If shooting for a seventh straight win wasn't motivation
enough, Mika Vukona revealed the Breakers had a little extra
incentive to beat Townsville tomorrow night.
The table-topping Breakers are one win from tying a club
record winning streak and, on paper, the winless Crocs appear
the perfect prey.
The Breakers have already emerged victorious over Townsville
twice this season, with their nine-point triumph across the
Tasman last weekend leading to the north Queensland club
parting ways with their chief executive.
Last season's semifinalists take an 0-8 record into the game
at Vector Arena and, instead of pretending to care little
about opposition records, Vukona disclosed it was a direct
"You don't want to be the first team they get the win
against," he said. "Guys are really wary of that. Training's
actually been pretty intense this week because everybody
knows what's on the line."
You would have forgiven the Breakers if the opposite were
true. Last weekend's Sunshine Swing reaped two wins, which
brought them back to the head of the Australian NBL and would
have also brought equal measures of contentment and fatigue.
But Vukona insisted that was far from the case and, once some
cobwebs were shaken out earlier in the week, attention
shifted to the task at hand.
"The first day back was like the Monday blues - everybody got
back and was looking a bit tired. But after that, everybody's
"We want to stay in the top place and we want to continue
getting these wins. We've got a tough schedule in January, so
getting as many wins as we can up until then will really help
Getting another tomorrow night may not be as straightforward
as first appears. The flipside of beating a team twice was
the chance of that team learning from their mistakes,
something Andrej Lemanis was well aware of.
"I don't think we go down that path as far as thinking it's a
done deal," he said of his side's prospects.
"Both teams will be very familiar with how each other play -
and that's why it's hard to beat somebody three times,
particularly in a short space of time."
Vukona, who last weekend played his 250th ANBL game, agreed
with his coach and pointed to a couple of extenuating
circumstances in their favouritsm.
For one, neither of the Breakers' two wins was comprehensive.
Last month's game at the North Shore came down to the final
possession, while Townsville hung around until late in the
fourth quarter last weekend.
Then there's the Crocs' prior experience at the Breakers'
home away from home. Something about the Vector Arena rims
brings out the best in Townsville's shooters, particularly in
game one of last season's semifinal series when the defending
champions watched helplessly as the Crocs' 57 per cent
shooting led them to a 17-point win.
"In this arena here, Townsville teams to have a good shooting
output from it," Vukona said. "They've come out and made
great starts in this gym. Everybody's wary of that - they're
a team that have got weapons everywhere.
"Every game that we've played with them so far [this season]
has been really close. Our offensive execution is getting
better each game, so we can take that into the third game and
hopefully keep them losing."