Breakers jostling for playoff spot in thrilling NBL finish

Paul Henare, coach of the NZ Breakers, speaks to his team during the NBL match against the Adelaide 36ers. Photo/Getty Images
Paul Henare, coach of the NZ Breakers, speaks to his team during the NBL match against the Adelaide 36ers. Photo/Getty Images

NZ Breakers face a must-win game and a myriad of countback possibilities, as the Australian NBL heads into a thrilling final week.

Just two wins separate second place from seventh in the NBL, with all those teams lining up to grab the three remaining playoff spots.

Adelaide 36ers are already assured their first-place finish, while Brisbane Bullets are the only team out of contention. For the rest, including the Breakers, it's a dog fight.

Perth Wildcats, Sydney Kings, NZ Breakers, Cairns Taipans and Melbourne's fate won't be decided until next week, with percentages and head-to-head battles likely to decide the top four.

Their win over Adeliade on Saturday kept the Breakers' season alive at 13-14, and last year's runners-up will now need to beat Melbourne (12-13) at home on Friday night and then wait on other results to qualify for their third straight finals series.

The match will be a virtual elimination, with Melbourne needing to win at least two of their last three to qualify for the playoffs, while three victories will seal their spot.

Illawarra Hawks (14-12) can wrap up their finals spot tonight with a win over Melbourne United.

Perth (13-13) missed a golden opportunity to all but cement their place in a 31st straight finals series, when they went down 85-77 to Cairns on Sunday afternoon.

It means the Wildcats will have to beat both Sydney and Melbourne next week to be assured of a spot in the playoffs, while one victory will leave them sweating on other results.

The loss was somewhat surprising considering Perth claimed the biggest win of the season - in terms of margin - on Friday night, flogging last-placed Brisbane 94-63 at home, while the Taipans were beaten by the Hawks on the same night.

It also made Cairns one of four teams locked on 13 wins. They'll need two wins against ladder-leading Adelaide next week to guarantee a spot, while one victory would leave them waiting on other results.

Those wins, however, look more likely after the 36ers suffered their second-straight loss.

The Sixers' loss to the Breakers was full of drama, when Adelaide coach Joey Wright was ejected for arguing his side should have been awarded a violation for a time penalty in the 88-87 loss.

Adding further fuel to the fire, he said referee Brett Hogan should be barred for officiating his club again, based on racial grounds from an incident he claimed happened six years ago.

But the NBL on Sunday strongly defended Hogan's decision and confirmed that Hogan "has never been found guilty of any charge relating to a racial slur against any participant in the NBL".

One-time ladder leaders Sydney remain fifth at 13-14, but will have to beat Perth next week and have results fall in their favour to reach the finals.

THE NBL RUN HOME
ADELAIDE (17-9): Cairns (a) Cairns (h)
ILLAWARRA (14-12): Melbourne (a), Brisbane (h)
PERTH (13-13): Sydney (h), Melbourne (a)
CAIRNS (13-13): Adelaide (h), Adelaide (a)
SYDNEY (13-14): Perth (a)
NEW ZEALAND (13-14): Melbourne (h)
MELBOURNE (12-13): Illawarra (h), New Zealand (a), Perth (h)
BRISBANE (10-17): Illawarra (a)

- NZ Herald

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