The Breakers kept their title aspirations alive with a crucial 80-70 win over the Sydney Kings in game four of the Australian NBL Championship series.
In front of 9742 supporters – a record crowd for a game of basketball in New Zealand – the Breakers halted the Kings’ winning streak and sent the best-of-five finals series to a winner-take-all game in Sydney on Wednesday.
Needing to win on their home court on Sunday to level the series the Breakers lead from start to finish.
The Breakers were ahead early with an 18-12 advantage at the end of the first quarter as both sides struggled to get shots to drop.
The home side extended their lead to double digits in the second quarter as import forward Jarrell Brantley and guard Will McDowell-White kept the score ticking over for a 39-27 lead at halftime.
League MVP Xavier Cooks, who is off to the NBA with the Washington Wizards at the conclusion of the NBL finals had three personal fouls in the opening half and was forced to spend some time on the bench as coach Chase Buford managed his rotations when Cooks tweaked an already injured knee early in the third quarter.
Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie took a hit to his leg in the second quarter but the four-time champion remained on the court as the Breakers fought to keep the visitors from closing the gap.
The Breakers’ season-long third quarter struggles returned as the Kings outscored the Breakers by 10 points to be behind 54-52 going into the final period.
Back-to-back threes from McDowell-White at the start of the fourth quarter put the smallest distance between the two sides. Offensive and defensive rebounds and a timely return to form for Abercrombie gave the Breakers some breathing room.
Better known for his scoring potential, Abercrombie’s contribution of six steals was game-leading as his shot-making was below par.
Brantley scored 23 and made 5 rebounds, Barry Brown Jr scored 20 points, McDowell-White scored 19 points, made 5 assists and 6 rebounds as he showed the type of form that helped the Breakers win game one of the series.
Derrick Walton Jr with 18 points and 4 assists was the Kings’ best as Angus Glover scored 12 and Cooks finished with 10 points, 3 assists and a block.
With the series level at 2-all the Kings can win the title in front of their home fans or the Breakers can silence what is expected to be a sold out Qudos Bank Arena with an upset across the Tasman.
Both clubs have won four previous championships with Kings lifting the title last season and the Breakers last securing the championship in 2015.
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