31 Dec 2016

Breakers blow late lead to lose to Kings

7:07 am on 31 December 2016

The New Zealand Breakers blew a three-quarter time lead to lose their National Basketball League clash with the Kings 85-80 in Sydney last night.

The Breakers were forced to come from behind multiple times during the match, but were unable to capitalise on their lead in the final ten minute stanza.

Mika Vukona (R) of the Breakers puts pressure on Julian Khazzouh of the Kings.

Mika Vukona (R) of the Breakers puts pressure on Julian Khazzouh of the Kings. Photo: Photosport

Sydney made an early statement, nailing their first six shots and sprinting to a 19-9 lead after six minutes.

But the visitors steadied after a time-out by coach Paul Henare, patiently chipping away to be down 23-20 at quarter-time.

The Breakers didn't flinch, fighting back to be down 46-42 at halftime, though they would have led if not for a horrible return from the free throw line (9-19).

Sydney got out to a nine-point lead in the third period before New Zealand responded again, seizing the momentum and clawing their way to a 63-61 three- quarter-time lead.

The Kings were down by as many as seven before making one last stand.

They took advantage of a heavy foul toll against the Breakers down the stretch to snatch a crucial win.

Breakers coach Paul Henare said his side would continue to push for a finals berth.

Breakers coach Paul Henare.

Breakers coach Paul Henare. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Even though I'm disappointed with the loss, there's a part of that's extremely proud," he said.

"The ball is still in our court and we'll keep fighting, and my job is to make sure they keep that belief."

Two-time Olympian Kirk Penney led the Breakers with 20 points and newly-signed American import Paul Carter finished with 14 in an impressive NBL debut.

The Auckland-based club were without star forward Tom Abercrombie, who is sidelined for a month after breaking his hand at training during the week.

Rookie forward Finn Delaney earned a call-up to the starting lineup in Abercrombie's absence, racking up 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Breakers' next game is against Cairns next Friday.