Grant Chapman: Plenty of life left in desperate Breakers season

Corey Webster celebrates
Corey Webster celebrates against Brisbane Bullets. Photo credit: Photosport

OPINION: This time last week, the Breakers' ANBL chances were declared dead in the water.

"Just six teams are left in the NBL finals race, after New Zealand Breakers were knocked out of contention by Cairns Taipans in a 106-98 over-time thriller," the AAP wire story boldly declared.

Which sparked a newsroom debate on whether those dreams were actually mathematically dashed or just way too difficult to comprehend, given their rollercoaster form over the 2018/19 season.

At the time, we decided the Kevin Braswell's men probably needed to win their remaining eight games and hope for other results to go their way.

Breaker Nation, I'm here to tell you that your team can probably drop a couple of games and still qualify for the playoffs.

In fact, if a heap of those 'other results go their way', there's still a scenario where the Auckland-based club finishes in a four-way tie at the top of the table.

I know, slap me in a straightjacket and put me in a padded room - but it's true.

Follow me through this…

Current standings

Perth Wildcats 15 wins

Melbourne United 14 wins

Sydney Kings 14 wins

Brisbane Bullets 12 wins

Adelaide 36ers 12 wins

Illawarra Hawks 11 wins

NZ Breakers 10 wins

Cairns Taipans four wins

The Breakers won both games last weekend and have six more - if they win them all, they finish on 16 wins.

Here's one way the rest of the season could pan out...

Sydney beat Brisbane

Illawarra beat Perth

Cairns beat Adelaide

Brisbane beat Sydney

Cairns beat Illawarra

Brisbane beat Illawarra

Melbourne beat Sydney

Cairns beat Brisbane

Melbourne beat Adelaide

Sydney beat Perth

Cairns beat Melbourne

Adelaide beat Perth

Cairns beat Sydney

Perth beat Melbourne

Admittedly, some of those are real long shots. After winning only four games to date, Cairns would pretty much have to reel off five straight wins to close the season.

League leaders Perth would only win one more, as would the Breakers' nearest rivals, Adelaide and Illawarra, but that's what 'other results go their way' means.

If all those outcomes line up, this is how the final table looks…

Perth 16 wins

Melbourne 16 wins

Sydney 16 wins

Breakers 16 wins

Brisbane 14 wins

Adelaide 13 wins

Illawarra 12 wins

Cairns nine wins

Unfortunately, the Breakers don't have a great record against other projected top-four teams. They could still take the season series against defending champions Melbourne, but have been swept by Sydney and took one out of four against Perth.

Obviously, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

These results would be a best-case situation - and probably not the only one - for the Breakers, but even if some didn't go their way, there seems to be a reasonable margin for error.

For example, if you tweaked this particular scenario and the Taipans lose all their remaining games, the Breakers would still progress to the post-season.

In fact, Cairns could drop all their games and the Breakers could lose a couple of theirs - maybe both Melbourne games, or one against Melbourne and Illawarra - and still sneak through.

Shawn Long throws down
Shawn Long throws down against Brisbane. Photo credit: Photosport

Of course, we wouldn't even bother with these musings, if they hadn't looked so darned good beating Cairns and Brisbane so convincingly last week.

After the new owners decimated the Breakers roster last year, the Bullets had emerged as a team disaffected local fans could turn to - managed by former Breakers GM Richard Clarke, coached by Andre Lemanis, assisted by CJ Bruton, and with Breakers legend Mika Vukona and young Ruben Te Rangi suiting up.

Heaven knows, the newlook Breakers have been hard to love this season, promising a crowd-pleasing up-tempo brand that they simply haven't delivered consistently enough.

They've been Jekyll and Hyde of the Aussie NBL. They look their best with point guards Shea Ili and Jarrod Weeks in full flight, but their most effective scorer is probably Tai Wesley, with his crafty (but static) low-post game.

They've committed too many fouls, which has not only gifted free points to their opponents and handcuffed American star Shawn Long at times, but it also slows the tempo of the game. Honeslty, they'd be better off letting their rivals through unmolested to score and then pushing the pace back up court in transition.

When the marketing gurus set the threshold for free home-game burgers at 90 points, you sensed they were severely underselling the vision. Usually, that benchmark is 100 points and the Breakers certainly needed to score that many to be competitive across the season.

Jarrad Weeks pushes the pace
Jarrad Weeks pushes the pace against Brisbane. Photo credit: Photosport

They've averaged 99.9 points when they win, but only 87.5 when they lose.

They're 5-1 when they crack triple figures - they're 5-11 when they don't.

Still, they're the second-highest scoring team (behind Adelaide) in the comp, averaging 93.1 points, and attempt more shots than anyone else.

The dream remains alive and could even withstand a pair of losses this weekend - but then a lot of other results would surely need to go their way.

Please move away from the emergency exits - don't evacuate the bandwagon just yet.

Grant Chapman is Newshub on-line sports editor.