Ball delivers again in Hampton showdown
The New Zealand Breakers have withstood a Lamelo Ball-inspired Illawarra Hawks comeback to prevail 91-79 and break a five-game losing streak in the NBL.
With the Hawks trailing by 22 points midway though the third quarter, Ball came alive and notched a second successive triple-double to make history in Auckland on Saturday.
The margin was narrowed to two with seven minutes still on the clock before the rot was stopped, almost single-handedly, by veteran Breakers import Sek Henry.
The American guard scored their next 13 points, including three successive three-pointers on the way to a 25-point haul.
He also pulled off two huge defensive plays on Ball in the closing minutes, first a block and later a steal, which set up a length of the court dunk.
The latter elicited a roar from a crowd of 8474, the biggest in Auckland for six years, seemingly not put off by a game between the two lowest-ranked teams in the league.
The Kiwi side improve to 3-8, relegating Illawarra (3-9) to last place. Teenage sensation Ball was a major attraction and it was vindicated as he charged to 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, with those figures inflated by a dominant second half.
The man regarded as a future NBA No. 1 draft pick became the youngest player in league history to notch a triple-double, last week against Cairns.
Saturday's repeat means the 18-year-old is the first player to achieve the feat in successive games since the NBL went to 40-minute games a decade ago.
🚨 Back to back triple-doubles for LaMelo Ball 🚨— NBL (@NBL) November 30, 2019
LaMelo becomes the first player during the 40 minute era to have consecutive triple-doubles 🤯 #NBL20
1⃣0⃣ assists pic.twitter.com/tNPws5rADH
Ball began slowly, sinking only one of his first eight shots from the field, helping the Breakers open up a nine-point lead by the first break.
He never found his range from outside the arc either, landing one of 11 three-point attempts.
The Breakers relied primarily on the scoring of Henry and Kiwi forward Finn Delany (20 points), along with the rebounding of Brandon Ashley, who picked up 14 boards and four steals.
Despite Ball's haul, Delany said the Breakers were pleased they didn't let the young American completely dominate.
"He was obviously a huge focus of the scout and he played well but I thought we did a pretty good job on him for most of the game," Delany said.
"We just had to stay together at the end. We haven't done very well this season when adversity hits on the court so it was just about staying composed and getting back on the horse."
Delany said he felt a sense of responsibility when injured guards Corey Webster and Scotty Hopson were ruled out late in the week.
"When you lose scorers like that it's tough and everyone has to pick up the load.
"I was able to start us off well and then Sek got going. It was fun to be on the court with him."