beat the JackJumpers on Thursday. If a third game is required it will be held at Spark Arena on Sunday.
"In the first practice of the season, I told the guys circumstances in the NBL are always going to be against us," said Maor last night.
"The team that wins or rises to the occasion is the one that overcomes the circumstances - it's not the one that gets the smooth ride.
"God knows it hasn't been a smooth ride until now and it's not a smooth ride now either. Our guys finally earned a day off in New Zealand, they're not going to get it now.
"We leave at 3am to the airport, and we have two-and-a-half days to prepare in Tasmania.
"We don't feel sorry for ourselves, we feel grateful for the opportunity to go and do the work."
McDowell-White said:"We've been through it couple times this year so it's nothing new for us - we've got a good group of guys who know how to stay ready so yeah we will be fine."
The Breakers’ win last night was based on an impressive first-quarter defensive effort, and, once the JackJumpers narrowed the gap to 39-37 at halftime, a strong offensive performance in the third and fourth quarters.
Pardon scored a game high 15 points, but most of the Breakers’ players contributed offensively, including the influential McDowell-White (13 points), and Barry Brown Jr (11, after taking the court despite a wrist injury), and Rayan Rupert (10).