Gutsy New Zealand Breakers have snapped a four-game losing run with an 81-76 over-time NBL win against injury-hit Brisbane Bullets.
Livewire guard Tai Webster dropped a game-high 27 points while big man Colton Iverson overcame an ankle complaint to nab 10 points and a remarkable 20 rebounds as the Bullets stumbled without two of their stars at Nissan Arena.
American import Vic Law – who had averaged almost 19 points a game this season – missed his first appearance for Brisbane due to injury, while key big man Matt Hodgson was also sidelined after appearing to tweak his calf in the warm-up.
The Bullets may have been undermanned but they still posed a huge challenge for a Breakers outfit who appeared to be struggling as they backed up for their third game in eight days with a depleted roster after being on the road for almost five months.
The New Zealand side are on a limited player rotation without injured star Corey Webster (knee), dumped import Lamar Patterson and departed starting centre Rob Loe, while new pick-ups Australian guard William McDowell-White and import Levi Randolph are still in quarantine.
They almost had another key player missing on Saturday, with Iverson so unconvinced he would play he only brought his back-up shoes to Nissan Arena but surprisingly passed a pre-match fitness test.
“I didn’t even pack the shoes that I wear for games but … where there is a will there is a way,” Iverson said.
Indeed Iverson dug deep to prove a perfect foil for Webster, who also collected 10 assists, as the second-last Breakers outgunned the league’s highest-scoring team to move to a 5-11 record.
“It is really amazing,” proud Breakers coach Dan Shamir said.
The Bullets (9-8) dropped from fourth to sixth with just their second loss in six games despite big plays from Anthony Drmic (25 points) and Nathan Sobey (23 points, 11 rebounds).
The Breakers have endured a string of second-half capitulations of late, typified by their last clash, an 82-79 loss to Melbourne United on Thursday in which they let an 18-point lead slip.
And they appeared set for another frustrating turnaround after leading by eight points early in the fourth term, only for sharp-shooter Sobey to lock up the scores at 69-69 and send the game into over-time.
But Iverson again came up big in defence and Finn Delany (17 points, nine rebounds) nailed a crunch three with 27 seconds left on the clock before a couple of Webster free-throws iced a well-earned Breakers win.