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Unbreakable, NZ the lionhearts and Ants on the march

NO Anthony Lamb. Will McDowell-White playing hurt and fouling out. Zylan Cheatham hurt, then rolling an ankle, then returning to play hurt, Mantas Rubstavicius tossed out of the game. Finn Delany a shadow of himself. Jaysus. What else did these careless Kings need to show heart? Didn't matter. Parker Jackson-Cartwright had the answers.  

And after halftime, at which point Sydney led 47-38 and had most things going for it - Cheatham already hurting his ankle for example - the Kings were paupers, indolent, indifferent, inexcusable.

Sydney coach Mahmoud Abjectfailure again showed his complete lack of comprehension as to which players would bleed for his club, leaving last year's Championship Game 5 hero Angus Glover anchored to his bench (again!), Jaylin Galloway counting the dwindling crowd numbers, Alex Toohey and Jordan Hunter under-utilised.

Ahead 50-40, the Kings had no way - and precious little commitment or desire - to stall a rampant 11-0 Breakers outburst started by a Cheatham triple.

Rubstavicius drained a 3-pointer, McDowell-White and Mangok Mathiang both active as WMW hit a floater for a 51-50 NZ lead. 

Midway through the third quarter, Sydney again had the Breakers by the throat and independent observers may have sworn it was New Zealand's five versus Sydney's eight.

Rubstavicius stumbled on a defensive play and was assessed a technical foul for an alleged flop. Hurts to have a reputation.

Next he was ejected after copping an unsportsmanlike foul unwisely squaring up with Hunter.

That golden or yellow-paved brick road was there for the Kings to skip away with it, but this disjointed, disinterested collection of mercenaries and overlooked potential real contributors just wasn't going to pull it together sufficiently to get anything done.

Jackson-Cartwright (34 points at 50 percent, 4-of-7 threes, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal) was asserting himself and proving unguardable and the Kings were lucky to be at 60-60 with a period to play.

PJC struck for a New Zealand a 3-pointer to push it 63-60 ahead but DJ Hogg tied it with a three of his own.

However from 63-63 it was Izayah Le'afa with back-to-back 3-pointers who broke open the contest and while Sydney was able to pull back to 74-78 into the last minute, Jackson-Cartwright's triple and a key Le'afa steal ended this.

For the Breakers, they proved again unbreakable, though how much is left in the tank for Monday's KO collision with the Hawks in Wollongong remains to be seen. They will play with heart though, something Abjectfailure's crew never showed.

Heart though may not be enough against Illawarra, which had some reasons to be unhappy with the loss to Tasmania.

The JackJumpers had Jack McVeigh pairing 26 points (at 69 percent, 4-of-6 threes) with 11 rebounds as they too had to dig deep after losing centre Marcus Lee in the opening seconds.

Lee left in some discomfort but returned to the Ants' bench with his left arm in a shoulder sling.

His injury meant a longer night for Will Magnay who played a season-high 30:26, delivering 25 points at 71 percent, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals.

He terrorised the keyways in a stunningly dominant performance, Illawarra players all too conscious of his towering presence.

The Hawks needed more from hobbled stud Gary Clark, and Justin Robinson largely was inconsequential, apart from his team-high four turnovers.

Tyler Harvey's 15 points came on 6-of-16 shooting, those attempts including a number to make you wince. As has been the case throughout the season, the officiating left much to be desired, no decision more blatantly ridiculous than holding up play to wipe a wet spot elsewhere as Sam Froling was driving to the hoop for an open layup.

Just absurd and that was a bucket the Hawks needed, having slipped 68-84 behind.  

Illawarra fought to the finish before both coaches cleared their benches, Hawks boss Justin Tatum and NZ's Mody Maor likely to be wondering who will cop it worse in their KO clash on Monday.

Mathiang blatantly fouled on a dunk, McDowell-White similarly smacked for a no-call ... the Breakers and Hawks have a few days to wonder which of them will be on the receiving end next.

And Lachlan Olbrich can also wonder how McVeigh, as he fell, still moved to ensure he landed on him, in true WWE-style. Time to get in some free throw practice before Monday.  

QUALIFYING FINAL (3v4): Tasmania JackJumpers 92 (McVeigh 26, Magnay 25, Crawford 20, MacDonald 10; McVeigh 11 rebs; Doyle 10 assts) d Illawarra Hawks 76 (Clark 21, Harvey 15, Froling 10; Clark 10 rebs; Robinson 3 assts) at Mystate Bank Arena. Crowd: 4,340

ELIMINATION FINAL (5v6): New Zealand Breakers 83 (Jackson-Cartwright 34, Cheatham 18, McDowell-White 11; Mathiang 10 rebs; Jackson-Cartwright 6 assts) d SYDNEY KINGS 76 (Adams 18, Hogg 17, Hunter, Noi 10; Valentine 8 rebs; Adams 5 assts) at Qudos Bank Arena. Crowd: 8,231


Feb 29

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