THE Brisbane Bullets have kept their National Basketball League (NBL) playoff dreams alive with a 12-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena on Sunday night. It was the Breakers’ highly anticipated return to Auckland’s Spark Arena, having been stationed in Australia since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in early 2020. A 7612 strong crowd proved vocal, with Breakers fans fired up to finally see their team play in person, but the Bullets proved unfazed by this, spoiling the celebrations with a win set up by a remarkably strong first half performance.
The Breakers opened the game in style, jumping to an early six-point lead, and the feisty New Zealand crowd began letting the visitors know about it. The Bullets displayed their mental toughness, ignoring the crowd and knocking down jump shot after jump shot to snatch the lead from the home side. Suddenly, the first term was over and the Bullets’ lead was up to six points, thanks to a late first quarter Nathan Sobey basket. The Breakers crowd began to quieten down, but still rallied behind their side heading into the second period. Unfortunately for these fans, the second quarter belonged to the Bullets, with the side dominating for all 10 minutes, outscoring their opponents by 13 in the quarter. While the Breakers would occasionally knock down a much-needed bucket, drawing a vocal response from the crowd, the Bullets would come right back with three unanswered makes of their own, extending the lead even further. The Bullets were absolutely clinical in the period, as Spark Arena was suddenly silenced as their side fell to a 19-point deficit at half time, with plenty of work to do.
The Breakers came out of half time with a new strategy of turning the game in their favour; launching shots from deep. New Zealand put up a whopping 32 shots from behind the three-point line, only landing 10 of them. While the signs were more promising than the first half, the damage was unfortunately done in the first half. The Breakers gave it one last push in the final term, outplaying their opponents in this time, but by this stage, the Bullets had put the game into cruise control. The Bullets ended up claiming their 16th win of the year, with a final score line of 95-83.
For the victors, it was a team effort, with four players scoring 14 points or more. Lamar Patterson led all scorers with 21 points, but also adding eight rebounds and five assists. Teammates Matthew Hodgson (16 points), Nathan Sobey (15 points) and BJ Johnson (14 points) also contributed a healthy number of points. For the Breakers, Levi Randolph was the standout, pouring in a game-high 30 points while shooting an efficient 11-18 from the field.
The Bullets have pumped some life into their finals chances, as they continue their hunt for the final spot in the playoffs. They will still need to win their final three games, and have certain other results fall their way, but all they can do at the moment is beat the teams in front of them. This campaign will continue on Wednesday night, as they attempt to upset the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena. The Breakers will also suit up on Wednesday night as they take on the Cairns Taipans at Energy Events Arena.
Photo credit: Hannah Peters