They say as hard as it is to win a championship, it’s even harder to win it again the next year. You lose guys to other teams, unable to afford their now exorbitant salaries. Guys live it up a little too much in the offseason. Guys who sacrificed for the goal of winning it all begin to feel they should be getting a little more props, more shots, more money, more minutes, more everything. And then every single night when you take the court, you have a bullseye on your back. You are the Champs, and everyone wants to take the scalp of the biggest boys on the block.
Last night, the Breakers overcame all of that and repeated as WORLD CHAMPS (of Australia-New Zealand). Congrats boys. Y’all deserve some props. So I present to you THE OFFICIAL* NBL GRAND FINAL AWARDS CEREMONY.
*Not actually official
Play of the game:
00:43 77-73, B. Robbins, shot 2pt made [M. Knight, assist]
00:29 77-73, C. Jackson, turnover ballhandling [K. Lisch, steal]
00:26 77-73, S. Redhage, shot 2pt blocked [T. Abercrombie]
Abercrombie also hit a gutsy 3 in Game 2 to make it 82-75 with 6 minutes left in the game, which seemed like the dagger to end the series at the time and would’ve been one of the key plays of the game had the Breakers held on to win. Not to be. Alas, in an absolute dogfight of a game, it was the player on a bum ankle rising up to snuff out Redhage’s attempt to make it a one possession game with 26 seconds to go. His heroics in Games 2 and 3 on a dodgy ankle this year, after winning the Finals MVP award last year, will surely cement his reputation as a big-game player. Speaking of big game players…
Hero of the game:
3J Bruton. Told me to shut the fuck up and sit my ass down, cause he’s GOT this. Gary Wilkinson arguably had the more outstanding series, and was statistically superior. But when in need of scoring from the perimeter, it was the 36 year old with balls the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass that would rise up and drain two massive 3’s and provide the final boost the Breakers needed to get across the finish line (8 of their last 11 points).
And while the Breakers relied on Bruton’s heroics to win the game, note that they also had 22 assists on 26 baskets in Game 3 for an insane 85% asst’d% which suggests the Breakers’ baskets came off excellent ball movement. In Game 2 they had 20 assists on 32 FGs for a 62.5% asst’d %
“I hate you Ron Burgundy. But God do I respect you” award:
Matt Knight. Was superb all series. Every time he had the ball on his favoured right block, he would either get an easy bucket with some deft footwork, or make the right pass that would lead to an easy bucket for his teammates. All throughout the notes I made during the game in Games 1 and 2 I kept thinking to myself “Damn, that guy’s just really good. What a gem.” He moves his feet well enough on D and rebounds well (6 rebounds in 26 minutes in Game 3; 5 rebounds a game in 24mpg for the series). Got all the skills you want offensively from a big man. At the same time, it has to be said that after making all 5 of his shots in the first half, he missed all 3 of his shots in the second half in Game 3.
The cold shower award:
No one shrunk more than Kevin Lisch this series. The 2011-2012 NBL MVP shot just 38% for the series, with 12 assists to 11 turnovers. After averaging almost 18 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds a game on 45/41/81 shooting splits in the regular season, Lisch scored just 15 points on 41% shooting (while jacking up 8 3 pointers to just 1 make) with more turnovers than assists in the deciding game of the series, when the so-called most valuable player was being looked upon to step up and carry the team. He played passively all game, attempting just 4 of his 17 shots in the paint, and in the second half made just 3/11 shots. This is in stark contrast to…
The Rocky Balboa award:
To Cedric Jackson, who just refused to stay down. His shot wasn’t falling all game, and even his free throw shooting was off. But he still stayed aggressive, (as evidenced by the 11 fouls he drew on the Wildcats), got to the rim, and created for others, racking up 12 assists. When the going got tough for Lisch he shied away from taking the ball to the rack and jacked up jumpshots. When Jackson’s shot wasn’t falling, he found a way to help out his team in any way he could and attacked with ferocity. He took 5 of his 10 FGs from inside the paint, and his only other 2pt attempt came within just a few feet of the basket as well, probably a foot outside the painted area. Even though he couldn’t cash in at the line, he got the Wildcats in foul trouble. Just as importantly though, he set the tone for the rest of the team: that no matter how the game is going to unfold, whether the ball goes in the basket or not, they’re going to go down swinging.
The Kim Jong-Un failure to launch award:
Goes to the Wildcats’ inability to connect from long range. They were 11/56 (19.6%) from three for the series, and were outscored 102 to 33 from the 3 point line. The total point difference between the teams this series was 13. If they hit just 2 more 3 pointers a game (which would’ve still only been 30%) they would have taken the series.
The Fredo Corleone “YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN” award:
To the spineless refs. In Game 2 the home team had a 30-18 FTA advantage. In Game 3 the home team had a 25-12 FTA advantage. For the series the home team had on average 9.6 more free throw attempts than the away team. Perth converted 63% of their FTs so that’s 6 points a game they left on the table (on average) by not having home court. The Breakers won by 6 in both home contests.
The munchymart award for tasteful choice in music:
LOL not even. The buzzer sounds, the players run out onto the court and celebrate, the arena’s going nuts. Cue… “I Got A Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas? Over “We Are The Champions”? What a fucking travesty.
The NZ hoops fans. Like any young player, they had bouts of inconsistency, and could do with a few more years of seasoning. They still don’t stand up enough during the game (despite the PA guy practically begging for them to do so throughout the fourth quarter), and while they do a great job of supporting our own players, they do a pretty poor job of making the arena an intimidating place to play for the opposition (for example our failure to get an “O-VER-RAT-ED” chant going whenever Lisch had the ball, or a “JEEEEESSSSSIIICAAAAA” taunt going whenever Jesse Wagstaff TCHB checked into the game was especially disappointing). However, we had some great moments, with probably 80% of the crowd staying until the very end, being loud throughout, and giving the Wildcats a very proper ovation at the end which was very classy. Definitely a player to watch in the next few seasons. With some proper development (read: more big games) and a bit of time (a lot of the pip-squeaks at the game are seeds which will germinate into proper basketball nuts in just a few years) we’re going to have a very strong basketball following here in Aotearoa.
There you have it. Congrats again and thank you to the New Zealand Breakers for a great season.
See y’all in 165 days. We all know what’s next: