Scott Machado of the Taipans during warm up for the Round 14 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at the Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, Friday, January 3, 2020. (AAP Image/Marc McCormack)
Scott Machado of the Taipans during warm up for the Round 14 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at the Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, Friday, January 3, 2020. (AAP Image/Marc McCormack)

Breakers to target kingpin Machado

THE Breakers have a plan to cut off the head of the prized Snake.

On the back of a run of form that has revitalised the Kiwis' 2019-20 NBL season, the Breakers extended their winning streak to five games against SEM Phoenix on Sunday and now travel north to Cairns for Thursday night's clash against the Taipans.

It is a game style clubs have tried for much of the campaign, with little luck - restrict the influence of MVP candidate Scott Machado.

Kiwi forward Ethan Rusbatch, who took Corey Webster's place on the full Breakers roster when the star guard departed for China, says Machado will be front and centre to their scout this week.

"It is a matter of slowing down Scott Machado, he is their key guy," Rusbatch said from Melbourne on Monday before arriving in Cairns on Wednesday.

"He is the head of the snake, if you want to say it that way.

"If we can control and maintain him, it will take a lot of their offence away," Rusbatch said.

Scott Machado of the Taipans during warm up for the Round 14 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at the Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, Friday, January 3, 2020. (AAP Image/Marc McCormack)
Scott Machado of the Taipans during warm up for the Round 14 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at the Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, Friday, January 3, 2020. (AAP Image/Marc McCormack)

"The ball goes through him so much, they have a lot of talent as a team but he is the main one the ball goes through.

"If we can keep him at arm's length, that would be good."

To say Machado has been kept quiet at all recently would be wrong.

But, when the Snakes have lost over the last month, opposing clubs have had some success keeping the floor general in check.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 29: Adelaide 36ers Coach Joey Wright congratulates Ethan Rusbatch #25 of the New Zealand Breakers after the round 13 NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on December 29, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Sue McKay/Getty Images)
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 29: Adelaide 36ers Coach Joey Wright congratulates Ethan Rusbatch #25 of the New Zealand Breakers after the round 13 NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on December 29, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Sue McKay/Getty Images)

In the overtime loss to SEM Phoenix, he was limited to just six assists, well below his season average, but still found 18 points.

And, when Cairns went down to Perth, Machado only scored 13 points on 5-13 shooting, three points under his average for the campaign.

Since those two defeats early in December, the American guard and his team have been on a tear, going 4-0, with Machado dropping 29 points in a victory over the Phoenix on New Year's Eve as well as handing out 13 assists against Adelaide.

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 03: Scott Machado of the Taipans is introduced to the crowd before the start of the round 14 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at the Cairns Convention Centre on January 03, 2020 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 03: Scott Machado of the Taipans is introduced to the crowd before the start of the round 14 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at the Cairns Convention Centre on January 03, 2020 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The 27-year-old Rusbatch is embracing his opportunity with the Breakers after being out of the Australian league over the last few years. The swingman averaged 20.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in the NZ competition last winter, leading to an outcry about why the talented Kiwi could not find a spot on an NBL squad.

He eventually found his way with the Breakers and is aiming to contribute wherever he can.

"I am always ready, I never lacked motivation in terms of trying to be better, I knew I could play a high level," Rusbatch said.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 05: Ethan Rusbatch of the Breakers looks on prior to the round 14 NBL match between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the New Zealand Breakers at the State Basketball Centre on January 05, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 05: Ethan Rusbatch of the Breakers looks on prior to the round 14 NBL match between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the New Zealand Breakers at the State Basketball Centre on January 05, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

"I just keep doing what I do and showcase my talent at this level.

"I just want to help the group and hopefully grow myself."

TAIPANS UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Round 15 (Home)

Thursday 9 January, 6:30pm

Cairns Taipans v NZ Breakers

Cairns Convention Centre

Watch: SBS On Demand, ESPN

Round 15 (Away)

Saturday 11 January, 4:30pm

Taipans @ Sydney Kings

QUDOS Bank Arena

Watch: SBS Viceland