Wildcats go down to Breakers
The New Zealand Breakers have inflicted a second straight defeat on the Perth Wildcats in as many weeks, holding on for an 86-84 victory over the reigning NBL champions at the Silverdome in Launceston on Saturday.
The win was sweet retribution for the Breakers, who lost to Perth at the same venue three weeks ago in overtime courtesy of Bryce Cotton brilliance, this time producing their own down the stretch to clinch the two point win.
Levi Randolph was the hero for New Zealand, his last second runner avoiding a second straight overtime clash at the Silverdome.
Randolph (19 points) was well supported by captain Thomas Abercrombie (14) and Tai Webster (12), whose fourth-quarter playmaking was pivotal on his return from injury.
Perth import John Mooney (25 points, nine boards) comfortably won his battle with rival American centre Colton Iverson, while Todd Blanchfield (21 points) looked sharp for the Wildcats.
Wildcats ace Bryce Cotton (19 points at 33 per cent) had his moments but was held scoreless in the final term thanks to Abercrombie's iron-willed defence.
After a ragged first few minutes, Breakers coach Dan Shamir called a time-out and had the Breakers humming and up on the scoreboard 28-23 at quarter-time.
NZ's lead bumped to eight points before the Wildcats, largely through Blanchfield's assortments of strong keyway drives and neat floaters, moved ahead 47-46 at half-time.
Perth's big three - Cotton, Mooney and Blanchfield scored all 20 of their team's points in the third stanza as the Wildcats led 67-64 at three-quarter-time.
Cotton in particular looked on song, rifling 10 points in five minutes to make hay while Abercrombie sat for a breather, and looked ready to replicate his heroics last month when he broke Breakers' hearts in an overtime classic between the two sides.
But this time Cotton was unable to get off the chain in the fourth as the Breakers eased their way in front and finished there thanks to Randolph.
"I thought we made some big plays, had some big rebounds, had some really good looks and executed well," Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said.
The Breakers remain an outside chance of making finals in NBL21, with all of their remaining games to be played in New Zealand after the recent Australia-New Zealand travel bubble was given the green light by the respective federal governments.
Perth's second loss in three matches hasn't budged them from second spot on the NBL table, ahead of a meeting with ladder leaders Melbourne United in Melbourne on Wednesday.