PERTH Wildcats have put themselves in pole position to take out the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) Cup after a strong 10-point win over New Zealand Breakers last night. The Wildcats were a little rusty early, trailing by seven points at the first break, but soon clicked into gear thanks to another strong effort by Bryce Cotton, and a superb double-double from John Mooney to secure the 85-75 victory at John Cain Arena.
Perth headed into the match as strong favourites, sitting atop the NBL Cup ladder and second overall in the NBL standings, but it was New Zealand that took the early lead, racing to a 19-12 advantage by the first break. Perth managed to arrest that momentum and turn it in their favour over the next two quarters, scoring 23-17 in the second term to cut the deficit to one by the main break, and then piling on 33-17 in the third term to race away to a whopping 15-point lead.
The Breakers refused to throw in the towel, and to their credit, won the last term by five points, 22-17. It would not be enough however, with the Wildcats winning in impressive fashion, 85-75. In the end it was Perth’s ability to dictate play on the offensive end, with 20 assists to 14, and securing 44 points to 38 in the paint. New Zealand was efficient with only three more turnovers (11-8), and had more second chance points (15-8).
Overall Perth’s accuracy of 50 per cent from the field – 55 per cent from two-point range – and 83 per cent from the line, compared to the Breakers’ 46 per cent overall and 76 per cent from the charity stripe was crucial. The big difference however was the Wildcats’ ability to punish their opponents from turnovers, with 20 points from those 11 turnovers compared to the Breakers’ four from eight. A difference of 16 points in a 10-point game.
Cotton had 24 points, seven assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Mooney was outstanding with 17 points, 12 rebounds – including seven offensive – and two assists. Todd Blanchfield (10 points, three rebounds and three assists) hit double-figure points, while Clint Steindl’s impact off the bench with 12 points in 16 minutes aided the side.
For the Breakers, Finn Delany knocked down a game-high 30 points, as well as seven rebounds and two assists, stepping up with a 70 per cent clip from the field, including three of six from long range. Tai Webster finished with 11 points, seven assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Tom Abercrombie had 10 points, six rebounds and two steals. Off the bench, Jarrad Weeks had 11 points including two of five from long range.
New Zealand and Perth both have just under 48 hours to recover, as the Breakers lock horns with South East Melbourne Phoenix at 2pm tomorrow, while the Wildcats play in the second match against Adelaide 36ers.
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