Veteran CJ Bruton led by example as the New Zealand Breakers maintained their winning ways in the Australian National Basketball League tonight.
The point guard topscored with 25 points as the Breakers beat the Melbourne Tigers 84-79 in Auckland, their third successive victory keeping them atop the standings.
The 34-year-old three-time Australian Olympic was in peerless touch in the second half to help the Breakers build on a 51-46 lead and after the interval converted a succession of three-pointers after the Tigers at one stage threatened to cause an upset.
Coming off a heavy loss to the Perth Wildcats when their malfunctioning offence posted just 66 points, Melbourne, who are now none-from-three, showed surprisingly confidence early on and matched the Breakers in the shooting department only to lose the argument under the boards as they were out-rebounded 39-28 by the Breakers by the end.
They both converted 53 per cent of their field goal attempts by halftime before Bruton hit a hot patch in the third quarter as three successive three-pointers pushed the Breakers out to 60-52.
But Melbourne responded by scoring the next 10 points to edge ahead late in the quarter as they finally began to fully utilise their superior height and entered the final stanza positioned to cause an upset at 68-64.
Held to just 13 points during the third period, the Breakers desperately needed to up the tempo and find their range early in the closing quarter, something they managed to do as a pair from the field prompted Bruton to land another three-pointer as they snatched the lead back with eight minutes remaining on the clock.
A decision moment came with close to 6min to go with the Breakers clinging to a 76-75 advantage. Bruton yet again backed himself from a range, his seventh three-pointer being quickly followed by a defensive steal and a calm field goal by Tom Abercrombie as the home side gave themselves a six-point buffer.
The difference was four points with 2min remaining before three big offensive rebounds down the stretch enabled to home side to monopolise the ball.
Aside from Bruton, the Breakers' other main scorers were Gary Wilkinson with 14 while Abercrombie and Alex Pledger both contributed 12.
The Tigers' best was guard TJ Campbell with 18 followed by Eric Devendorf and Cameron Tragardh, both with 16.