Even the weather seemed in on the act as I watched on Maori TV. The rain began to fall just as the Breakers shots started to dry up. From the dizzying heights of a twenty point lead to the crushing lows of a six point loss , 103-97. The photo above says it all, the tigers fed off the carcass of the Breakers’ broken dreams.
Did they fly too close to the sun on this one? The first quarter opened with “the Bear” hitting threes and the Breakers defense looking focused, angry and eager. Up 13-0. But beneath the enthusiasm there was a sense of desperation, like a little brother determined to beat his older, stronger brother. Rickert was all fist pumps and chest bumps, even after the most menial tasks. Boucher was performing his typical demolition job on the opposition’s offense, pulling down boards and punching the ball away in the most baffling of circumstances. At one point the tigers coach told his players “he doesn’t get another fucking rebound”.
It’s hard to sustain that level of emotion across a whole game. It’s great when shots are falling, but there ‘s the chance of a heavy comedown when things stop going your way. The Breakers were bipolar this game, from a very high high to a very low low. Much like Ireland against the All Blacks , everything was blazing until they ran out of steam. Up by only 11 at halftime and starting to worry. Up by two going into the forth quarter, after a miracle half court shot by the Tigers, belief almost dead. To expel so much energy, to have so many shots falling for you, and to realise you still may lose – that’s a hard hurdle to climb.
In the end, the Tigers composure and steady hand won out and the Breakers lost for all the reasons they have lost before. Penney was desperate to be the man, looking ever so slightly like the statue of David with his new head band, but was covered expertly by the Tigers. You could see the strain in every move he made and, for all their hot shooting, “the Bear”, Jones and Foreman can’t carry the offensive load on this team. The Breakers don’t win if they score under 100 points and to do that Penney needs to be getting open looks. He wasn’t. Only Bruton had the composure to keep doing what was working for him.
It’s a well known fact that offensive trouble often comes in tandem with defensive breakdowns. When the Breakers’ defense was working, they were scoring easily off transition points as the Tigers didn’t have time to set their defense. The Breakers best quarter offensively was the first, in which the Tigers scored the least. From then the Tigers, with particular help from Ebe Ere who made some ridiculous shots, were able to score 30 points a quarter without much bother.
And when it was most needed, rebounding deserted them. Next season the Breakers must find a big man who is content to stay in the paint, grabbing boards. I’m not sure what happened to Rickert, but he disappeared, possibly injured from one of his rigorous fist pumps in the first quarter. “The Bear” and Foreman were too busy contemplating their next three pointer.
It was a devastating, heartbreaking and staggering loss. The Breakers may feel dirty in the morning, but they should also learn from their mistakes. They can score lots of points but work best when they can play defense. Kirk Penney is fantastic, but he isn’t a go-to-guy in the traditional sense – he needs the offense to get him looks, he’s not a natural shot creator. As stated, they need a big man.
There is hope: fix these things and next season they may go a little further.