Sitting one spot outside playoff contention is enough motivation for the New Zealand Breakers to lift for next week’s final match of the year against the Sydney Kings.
Today, it was business as usual for centre Alex Pledger after coming off a game-high 16 points in their last encounter against the arguably their biggest rivals of the competition the Perth Wildcats.
“We've been struggling a little bit on the defensive end giving up a lot of points to teams in recent weeks. Holding a team to 57 which is probably one of the lowest totals we've held a team to ever.”
Despite the win which they managed to scrap it out in a lowly contested affair, and having a two-week gap, Pledger insists there are still plenty of areas to improve on
“Being just a big a presence in the pack by being a shot blocker and a shot changer and a re-bounder. I think I tied my career high with blocks against Perth and re-bounded the ball pretty well. “
Amongst many key factors, Coach Paul Henare identified one key area and is looking to instil a defensive mentality on the team, with teams finding it easy to break the Breakers protection.
“I think another thing that's kinda been talked about a lot all this season is turnovers. The ones you don't want to lead the league in is turn-overs. I think we're right near the top of that one, unfortunately.”
Whilst the player, affectionately known as Chief, has played alongside many of the countries elite, one player who has emerged through the ranks and has a regular spot on the roster is Ngāti Toa Rangatira forward Jordan Ngatai.
“He’s a sneakily good athlete. He’s caught a couple of guys at training over the past couple of years going baseline and catching them with a dunk which is awesome.”
There is one more final training run for the two-metre stalwart and his teammates before finally getting some much-needed rest and recovery ahead of the festive season.
“I've actually got my Mum and my brother coming up for Christmas. It's the first time my partner and I are hosting. It's a little bit daunting but I'm looking forward to it.”
The Breakers will head off for the Christmas break before finally resuming on Boxing Day ahead of their next match which is an away encounter on the December 30th