Five NBL teams will embark on a tour of the United States of America, with a record seven NBLxNBA games set to be played. Here is The Roar‘s complete guide to the matches and how to watch them both online and on TV.
CJ Bruton now has five NBL titles, but winning one against his first team, one his father helped build, means a lot to him.
The New Zealand Breakers guard was named the most valuable player of the NBL finals series after scoring two vital three-pointers in the final two minutes of the deciding match against the Perth Wildcats.
They gave the Breakers enough of a cushion to help them win an exciting final match 79-73, securing back-to-back NBL titles for the Auckland franchise.
Bruton has won two titles with the Sydney Kings, one with the Brisbane Bullets and now two with the Breakers.
But he has fond memories of the Wildcats, a team his father Calvin helped build and one which he began his professional basketball career with.
“I look at Perth in `87 with my father playing, and to watch that team grow and their fan base grow has been special,” he said.
“To come play at Vector Arena in front of 9000 people in a grand final against the team my father coached to their first championship … I can’t think of anything more special than that.”
After the Breakers won the first final in overtime and the Wildcats took the second by one point, it would have been tough for the deciding game to match those but the two teams again produced a compelling and tight contest.
The Breakers led by one point after the first quarter but went into halftime two points down after a stellar second quarter by Perth forward Matthew Knight.
Defence dominated in the third quarter, the Breakers doing just enough to take a four-point lead going into the final quarter.
Perth overcame a six-point gap to level the scores at 62 apiece before six points by Gary Wilkinson gave the home team a four-point lead.
Bruton, ever the big-match player, then scored two vital three-pointers, and a vital block by Tom Abercrombie on a Shawn Redhage lay-up ensured the Breakers would take the title.
Doubts were expressed about Bruton’s future after an injury to the 36-year-old’s knee but he said it was “a blessing in disguise”.
“I think the coach and the team gave me time to go away from the team and work on my body and they won five in a row,” he said.
“For me it’s about pushing. I was still hungry, I still am, and I will continue to be that way while I continue to play.”
Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge said Bruton “was the difference”.
“The guy’s going to be a hall of famer. The coaching staff has done a great job getting him through the season and he’s a big game player,” Beveridge said.
Beveridge said he was proud of his team’s performance but was frustrated they let the Breakers score too many points from the three-point arc.
“We started the game giving up four threes… and down at the end CJ managed to put another dagger in. That’s frustrating as a coach, going away from the game plan.”