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NZ Breakers win praise after Bullets NBL dismantling: 'They're very … – Stuff

Mody Maor’s retooled New Zealand Breakers have won some hefty praise from the Brisbane Bullets heading into a pivotal late NBL regular season clash against Melbourne United on Saturday night at Spark Arena.
The full-strength Breakers, with import Barry Brown Jr and combo guard Izayah Le’afa both back off the injured list, on Thursday night in Brisbane cruised past the Bullets 99-71 for a second straight victory, on the back of a four-game losing streak that threatened to derail their season.
The third-placed Breakers have made the correction just in time, improving to 15-10, and within touching distance of the 16-9 Cairns Taipans for the all-important second spot, and a place directly into the semifinals. Both clubs have three games remaining in the regular season, with the Snakes hosting the Bullets next up also on Saturday night.
The Bullets were certainly impressed as the Breakers put the squeeze on them defensively and ticked things over nicely at the other end, led by a 22-point display in as many minutes from import forward Jarrell Brantley, 17 points and 9 boards from centre Dererk Pardon and a slick 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench from Brown.
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Most importantly no one played more than 26 minutes (Rayan Rupert) for the Breakers as Maor was able to spread the load nicely ahead of the short turnaround clash against a Melbourne side they’ve already lost twice to this season.
“That’s what one of the best teams in the league looks like and that’s what a playoff basketball team looks like, and the physicality and their intent to do it for 40 minutes” said Bullets coach Greg Vanderjagt after a defeat that snapped his team’s three-game win streak.
“That’s a really good basketball team that’s been consistent throughout the year, despite a little patch where they lost three or four in a row. Their ability to sustain pressure, their physicality … they really sped us up offensively. We had 10 turnovers at the half and they had 18 points in transition in the first half. When you have that mountain of possession against you, it becomes really difficult.”
Added Bull;ets and Boomers guard Nathan Sobey: “They’re a very good basketball team and when they’re playing well like that they’re very hard to stop. Credit to them. They played some really good basketball and they’ve gt a lot of depth in their unit which will go a long way for them for the remainder of the games and into the playoffs.”
Maor was rapt with a balanced effort (he also had four players on 9 points as the load was spread nicely), though certainly not getting ahead of himself with Melbourne (minus concussed Kiwi point guard Shea Ili) looming so quickly.
“We played a good game, and kept them to 71points which is our baseline,” said Maor. “It was nice to have everyone back, even with minutes restrictions, and finding rhythm. It’s good to have all our guys – it gives us another gear to push on, and another punch off the bench. Pleased, but on to the next one.”
Asked about the push for second spot, and avoiding the play-in games, the Breakers coach added: “We’re pushing to win the next game, and if that’s enough to make it to the top two it will be fantastic. If it’s enough to make it to three or four and make the playoffs it will be fantastic. For us to play meaningful games in February it’s everything we want to do.”
Maor was displeased by a question on the standout play of Brantley, and preferred to take a broader brush with his praise.
“When we have everyone we have a lot pf guys who can do a lot of things,” he said. “Everybody who stepped on the floor today played the right way. Everybody competed, and when we play the right way, Jarell is a magnifier of all the good things that we do.”
Brown, who looked sharp, credited trainer Emily Nolan and physio Jonathan Sandler with getting him back on court so quickly after his groin strain, and said it felt great to be contributing again.
“I’m still happy, man,” said Brown. “I’m just glad I was out there playing basketball. I missed being out there with the guys, competing, just playing for real.
”We’re definitely put together to compete for a championship. But right now it’s one game at a time. We’ve got to finish our regular season, continue to stay focused and not look too far ahead.”
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