Breakers issue rematch warning
PERTH may have drawn first blood in the battle of the basketball heavyweights, but Dillon Boucher says the Breakers will be ready for a potential playoff rematch.
Pre-season prognostications positioned the Wildcats as the biggest threat to the Breakers' chances of reclaiming their Australian NBL crown, and Perth backed up those predictions in the first meeting between the two clubs on Friday night.
The Western Australia club dismantled the Breakers in front of a sell-out crowd at Perth's Challenge Stadium, winning 86-62 to pull back a game in the standings and, perhaps more importantly, land an early psychological blow.
The Breakers still lead the NBL with a 10-4 record after Perth (9-5) snapped their winning streak at five and Breakers' forward Boucher said, while the loss hurt, his team would be prepared if they had to go into Perth come the post-season.
"We're always confident, no matter what team we play, we can win," said Boucher. "We let ourselves down in Perth this time but, for the guys who it was their first time going there, it was a good learning curve as far as how it just beats your body down.
"Everyone will be better because of it. We have to go back there in March, so it'll be another chance to see if we can improve on what we did."
The loss was the Breakers' first meeting with Perth since the semi-finals of last season's historic championship run. In that three-game series, the Wildcats came into Auckland and upset the home side, but the Breakers won across the Tasman to keep alive their season before clinching a spot in the finals back at the North Shore Events Centre in game three.
Home court advantage - awarded to the team with the best regular season record - counted for little in that series, but Boucher stressed the importance of finishing top of the ladder for the second straight season.
"There's no doubt about it - home court advantage is a huge advantage in this competition," he said.
Visiting Perth is among the most difficult roadtrips the Breakers face in the NBL, so the club would be remiss to put themselves in the position of playing a winner-takes-all game there come the finals in April.
"As far as road trips go, it probably is the toughest one," Boucher said. "We've been there and won before so there's no room for excuses."
With the Breakers and the Wildcats - joint favourites for the title at the bookies - opening up a gap on the chasing pack, some pundits have all but pencilled the two teams into this year's finals series.
Boucher said his side were unsurprised by what their opponents showed and would be unafraid if Perth were the team standing between the Breakers and back-to-back titles.
"They did everything we expected and, unfortunately, we let ourselves down."