If you can’t handle Damian Martin’s heat, get out of his kitchen.
It’d be sound advice if Martin wasn’t prepared to body you up all the way to the exit, before throwing the actual kitchen sink at you on your way out.
The Larry Sengstock Medallist and his terrorising defence was undoubtedly the biggest difference between Perth and New Zealand.
Martin led Perth to the single greatest defensive performance in grand final history, limiting the Breakers to an all-time low 52 points.
The man is a real life Energizer Bunny, and his greatness transcends basic stats.
The Wildcats captain set the tone for his side in game one when he relentlessly harassed New Zealand’s guards and made a string of spectacular hustle plays.
But Martin saved his best for last, kindly helping Cedric Jackson to the worst game of his glorious NBL career in the decider. Jackson registered his first ever scoreless outing, before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
Martin’s value extends well beyond his own contributions. When other Wildcats cop an inspirational eyeful of their captain’s freakish work ethic, they’re left with no option other than to match his level of intensity.
The Wildcats skipper has now won three titles, as one of three players remaining from Perth’s 2010 championship squad – the others being Shawn Redhage and the Man Bun Mamba himself, Jesse Wagstaff.
Perth would be a fantastic team without Damian Martin, but certainly wouldn’t occupy the mantle of “greatest team in NBL history” without their inspirational captain leading the way.
Had New Zealand won the championship, we’d be talking a lot about Thomas Abercrombie this week.
After hitting one of the two triples which buried Perth at end of game two, Abercrombie played a lone hand for the Breakers in game three. He finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
Season done and dusted! Get the wrap of the Swisse Grand Final Series on the website, and catch the replays on @FOXSportsAUS tonight! 📺
A photo posted by The NBL (@nbl) on
Abercrombie’s length, athleticism and general feel for the game continued to allow him to elevate over defenders for jumpers, find crafty ways to the hoop and relentlessly harass his opponents on defence.
During the decider, the Kiwi jumping jack fought bravely for a team that had found itself in an inescapable headlock, still showing signs of life as the rest of his team began to suffocate.
While the disappointment of losing a final generally leaves little space for moral victories or back patting, Abercrombie at least enabled himself the ability to leave Perth Arena with his head held high.
He was, after all, a worthy adversary.
Cedric Jackson is the face of this decade’s most successful team, and on Sunday he came agonisingly close to claiming championship number four in as many seasons.
In the grand scheme of things, Jackson is unquestionably a winner. But this week, things were different.
Jackson submitted his worst ever outing in the biggest game of the season.
He finished game three with 0 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds on 0-5 shooting and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
Sorry Ced, but that's five… pic.twitter.com/TueRSfPHSs
— NBL (@NBL) March 6, 2016
Jackson’s relatively newfound love for triples propelled his team into the finals, and really hurt them once they got there.
He shot 20/40 from behind the line in the six games leading up the grand final series, but went 3/22 during it.
It’s easy to see why Jackson fell in love with the three ball, especially after his 7/13 outing in Adelaide which sparked the love affair.
However, at some point during the big dance, Jackson needed to recognise the fickle nature of his three-point mistress and give the trifectas a rest.
Long range struggles aside, Jackson and his backcourt buddies struggled just to get the ball over the half way mark at times, as Damian Martin and his Wildcats ratcheted up their trademark pressure cooker defence.
Winning a deciding game in Perth is about as tricky as plucking a mosquito out of the air with a pair of rusty tweezers.
Winning a deciding game in Perth without your superstar import playing to his abilities is borderline impossible.
If New Zealand were going to leave Perth’s 15,000 seat madhouse with the silverware they so desperately craved, they were going to need their stars to make plays early and often.
Unfortunately, Abercrombie was the only Breaker who got the memo.
Corey Webster had an active game one and sealed the deal with a big-time three in game two. But as the series progressed, Webster gradually faded away like a seven-year-old’s ability to concentrate when a bird flies into the classroom.
Webster made a few notable plays in game three, but eventually climbed into a taxi with Cedric Jackson on the outskirts of Struggletown and headed for city centre.
That shit hurt, but, we will be back! #BreakerNation
— Corey Webster (@cwebster9) March 6, 2016
Despite putting up 19.75 points at just under 40% during the regular season, Webster averaged just 12 points per game on 25% shooting during the grand final series.
As Perth continued to increased its defensive pressure, Webster and his teammates wilted under the relentless heat.
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