Breakers entering make-or-break part of season
BREAKERS coach Paul Henare is right - attempting to calculate the playoff permutations as the NBL hits the home stretch would give anyone a headache.
Especially when, starting with Friday night's encounter in Illawarra, each of the Breakers' six remaining games comes with its own set of wide-ranging ramifications, such is the condensed nature of this year's competition.
Given seven sides are scrapping for three playoffs places, a win obviously edges the Breakers up the standings while damaging the chances of an opponent. Defeat, of course, has the opposite effect. And then there's the season series to consider.
Against Illawarra, for example, the Breakers (10-12) need to win by 20 to emerge on top of a four-game set against the Hawks (12-10), the determining factor if two sides are level on the table at the end of the regular season.
And at Vector Arena on Sunday, Henare's men must avoid a double-digit defeat against Perth (10-11) to position themselves ahead of the Wildcats in any tie-breaker scenario.
It's all rather complicated and means keeping a close eye on the standings is a fool's errand. Of much more importance for the Breakers is simply maintaining their two-game winning streak.
"I have a look and just say, 'oh, yeah, it's still crowded',” Henare said of his attention to the ladder. "But in terms of working it out, I'd give myself a headache if I tried.
"This is the situation we're in - we have to win games. We know each game is crucially important and we've gone into playoff mode early.”
That was clear in the scenes that greeted Kevin Dillard's buzzer-beater in Brisbane, the Breakers' best moment this season.
With one timely shot, Henare said his players' belief in themselves was renewed, knowing that despite all the injuries, they again had the roster to make a playoff charge.
But a team with only a solitary three-game unbeaten run this year must do much better in the remaining weeks. Winning four of their last six would give the Breakers an even record on the season, which could be enough to reach the semi-finals.
But four of their last six are in Australia, where the Kiwi club this season owns an unseemly 2-8 record, and those road trips are to the teams currently occupying the top four spots: Illawarra, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.
"We have to (keep winning),” Henare said. "We believe it's doable but we don't have any time for relaxing or patting ourselves on the back. We recognise that we did the job (last weekend) and have to move on to the next one. We have to be business-like in how we go about it and that's working for us right now.”