Penney proves his worth as Breakers flog 36ers
WHEN Kirk Penney began the season averaging just 10 points a game, the New Zealand Breakers' new recruit appeared to be feeling his age.
But one 27-point outburst later, the only thing seeming old is any fear the 35-year-old had lost his shooting touch.
Penney last night orchestrated a defeat of the Adelaide 36ers at Vector Arena, finding success from seven of his eight three-point attempts to halt a three-game losing streak and finally illustrate the potency this Breakers offence always possessed on paper.
"Kirk right now plays hoops for about five-and-a-half months a year, and he spends the rest of the time recovering and getting back in shape and finding his groove again,” coach Paul Henare said.
"I've seen him over the last couple of weeks find a comfort level, find a rhythm. He thought he was doing right by the team by letting the ball work and getting the other guys involved - but, really, we recruited him to shoot seven-of-eight from the three-point line.”
That accuracy ensured that, for the first time this campaign, the deadly combination of Penney and Corey Webster was lethal, the pair combining for 49 points to pace their side's best display of the season.
Webster came off the bench to add three triples to a team total of 17, giving the Breakers a one-two punch at shooting guard that would have proven unstoppable to any opponent.
"That number's going to stand out,” Henare said of the three-point tally. "When the ball goes through the hoop, it makes the game a little bit easier. But I thought the quality of looks we got were really good looks. It felt like we were creating some shots and I think our 31 assists really reflects that.”
Indeed, the Breakers' ball movement to find the open man was superb and they were never guilty of pressing; instead of taking a contested three in the corner at one point, Penney feinted and found the wide-open Webster who dropped in yet another triple.
And, just to increase the degree of difficulty for Adelaide's defence, the Kiwi club was equally effective when working on the inside, with big duo Akil Mitchell (17 points) and Rob Loe (15) adding variation to their side's offence.
Between the efforts of that pair and Webster, the bench chimed in with 64 points - more than quadrupling the contribution of their Adelaide counterparts - while the team as a whole shot a spectacular 57% from the field and 53% from beyond the arc.
The multitude of weapons the Breakers possessed was obvious early. No fewer than five players found success from deep in the first quarter, as the home side scored 35 points and drained seven three-pointers to lead by 16 at the opening break.
The home side was clearly enjoying its work, with Webster's behind-the-back assist to Mitchell a particular highlight, and that mood that only brightened with Penney's back-to-back threes to begin the second.
What's more, the Breakers were also excelling in areas beyond their dead-eye shooting, seizing a huge advantage in the rebounding battle and initially doing well to negate the influence of league-leading scorer Jerome Randle.
By the time they brought up 50 points at the 15-minute mark, the lead was at 21 and the game looked secure. And when Penney kickstarted the second half with - what else? - a three-pointer, the Breakers' sharp-shooting never threatened to be blunted after the break.
"It just felt fun out there,” said Tom Abercrombie, who sparked the carnage with two threes in the opening two minutes before finishing with 15 points. "We were enjoying ourselves and you could see that in our body language. It's a good feeling out on the court when shots are going in.”