Basketball: NZ Breakers coach Mody Maor refrains from blaming referees after lopsided foul count in crucial ANBL defeat

NZ Breakers Mody Maor has taken a diplomatic view of the lopsided foul count that plagued his team's crucial 89-85 defeat to Illawarra Hawks, with playoff aspirations on the line.

Three Breakers starters - Mantas Rubstavicius, Anthony Lamb and Zylan Cheatham - all exited the contest early with five personal fouls, with the remaining two - Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Mangok Mathiang - teetering on four, as referees gifted the Hawks a sizable 31-19 foul advantage.

Afterwards, Maor refused to bite on questions around the officiating.

Anthony Lamb contest the ball against Illawarra Hawks.
Anthony Lamb contest the ball against Illawarra Hawks. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The only people who care what I think are the people who take money from my pocket," he deflected. "The truth is we're not allowed to talk about this...

"We have nine fouls on boxouts on defence and zero fouls on offensive rebounds. That's unique."

Maor has already run foul of the league's rules against criticising referees - he was fined $500, after he was ejected at halftime, after arguing the same point during a win over Adelaide last month. That day, the Breakers were awarded nine free throws and their opponents 27.

"What I take from the game is not this, because this I do not control," he continued, after this latest setback. "This is an incredible group of players who really deserve to get to the playoffs.

"In these circumstances, with the time between the back to back, I don't think it looked like our team was less intense or cares less, or isn't ready to come and play.

"That gives me great confidence in winning enough games to make the play-in... I like our chances."

The result sees the Hawks leapfrog the Breakers into the Aussie NBL's top-six playoff spots, with only three rounds remaining in the regular season. The Auckland team entered the game off a 48-hour turnaround, after defeating Tasmania JackJumpers at home on Friday night.

While the foul count was worrying, just as concerning was the Breakers' inability to keep their opponents off the glass, where the Hawks grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and outscored their visitors 27-11 in second-chance points.

Perhaps the nine boxout fouls were symptomatic of the Breakers' struggles.

"It's very bad," conceded Maor. "It's very hard to win, when you give so many second-chance points.  

"Most of them came in the second half. It's something we know we need to do better and something we care about.

"It's something we practice a lot and the rest I'll keep to myself."

With five games remaining, the Breakers must travel to Perth next Sunday to face the 16-8 Wildcats, who have already clinched their post-season position.