Defending NBL champions New Zealand Breakers have reclaimed their status as title contenders after notching a pair of impressive wins in round seven.
Shooting guard Corey Webster hit seven three-pointers on his way to a career-high 39 points – 14 of them in the fourth quarter – in the ultimate 80-69 revenge win over competition favourites Melbourne United on Sunday.
It was just two weeks ago that the NBL apologised for an incorrect unsportsmanlike call on Webster, who had been pinged for pushing off a flopping Chris Goulding on the game-deciding play.
However Webster exacted some sweet payback on the early MVP candidate, who was limited to just 13 points on 6-16 shooting.
“It’s always a good game when you’ve got a tough match-up like that,” Webster said.
“Obviously Chris is a great player in this league, but it was more just coming back home and trying to help out and get the win, do whatever it takes for my time and luckily I had a good shooting night.”
The victory means the Breakers have now won three on the trot, including their first away win of the season in Sydney on Thursday, to cement third spot on the ladder.
Improved forward Tom Abercrombie racked up 16 points and 15 rebounds against the Kings, who were held to a hapless 51-28 count on the boards and got zero field goals from Julian Khazzouh in star import Al Harrington’s final game for the club.
The loss leaves the NBL’s glamour club rooted to the bottom of the table with just three wins, although they do get star forward Josh Childress back from injury next week.
Harrington believes Sydney are still capable of climbing back into playoff contention.
“Add Josh and at the end of the day, this will be a playoff team. They’ve got what it takes,” he said.
Having begun the season with a remarkable nine-game winning streak, Melbourne have now been stung with three straight defeats, having also been upset by lowly Townsville 82-78 on Friday.
In the other games of the round, Adelaide’s up-and-down season continued after splitting their two-game weekend, losing a close one 94-88 against Perth before bouncing back with a 89-77 victory over Illawarra.
After a poor night against the Wildcats, centre Daniel Johnson responded with a monster game against the Hawks, scoring 15 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.