New Zealand Breakers' Mika Vukona.
New Zealand Breakers' Mika Vukona. Getty Images Sport - Phil Walter

Breakers' big finish to big year

BEFORE the Breakers cast a contented eye back on 2011, there's one more scalp that would leave them celebrating the New Year in style.

The New Zealanders take on the Taipans in Cairns today - the same opposition they vanquished in April to clinch their maiden ANBL crown.

The Breakers are yet to slow down since winning the championship and carry a league-leading 10-4 record into the game. Combined with 15 regular season and six playoff games from last season, 2011 saw the Breakers win 26 of 35 games across the calendar year.

This year will always engender a lot of fond memories for the Breakers and their fans, and forward Dillon Boucher said there's only one way the club want to complete it.

"For the team, when you look at 2011 as a whole, we've had a lot of success," he said. "It's been a great year for the club so we'd love to finish it on a high."

To do that the Breakers will have to stop a stumbling Cairns side, losers of three of their last four, on their own court. The Taipans (6-7) have gone backwards since finishing as bridesmaids last season and will head into the encounter in a lowly sixth place.

But Boucher said the Snakepit was one of the hardest venues in which to win. The Taipans beat them 80-78 there last month, meaning the clash with Cairns will be far from straightforward. They are also mindful of the fact they were thrashed by Townsville on New Year's Eve last year.

"You look at a team like Cairns and they're very tough on their home floor and they win the majority of games on their home floor," Boucher said. "Any time you can go to Cairns and come away with a win, it's always a good victory."

The finals replay is the second of a three-game roadtrip for the Breakers, coming a week after losing to fellow competition favourites Perth, but they welcome back influential guard CJ Bruton after a five-game absence because of a knee injury.

Boucher partially blamed the defeat to Perth on a combination of travel, sleep and scheduling but, after a two-day Christmas break to recharge their batteries, said the team will come out firing tomorrow night.

"We definitely didn't have much energy [against Perth]. But it's one of those things, whenever you lose you want to make sure you come out and play well the next game and you want to keep that loss fresh in the back of your mind but, at the same time, not worry about it.

"You want to learn from it and move on and be better because of it. You never want to lose two games in a row and we're going up there with that in mind. We're going up there to win."

The game is the last regular season match-up between the sides. The Taipans edged a tight one at home in round seven, before the North Shore club turned the tables at the NSEC a fortnight ago to win 85-65.

The Breakers will have to overcome the league's meanest defence in Cairns and, if they do, Boucher promised to try to keep the New Year's celebrations restrained.

"It'll be pretty low key because we've got another game in Melbourne the following week," he said. "When you're travelling on the road, we do a big job of staying hydrated and taking care of our bodies, so it'll be a pretty low-key celebration, I think.

"Hopefully we can just get a win and that'll get us on enough of a high to celebrate New Year's."

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