By Robert Lowe
Coach Andrej Lemanis has ruled out expecting the New Zealand Breakers to get an easy ride heading into the Australian National Basketball League finals.
Lemanis has done the maths and it shows the competition leaders and two-time defending champions have made the play-offs with seven matches to go.
They next face the Sydney Kings, who are on a five-match losing streak.
But the Kings remain third on the table and in a dogfight to reach the post-season themselves, and Lemanis says they will be fired up when they run on to home court on Saturday night.
"That's what we're going to face now," he said on Tuesday.
"Everyone is going to come in and be desperate and have an edge. Basically everyone's play-off life is on the line and you're going to get that desperation from this group."
The Breakers and Kings last met a fortnight ago in Auckland, with the home side scoring a comfortable 95-76 win.
But the Sydneysiders are the only team apart from second-placed Perth to beat the reigning champions this season.
Lemanis said the Breakers' approach would remain the same even though they had booked their finals berth.
Giving bench players more game time wouldn't be a predetermined strategy and who was on court would depend on the match situation.
"The top spot is still up for grabs," he said.
"Perth and us are going to battle for that top position and nothing really changes as far as game-to-game goes."
The Breakers (18-3, 86 per cent) and Perth (14-5, 74 per cent) are the only teams in the competition with a better than 50 per cent win-loss record.
After a hectic schedule of five games in 16 days, including two trips across the Tasman, the Breakers now have a bit more breathing space between fixtures.
That gives them the chance to freshen up players, get on top of injuries like centre Alex Pledger's heel problem and work on aspects of their game.
"But at the end of the day, there's nothing like playing," Lemanis said. "Especially when you're winning."