Going by the form guide, the New Zealand Breakers should
breeze past the Sydney Kings across the Tasman tonight.
The North Shore club haven't lost to the Kings since they
returned to the NBL in the 2010-2011 season and the Breakers
have won those contests by an average of 15.4 points.
Throw in the fact that the Shane Heal-coached Kings could be
without the league's leading scorer in Ben Madgen, who is
struggling with a shoulder complaint, and you could see how
the Breakers could be forgiven for thinking it should be an
easy outing in Sydney.
But Breakers centre Alex Pledger, who is averaging 6.6
rebounds and an NBL-leading two blocks per game this season,
doesn't buy in to the hype.
"I've heard rumours that [Madgen] might not be playing but
we're preparing for the game as if he is," Pledger said.
"You don't want to go through the week thinking that he's not
there and then, all of a sudden, the game rolls around and
he's playing. We've definitely prepared as if he is playing
and I think we all expect that he will."
As for the Breakers' perfect recent record over the Kings,
the 2.13m Pledger said it wouldn't count for anything come
tonight and he recalled their 79-76 victory over Sydney in
round five where only a buzzer-beating Mika Vukona
three-pointer sealed victory.
"I don't think it means a whole lot. They're quite a
different team from last year and the year before, and so are
we. We snuck away with the win about a month ago - perhaps a
little closer than it should've been.
"I think we were up 12 with a couple of minutes left and Mika
ended up hitting the three to win. I don't think not having
lost to them for a couple of seasons means a whole lot."
Sydney have impressed this season and occupy fourth on the
Australian NBL ladder with seven wins from 12 games and
Pledger said it was easy to see why they had exceeded
"They've been playing very well. They've got the league's
leading scorer, they have good big men. Their point guard
[Corin Henry], he's not very big but he's extremely quick.
And they've got some good guys coming off the bench as well.
"I think, pre-season, most people had them being towards the
bottom of the table, but they've surpassed everyone's
expectations. Just like most teams in the league, if you
don't show up on the night and don't bring your A-game,
you're not going to win."
But for all that Sydney have looked like a decent article,
the Breakers are the benchmark in the NBL and the two-time
defending champions are masters of grinding out another win
when they need to.
"We have a lot of veterans and a lot of players that have
been around for a while in this team - they know how to close
outs games and they know how to win," Pledger said.
"Guys like CJ [Bruton], Mika, Dillon [Boucher], guys that
have had very long careers and have won championships pretty
much everywhere they've been. Their experience down the
stretch obviously helps."