THE New Zealand Breakers are the first team to reach the 2015/16 NBL Finals after sweeping Melbourne United.
The win places the New Zealand Breakers at $2.60 via Sportsbet to take out the 2015/16 NBL Championship after drifting as far as $3.75 prior to Saturday’s tip off in Auckland.
Even though they are first team to make it through to the finals, the Breakers are not the current NBL title favourites.
The Perth Wildcats are the $1.90 favourites to take out the 2015/16 title.
If the Wildcats are successful in their semi-final decider against the Illawarra Hawks at home on Friday, it will be the second time in two years the Perth Wildcats and the New Zealand Breakers will meet in the NBL Grand Final series.
The Illawarra Hawks are the $5.50 outsiders of the three to take out the 2015/16 NBL title.
It only took the Breakers two games to eliminate the minor premiers Melbourne United, who will regret their decision to rest stars at the end of the regular season – handing their eventual opponents an unlikely finals berth.
This is the fifth time in six seasons that the Breakers have made the NBL finals and will face either the Perth Wildcats or the Illawarra Hawks on the second of March.
New Zealand now face almost a fortnight break between their semi-final match up and the opening game of the championship series after the Hawks were able to extend their semi-final run to a third game against the Wildcats after upsetting last year’s Grand Finalists on Sunday night.
The two week break between games for the Breakers is a contrast to the hectic schedule that awaits.
At present the NBL finals are set to take place across a five-day period (March 2nd, 4th and 6th) which will present a logistical nightmare if Perth are able to live up to their $1.40 William Hill quote and advance to their fourth finals series in as many years.
The Perth to New Zealand road trip is the biggest in the NBL with over 5,300km between the city of Auckland and the Western Australian capital.
A four-day turnaround between the first and potential third games threatens to hurt the overall brand of basketball played, given just how gruelling the travel schedule will be.
Breakers’ CEO, Richard Clarke, said his franchise would speak to the league about the tight turnaround between matches but was not optimistic about achieving a date change.
“We will ask the question but it is unlikely they will change the broadcast schedule,” Clarke said.
New Zealand Coach Dean Vickerman is on record saying the grand final dates didn’t “make a lot of sense” and believes the short turnaround between matches will impact both teams’ abilities to “(put) the best basketball product on the floor”.
The ideal scenario for the reigning champions would be Illawarra making their way through to the NBL finals, which would shave over 3,000km off the journey for the Breakers.
That situation seems unlikely though with the Hawks $3.00 outsiders to advance through to their first NBL Grand Final series in six years – a task that will be made even harder after this season’s MVP Kevin Lisch was ruled out of Friday’s decider with an ankle injury sustained in game one.
Even if the Hawks are able to advance to the Grand Final series the club physio Mick Baines said Lisch was at best an ‘outside chance’ to take to the court.
While it seems like a formality that the Wildcats will make it through to the Grand Final, the players are taking nothing for granted.
Forward Matt Knight said the job was only ‘half done’ and his team will need to improve significantly – especially on the defensive end where the Cats lost both in the rebounds and second chance points category.
Knight believes his team’s big man department has the ability to turn the tables in game three.
“It’s one thing we pride ourselves on, being such a big team,” Knight said.
“The past four times we had played (Illawarra), we’d smashed them on the boards.
“It’s something us big guys are going to take personally and make a conscious effort(to improve)”
Despite being short priced favourites to win their seventh NBL title, history is against the Wildcats.
The New Zealanders have never lost a championship series once they have qualified.
The Breakers defeated the Wildcats last season to win their fourth NBL title, and a win in this year’s deciding series would place them just one title behind Perth in the overall standings.
NBL Title Outright Betting Odds
Title odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Perth Wildcats $1.90
Illawarra Hawks $5.50No tags for this post.