Roberson shooting spree no match for Breakers
NEW venue, same John Roberson.
Unfortunately for South East Melbourne Phoenix the guard's game-high 31-point shooting display coincided with another loss as New Zealand Breakers prevailed 97-92.
In contrast, the Breakers made it five on the bounce and all of a sudden find themselves back in the playoff frame.
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Phoenix dropped to seventh Sunday night and three wins off the top four.
Robinson's six three-pointers and Dane Pineau's eye-catching 17 points and 20 rebounds, kept the game close but the Breakers inevitably had the answers to every comeback.
Breaker Finn Delany sealed it with a dagger three with 14.6 seconds to play.
Any plans New Zealand had easing RJ Hampton back into the line-up went out the door after guard Sek Henry (calf) broke down after five minutes.
But Hampton, with parents Rod and Markita and little brother Ryan sitting high in the stands, went to work dutifully as the road to the 2020 NBA draft resumes.
Hampton's first touch in a month oozed class, a slick pass around the corner, while the second and third showcased a competitive streak.
After going unrewarded with a strong drive at the rim, which did draw heavy contact, Hampton went for it again moments later and this time, converted accordingly.
Lottery pick LaMelo Ball (foot) rocketed into the No.1 conversation with hot early-season form, but if Hampton can help the Breakers to the finals the race to the top of draft boards might've only begun.
A sold-out State Basketball Centre officially franked the NBL's bold decision to inject a second franchise into the sporting capital Melbourne.
Good crowds at Melbourne Arena and solid television numbers were a nice start, but making it in the "heartland", the south east, is what mattered most.
At first glance, for the Americans especially, it felt more like a throwback to high school or college hooping days, but for the NBL, a capacity 3500 crowd was something of an expansion coronation.
Two games in year one in Wantirna South made sense, one sold out and the other, on Australia Day against Cairns Taipans, a certainty to be so as well.
With luck, or common sense, more games there should be a given next season.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell yesterday lamented his team's "mental errors" late against New Zealand.
Phoenix had chances to tie the game in the closing stages but either missed from close range or turned the ball over.
"It felt like during the course of the game we never really got a lot of flow on, momentum offensively," Mitchell said.
"You want to reward yourself when you dig in a get stops and a get a d(efensive) board and turn it over, we got a couple (offensive) boards (but) didn't get great looks."