Returning players key for NZ in NBL finals

New Zealand Breakers coach Paul Henare rejected suggestions his NBL team was happy to finish fourth.New Zealand Breakers coach Paul Henare rejected suggestions his team was happy to finish fourth and take on minor premiers Melbourne United in the NBL semi-finals.

The Breakers would’ve faced second-placed Adelaide if they had finished third, but season-ending losses to Illawarra and Sydney means they will square off with the championship favourites in a best of three semi-final series.

Henare poured cold water on the theory the Breakers “tanked” this weekend’s final games against two teams not in the finals.

“We didn’t speak about wanting to play Melbourne or play Adelaide. We were focused more on us and what we were doing this weekend,” he said.

“Melbourne are a tough team and they’re the number one seed, and Adelaide are humming right now, so we knew either way it was going to be a tough match-up.”

The Breakers suited up eight players in Sunday’s loss to Sydney, with Edgar Sosa, Alex Pledger and Kirk Penney all absent.

“Hopefully we get those guys back for that series because it’s going to be a physical series, so hopefully we’ll have all hands on deck,” Henare said.

“We should go into it in the right frame of mind.

“There’s things we have to tighten up, but with the confidence some of young guys should have through the experience of this weekend, the guys are excited about our match-up with Melbourne.”

The Breakers like their chances of upsetting Melbourne.

“The feeling is still the same as it’s been all season – we feel like we’re going to win it,” Breakers guard Jordan Ngatai said.

“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in each other and as long as we have that we’ll be fine.”

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