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Colton Iverson had his best game for the Breakers in their NBL Cup opener against the Illawarra Hawks.
The Breakers got a timely double-double from American big man Colton Iverson, but it was nowhere near enough to snap their losing skid in the Australian NBL in Melbourne on Monday night.
The New Zealand club, who had lost four of their first five games in the new season hitherto, opened the NBL Cup hub in Victoria with a 102-88 defeat to the Illawarra Hawks that was not helped by 22 turnovers and some largely ineffective defence.
Under the scoring system of the self-contained one-round competition (though results will also count towards over season records) the Hawks took 5.5 points from the game, by virtue of their victory and winning two and a-half of the quarters. The Breakers take 1.5 points for winning the final term and splitting the first.
For the Breakers, doing it tough as Covid forces them to play all their games on the road, it was another lacklustre display as they continue to struggle for rhythm and urgency through the early stages of this season. They did some things better, but not enough to live with the sharpshooting Hawks who punished them at the offensive end.
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Of course the Breakers have their excuses with the way their season is mapping out. They were coming off their second 10-day break between games and it is hard to build momentum with that sort of a schedule. They are rightly getting plenty of sympathy, too, across the Tasman as their time on the road extends into a third month.
Iverson did have his best showing of the season with that double-double of 13 points and 17 rebounds (the best haul off the boards in the NBL this season), and took a major step up with his movement and aggression.
And Corey Webster continued his hot recent form with a team-high 22 points off the bench on 8-of-12 shooting. The classy guard knocked down 5 of his 9attempts from beyond the arc.
Tai Webster added 20 points, 9 boards and 7 assists for the Breakers and Lamar Patterson had 13 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) before limping off in the third quarter with a worrying knee injury.
The “Splash Brothers” Tyler Harvey (22 points) and Justinian Jessup (20 points) paced the Hawks with some outstanding shooting, while former Chicago Bull Cam Bairstow impressed with his 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the pine.
The Breakers once again dug themselves a first-half hole, paying the price for 12 turnovers through the first two quarters which, combined with some less than effective defence, gifted the Hawks a 14-point advantage (54-40) at the major break.
There were some positives for the Kiwi club, now playing without Tall Blacks centre Rob Loe who has returned home to New Zealand for personal reasons. There was a little more urgency in their game in patches, they dominated the rebound battle and did get big American Iverson going with a first-half double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
But with the Hawks owning an 18-3 advantage in points off turnovers and big Aussie Bairstow pouring in 14 first-half points, Brian Goorjian’s side were able to open up a decisive advantage after the opening quarter had been deadlocked at 21-21.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir would also have been displeased with the 33 points his side coughed up in the second term, which left them a lot to do over the run home.
The Kiwi club trailed by 16 midway through the third term, got it back to single-figures in sight of the final break but then allowed the Hawks to finish with an 8-0 run for an 81-64 advantage.
From there it was only about whether the Breakers could pick up a bonus point for nudging the final quarter. They at least achieved that.
Illawarra Hawks 102 (Tyler Harvey 22, Justinian Jessup 20, Cam Bairstow 17, Deng Adel 10), NZ Breakers 88 (Corey Webster 22, Tai Webster 20, Lamar Patterson 13, Colton Iverson 13, Finn Delany 11). 1Q: 21-21; HT: 54-40; 3Q: 81-64.