James Hunter’s Breakers snap two-game skid against Bullets

James Hunter and his New Zealand team mates celebrate on the bench. Photo: NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
James Hunter and his New Zealand team mates celebrate on the bench. Photo: NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

CAMBEWARRA’S James Hunter and his New Zealand Breakers have bounced back from a round eight glitch with a fun 96-89 win inspired by a devastating Thomas Abercrombie-DJ Newbill double act on Thursday.

After a down weekend, the Breakers got back to basics with an intent on the offensive glass and muscled-up defence when it mattered most.

The Abercrombie-Newbill wing duo was untouchable with a combined 39 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists as their side posted its second-highest team total of the season.

Back-up centre Rob Loe had a good second-half cameo, finishing on 12 points (5/6 shooting) and seven boards.

Brisbane got theirs from ever-improving centre Tom Jervis (20 points on 9/10 shooting, eight rebounds), fellow big man Daniel Kickert (17 points on 7/8) and import Perrin Buford (14, eight and four).

While winless on the road, Brisbane were a tough out for New Zealand, with a 45-32 rebound count (16 offensive rebounds) in favour of the home team being the only difference.

Coach Paul Henare said his team was primed to bounce back after an off week.

"We've got a lot of really unselfish guys in our team that just let the game come to them,” Henare said.

“But DJ has always been a guy that just seems to feel the moment when we need a bucket or get the ball in the paint.

"Offensive boards, just off the top of my head, is not a number we look at a lot.

“But we seem to be pretty consistent with that.

Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said his side's defensive mindset and intent took a step back against the Breakers.

"From the start of the game we were sluggish, certainly on that end of the floor," Lemanis said.

"Over the last four to five games we've really been building with our defence.

“I think it has been pretty good, but I think it regressed a little bit [in this game], and that's evidenced by giving up 54 per cent from the three-point line and giving up 16 offensive rebounds on 36 [Breakers] misses.

“That's the game, right there.

"When you talk about effort, I think we tried, it's just 'did we put it into the right areas?', and the stats would suggest that perhaps [the effort] was a little bit misplaced."

The first half, won 49-47 by the Breakers, was underscored by slashing offence and subsequent high shooting percentages.

A combined 58 points in the paint meant that little defence was being played, with Bullets finishers Jervis – playing through early fouls – and Kickert (22 first-half points combined) both hitting double figures, and Breakers studs Abercrombie and Newbill (23) dominating close to the rim.

Abercrombie connected for three on a well-executed play out of half-time, then hit another for 19 points just a minute into the third term.

The game was heating up in all facets when Buford raised the roof with a Rajon Rondo behind-the-back pass fake and finger roll finish with the foul.

The Breakers took a 73-69 lead into three-quarter time after closing the term with a masterful 'head tap' play to get a Loe triple.

Jervis continued to play out of his mind, making anything and everything close to the rim as he hit the 20-point mark in the first couple of possessions of the fourth term.

But foul trouble finally got him.

Just over two minutes into the final term, the Spark Arena crowd sung his farewell as Loe and Finn Delany extended the margin to six points and forced an Andrej Lemanis timeout.

The Bullets kept the score tight in a fourth quarter that felt like it was otherwise dominated by the home side, and got within a single possession when Travis Trice hit a trailing Kickert for three inside two minutes.

But three consecutive Newbill buckets closed the deal, allowing the ladder leaders to remain atop the National Basketball League standings.