Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson insists New Zealand are still the team to beat for this season’s NBL championship despite his own team’s recent hot form.
The Breakers (9-1) are on top of the table following a nine-match winning run.
Perth are two wins further adrift with a 7-3 record, but the defending champions were irresistible in their most recent match when they smashed Melbourne United 91-59 on enemy territory.
The Wildcats have already been beaten twice by the Breakers this season, but will have the chance to exact some revenge in Friday night’s clash in NZ.
Perth are aiming to win a third straight title this season, and the Breakers loom as their biggest obstacle.
“We’ve got to chase NZ,” Gleeson said.
“Without question (they’re the team to beat).
“They’re on a nine-game winning streak. You don’t get much hotter than playing a team on that streak.”
The Wildcats entered the recent league-wide bye on the back of road wins against Brisbane and Melbourne.
But their momentum was halted by the FIBA international break.
Wildcats big man Angus Brandt was ruled out of the Boomers’ World Cup qualifier against Japan on Monday night because of illness.
He was replaced in the Boomers squad by fellow Wildcat Lucas Walker.
Gleeson expects Brandt to be fit to take on the Breakers and he said he was thrilled to see Walker get an international call-up.
“Lucas was right on the border line of the 2014 World Cup,” Gleeson said.
“He was one of the last ones cut from that. He well and truly deserves his recall. He’s ticked all the boxes.
“Last year he sat out and it probably matured him a little bit. Now he’s playing with great poise out on the court and using his strengths to help the team.”