Undermanned NZ Breakers determined to finish NBL regular season in style

The Breakers will likely be missing a number of key players for their final two matches of the ANBL season.

The Auckland club will face the Illawarra Hawks on the North Shore on Friday and the Kings in Sydney on Sunday, but there is a strong chance that they will only have eight fit players.

Shooting guard Kirk Penney (calf) and Alex Pledger (ribs) are both in doubt, while the status of Thomas Abercrombie is uncertain with his wife due to give birth any day now.

Coach Paul Henare is hopeful his players will be fit, but isn't willing to take any chances.

"Kirk is unlikely, but Pledge is coming along nicely and should be fine sometime this weekend," he said.   

"But obviously, we won't risk anyone at this stage of the season with the playoffs around the corner."

Henare is not yet sure if Abercrombie will be on the plane to Australia on Saturday.

"At this stage we're planning on him travelling, but you really never know with these things."

On the practice floor, Henare has been making his troops work hard on their free-throw shooting - something the club has struggled with all season.

Kirk Penny.
Kirk Penny. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Breakers only made 46 percent of their foul shots in their recent 100-82 home loss against Melbourne United - which saw Abercrombie and Mike Vukona combine for a total of 4-15.

But it wasn't a one-off poor showing from the free-throw line, as the Breakers have converted a league-worst 67 percent from the line all season, and Henare is lost for words about what can be done about it.

"Tommy [Abercrombie] and Mika [Vukona] had a tough day at the office from the foul line.

"They are two guys who put the work in and when you see guys put in the work, you have confidence those things will turn around.

"I'm at a loss - when you analyse it, for me, in my opinion, it is muscle memory and where you put yourself and your confidence level inside your head, and confidence comes from repetition."

With a playoff spot already sealed, Henare admits he isn't too fussed on who the Breakers face in the first round of the finals.

Melbourne United have already claimed the minor premiership, while the Adelaide 36ers sit second but could still be overtaken by the Perth Wildcats.

"I think Melbourne and Adelaide are the form teams this year," he said.   

"Our goal is to win a championship and, at some stage, you might have to beat one or both of these teams anyway, or you have Perth who are the back-to-back champions.

"It looks likely we will have to do this without home court advantage, so either way it will be tough.

"We are not worried about that though - we don't have home advantage, it is what it is and is in front of us, so we will just get on with the job."

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