Basketball: NZ Breakers' rollercoaster season ideal preparation for ANBL sudden-death playoff

NZ Breakers forward Finn Delany is at pains to dismiss his team's playoff predicament, as they brace for a sudden-death finals rematch against defending ANBL champions Sydney Kings.

After a season that has seen the Auckland club plagued by injuries and scrambling from the league's basement into playoff contention, the four-time champions are pitted against opponents under pressure to replicate their title runs over the past two years.

Delany wasn't part of the Breakers' post-season run in 2023, as he helped Telekom Baskets Bonn finish runners-up in the German Bundesliga, but he insists his underdog team are no strangers to the term 'must-win'.

Finn Delany in action for the Breakers.
Finn Delany in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

"We've been like that all season, honestly," he said. "Reflecting back on the regular season, I'm quite proud of this team - it's a unique team.

"We spent a lot of time at the bottom of the ladder early in the season. Standings aside, we weren't the team earlier in the season that we are now in terms of character and togetherness and cohesion.

"What we've seen on the court in the last month in some of those big wins is because of that. I say that because it excites me about this plan and the amount of basketball I believe we have left."

Delany has missed much of the season with injury, sitting out the last loss to Adelaide with back spasms.

The Breakers campaign has seen American import Zylan Cheatham and Aussie guard Will McDowell-White sidelined for several rounds, before All Star forward Anthony Lamb ruptured an Achilles tendon, as they competed for a post-season spot.

Somehow, they were able to overcome Lamb's absence, largely through the electric play of guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, but McDowell-White has aggravated his shoulder injury and remains in doubt against the Kings.

The Breakers must likely play above the sum of whatever parts take the court, but that's how it's been all season.

"I don't want to talk too much about early in the season, but it is important to where we are now," said Delany. "We have an extremely competitive bunch and people really weren't happy with the results and where we were.

"When the expectations are high and you're not playing up to that standard, it's frustrating. We came out of that and we're at a point now where we put ourselves in a position to see what we're capable of."

The Breakers' season hit probably it's lowest point against Sydney in January, when they were well beaten 105-76 - their straight loss to playoff-contending teams. 

"It was a different point in the season for not only us, but them," reflected Delany. "It wasn't a great performance, but I don't think it was a representation of the game we will have on Wednesday.

"We obviously watch those games back, and pick things we did and didn't do bad, but I don't think there's a heap to learn from that game... maybe I'm trying to look at it too positively."