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NBL: New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks betting preview

Sunday, December 20, 2015, 7pm AEDT, Vector Arena, New Zealand, Watch on Fox Sports

Ladder position
New Zealand Breakers: Third
Illawarra Hawks: Fourth

Season record
New Zealand Breakers: 11-5
Illawarra Hawks: 8-7

Last five games
New Zealand Breakers: WLWWW
Illawarra Hawks: LWWWW

CAN anyone stop the rolling juggernaut the New Zealand Breakers are putting together?

After losing three of their first four games in an abysmal start to the NBL season, the Breakers ($1.25 with have gone on an 11-2 run that has them putting pressure on the league leading Perth Wildcats and second placed Melbourne United – the only two teams to beat them during that period.

But the Illawarra Hawks ($4 with were one of the teams that handed the Breakers a loss during that early season slump and that will breed within them some confidence in their ability to repeat the dose in the weekend’s clash.

And, in that early season match, it really was an absolute hammering, 96-75, a result that was a the catalyst for the Breakers’ turning things around.

In that match, the Hawks’ Kiwi sharp shooter Kirk Penney was unconscious, draining seven three pointers on his way to 36 points on a perfect nine of nine from the free throw line.

And star big fella AJ Ogilvy absolutely dominated the inside, with 23 points and 10 boards to go with four steals and two blocked shots.

That win was achieved without the injured Kevin Lisch.

The Breakers were without then-NBA hopeful Corey Webster, but big man Charles Jackson dropped 20 points to lead the way, the import also ripping down nine boards and shooting 77 per cent from the field.

A poor performance from star Cedric Jackson – who scored just one point – hurt the Breakers, who got 14 points out of Tai Wesley.

Flash forward a couple of months and both these sides are serious contenders, with this match heralding New Zealand’s best taking on New Zealand’s next, with veteran scoring machine Penney going up against Breakers excitement machine Webster.

Webster at 22.5 points per game, and Penney, at 19.6 ppg, are among the top scorers in the NBL.

These two men are pillars of the New Zealand line up and Breakers coach Dean Vickerman can’t wait to see it unfold.

“It’s probably the first time they’ve played against each other, two of the premier shooting guards in the league, and two Kiwis,” Vickerman said.

“They’ll have something to prove to each other, and it should be a great contest.

It’s hard to believe Penney is the oldest player in the NBL, the way he just continues to produce, but they say shooting is a skill that ages gracefully.

“Corey is the new model of two guard coming through in New Zealand and Kirk has been around for a while,” Vickerman said.

“Who’s got more tricks right now? We’ll see.

Vickerman said his side would have to go back to the drawing board after Penney torched them in the previous meeting.

“His (Penney’s) catch and shoot is the biggest thing,” he said.

“In that game in Wollongong we didn’t do a good job of challenging his catch and shoot.

“We’ve got to try some different tactics this time to make sure he can’t do that so easily.

“He’s been really aggressive lately in putting the ball on the floor, and has had some seven eight assist games as well.

“He’s not a one-dimensional guy, he can score in different ways.

“But we’ve got some defenders who can trouble him.

“These guys have kept that one in the memory bank and we won’t let that happen again.

“They treat Kirk just like another player, but there’s extra motivation to shut him down because of the games they’ve spent with him in the past.”

They might be helped by the fact that the ageing Penney has a crook back and, so concerned by it, Hawks coach Rob Beveridge has been forced to limit his minutes and even hinted he could be rested.

“He’s done every thing he can and he’s working with the physics so that’ll be up to him and the medical staff (to get right),” Beveridge said.

“He knows his body, so if he’s good to go, he’ll go and if not, we’ll rest him.

“He’s 35 years old and he’s had to play 30 plus minutes a game and it’s too much for him.

“We’ve made the conscious decision that we have to reduce his minutes.

“He was averaging over 30, but we’d brought it back to about 28.

“We’ve got four more games in two weeks, so we’ve got to manage his body.”

The Breakers made it three in a row – and kept their unbeaten home record in tact – last week with an easy 96-84 win over the Sydney Kings.

All five starters reached double figures, but it was the multi talented Cedric Jackson who led the way once again with a near triple double – 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Inspirational big man Mika Vukona wound back the clock with an 18 point, 11 rebound double double, with two steals and two blocked shots to boot.

“We were pretty sluggish in the first half, that’s the way they wanted the game,” Vickerman said.

“It just took us awhile to find our flow offensively. What we tried to do in the second half was generate more pace and play a little faster, that didn’t allow them enough time to set their defence.”

It took a remarkable double over time result to snap the Hawks’ four game winning streak in their last outing, the Cairns Taipans holding off a fast finishing Illawarra side to prevail 103-101, after scores were locked at 80 at the end of regulation.

The Taipans took their revenge after losing only a couple of days earlier to the Hawks, 97-82.

In the thrilling clash, gun import Lisch went off, dropping 30 points on the back of five three pointers and dishing out five assists, while Ogilvy did a little bit of every thing with 18 points, eight boards, three assists and two blocks to lead the way.

Rhys Martin (16 points, eight board), Tim Coenraad (15 and five) and Jarrad Weeks (14) dominated off the bench, but they fell agonisingly short.

The Hawks were down by 18 points early in the final term, but fought back to tie it up, before Lisch missed a potential game winner.

In a pair of high scoring over time periods, Cairns import Markel Starks finished with 33 points, enhancing his already burgeoning reputation as one of the best guards in the league.

“It was a lesson for our players,” Beveridge said.

“The first half we were totally dominated in all facets.

“That wasn’t the Illawarra Hawks basketball we’ve been playing.

“We are so far from locking in a playoff position and maybe our players got ahead of ourseves after the game thinking that, so it was a good reality check for us.”

The Hawks will be in action tomorrow night against the Sydney Kings, before making the trek to New Zealand – making things very tough.

The Hawks’ success has been built upon Ogilvy and Lisch, who are both hot candidates for the NBL’s MVP award, and the irresistible talents of Penney.

For the Breakers, it’s the two Jacksons, little man Cedric and big man Charles, along with Webster and, at times, Coenraad, who have shared the scoring burden.

The talent is there for the Hawks to challenge, but can they overcome a road trip on a second game of the round?


Match result: New Zealand Breakers win ($1.25 with

Line: New Zealand Breakers -8.5 ($1.91 with

Margin bet: New Zealand Breakers 11+ ($2.10 with

The Hawks are in some serious form. But it is nearly impossible to cross the ditch and take away victory. And despite Illawarra’s great run, the Breakers have looked unbeatable at times. We’d love to say that the Hawks will stick with the Breakers in this one, but we just can’t see it happening after playing at home against the Kings just two night’s earlier. It is the toughest trip in basketball behind the Perth grind, and many have tried, but failed, to steal away the points. With the Hawks’ tired legs, we can see this being a blow out win to the Breakers. When they take the floor, they will have had over a week’s rest, having played just one game last round. It all spells trouble, with the Jacksons, Webster and Penney all running on fresh legs. Ogilvy and Lisch beasting in this game simply won’t be enough. The Hawks will need huge contributions across the board and that looks like a tough ask on the second leg of the weekend. Plus, the Breakers are really good. We’re predicting a 14 point win.

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