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Izayah Le’afa scored 21 fist-half points as the Breakers breezed past the Brisbane Bullets at Spark on Sunday.
At Spark Arena, Auckland: NZ Breakers 116 (Jarrell Brantley 29, Izayah Le’afa 21, Barry Brown Jr 17, Dererk Pardon 16), Brisbane Bullets 79 (Tanner Krebs 19, Nathan Sobey, 14 Tyler Johnson 12, Harry Froling 10). 1Q: 30-21; HT: 65-47; 3Q: 84-60.
A 21-point first-half scoring burst from Kiwi guard Izayah Le’afa and a season-high 29 from star import Jarrell Brantley powered the New Zealand Breakers to an NBL-best 10th victory for 2022-23 at Spark Arena on Sunday.
Le’afa, Brantley and their Breakers team-mates had just too much for an undermanned, and shell-shocked, Brisbane Bullets to handle as they led by 9 after one, as many as 30 in the second period and 65-47 at the half From their they coasted to a 37-point victory that was never in doubt in front of a crowd of around 4500.
The red-hot Breakers, with their seventh win in the last eight games, and fourth on the bounce, improve to a league-best 10-3 for the season, while the Bullets, who sacked their coach on Friday and crossed the Tasman down key big men Aron Baynes and Tyrell Harrison, sink to 3-7.
There was a lot to admire about a polished Breakers display on the back of another sapping trip across the Tasman for a Friday victory over the Cairns Taipans (82-71). They shot the ball well (60 overall for the game, to post their highest score of the season), found the right players in the right spots, and made short work of a Bullets outfit that were down on confidence, and firepower.
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Brantley’s class shone all over this one-sided contest as the powerful American posted a season-high 29 points, on 13-of-19 shooting, to go with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. The Bullets had nothing to counter his strength in the low post, although he also slotted a couple of triples to showcase his well-rounded game.
Le’afa set a mighty tone early with all 21 of his points coming in the first half. He made 7 of his 10 shots all told, was 4 of 6 from deep and added 4 boards and 5 rebounds.
Center Dererk Pardon continued his fine form with 16 points (on 8 shots) and 4 boards, while Barry Brown Jr added 17 off the bench at a 5-of-15 clip. Tom Abercrombie and Cam Gliddon added 9 points apiece for the victors.
The Bullets were paced by 19 points from Tanner Krebs, but lacked the scoring firepower to stick with the slick Breakers from the off.
The Kiwi club were pretty slick through an impressive first two periods, perhaps guilty of letting the foot off the throat a little as they allowed the visitors to battle back from a 30-point deficit (62-32) with three minutes remaining in the second stanza to a more respectable 18 (65-47) at the major break.
Still, the Breakers did not do a lot wrong, other than foul too much (15-6 over the first two periods, giving the Bullets 22 free-throws to 7). They shot a stellar 63% from the floor (24 of 38) and a sizzling 66 from beyond the arc (10 of 15) as Le’afa poured in 21 first-half points, on 7-of-9 shooting and 4 of 5 from deep, and Brantley a busy 14 (6/9 FG), 3 rebounds and 3 dimes.
From there this one was never in doubt. The Breakers edged out by 24 at the three-quarter mark and coasted home as they posted their highest total since the last home game of the 2018-19 season in Wellington.
Next up for the soaring Breakers are the South East Melbourne Phoenix in Christchurch on Thursday, before they return to Spark next Saturday to host the Perth Wildcats.