ANBL: NZ Breakers top Illawarra for first win of season

About 8000 fans gathered at Spark Arena to watch two future NBA stars battle - they got a little LaMelo Ball, somewhat less RJ Hampton, but more than enough NZ Breakers to send them away happy.

After straight losses to open their Australian NBL season, the home side finally found their mojo with an all-the-way 103-72 victory over Illawarra Hawks.

The much-anticipated first meeting between teenage phenoms Ball and Hampton brought NBA scouts to Auckland, licking their lips at the prospect of drafting one of these young guards in next year's draft.

Both had their moments - the first came less than a minute into the contest, when Breakers rookie Hampton blocked his rival's first shot in spectacular fashion.

But they were somewhat upstaged by their veteran teammates, with the Auckland team achieving their biggest win at the venue in front of a near-record crowd.

The home side jumped out to an early 15-point advantage in the first quarter, with Tall Blacks star Corey Webster and American Scott Hopson leading the way. 

Illawarra closed to within single digits just before halftime, but by the break, that margin had swelled back out to 54-37 and never dropped below 20 points over the final 12 minutes.

American Sek Henry eventually led all scorers with 21 points, including five three-pointers, with Webster and Hopson managing 17 each, and captain Tom Abercrombie contributing 16 points.

But they had to win largely without the services of starting centre Rob Loe, who collected Ball's elbow to the head during the opening stanza and was taken to hospital with a suspected skill fracture. 

That left the Breakers undersized against a big Hawks line-up, featuring former NBA forwards David Andersen and Josh Boone.

While they countered with little-used big man Ater Majok, the Breakers also played at a pace that neutralised their opponents' size advantage.

As a team, they shot 17/37 (45 percent) from the three-point arc and dishing 24 assists, with just 11 turnovers. Those were probably the key areas they shaded their rivals.

Best of the Hawks was guard Aaron Brooks, whose NBA pedigree extends to more than 600 games across seven teams and 10 years.

While Hampton and Ball are on the rise, at 34, Brooks' career is heading in the opposite direction, but he was still good enough for 19 points in a losing effort. 

Ball finished with the worst plus-minus rating on his team, despite contributing 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. He shot just 3/13 from the field ant committed five turnovers, but provided perhaps the highlight of the night, rebounding a Brooks miss and dunking in one motion.

Hampton had eight points, shooting a more conservative 4/9, with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.

With their first win of the season under their belt, the Breakers now head across the Tasman to take on Melbourne United - guided by former Breakers coach Dean Vickerman, centre Alex Pledger and guard Shea Ili - on Saturday.

Presumably, they will do so without Loe.