New Zealand Breakers coach Paul Henare was delighted with his side’s win over Illawarra.Less than 24 hours after ending the Illawarra Hawks’ finals hopes, the New Zealand Breakers will be sharing a flight to Auckland with their beaten opponents.
The Breakers claimed their 14th win of the season with Friday night’s 77-73 defeat of the Hawks in Wollongong and will cement a top-four finish if they account for Illawarra in Sunday’s rematch across the ditch.
New Zealand coach Paul Henare said it wouldn’t be unusual if players from both sides did some catching up on the flight today.
“It’s always a fun time to see the opposition in that situation,” Henare said.
“Off the floor, it’s such a small league and some guys get to know each other, so there’s always a connection there for certain players.
“I don’t think we’re going to walk around and ignore people. If there’s a conversation to be had, it’s all pretty easygoing until Sunday.”
The Breakers bounced back from last week’s heavy loss to NBL titleholders Perth, despite being behind the Hawks at the end of every quarter.
Their win-loss record stands at 14-9 with five games remaining.
“It was a big game for us,” Henare said. “It’s a good, gritty win for us and obviously a really important one.
“The good thing is that there’s room for improvement and I’m looking forward to Sunday. It’s like a little mini-series.
“Both coaches will look at the game and look at where you can make subtle adjustments. You look at what worked well and areas of improvement.
“We play at 3 o’clock local time over there on Sunday, so it’s about resting the bodies and recovering.”
The Hawks slipped to 10-13 for the season and need a minor miracle to qualify for the finals for the third straight year.
“It’s going to be tough to make the playoffs, we’re not going to B.S ourselves,” Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge said.
“We have to win five in a row now and four of those are on the road. Our backs are to the wall and we have to rely on other teams dropping out.”