The Breakers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 113-106 victory over the Cairns Taipans in New Plymouth – thanks in large part to a huge offensive effort from their star import Shawn Long.
In front of a sold-out Taranaki crowd, Long put on a show, scoring 31 points while adding nine rebounds and four blocks.
The 25-year-old American's skill and athleticism was on full display as he seemed to fly around the court to score in every way imaginable – from highlight-reel alley-oops and deep threes, to getting it done on the inside with his overpowering offensive rebounds.
The Breakers managed to rush out to a 58-51 half-time lead in a score-fest that saw Long score a season-high 23 points at the break.
Breakers power forward Tai Wesley, who chipped in with 16 points and 10 rebounds, was full of praise for his teammate.
"Shawn Long was a beast tonight," he said after the game. "I can throw it anywhere and Shawn goes and gets it so it really makes my job a lot easier."
But despite Long's efforts, the Breakers seemed intent on letting the Taipans stick around within touching distance.
And at times, it looked like there would be a repeat of Tuesday night where the Breakers gave up a 12-point lead to lose against the Taipans in Cairns – a loss that summed up the Kiwi franchise's season so far, a promising team who can't seem to hold on to leads.
Again, the Breakers defence didn't have an answer for Taipans American duo Melo Trimble and D. J. Newbill who combined for a whopping 63 points.
Long himself fell into a similar pattern on the defensive end, and eventually got himself into foul-trouble leaving the Breakers with no offensive weapons for long periods of the game.
But in the end, Long and the Breakers were too much for the league's basement dwellers as they closed out the game to keep their hopes for a late unlikely playoff run alive.
"[Holding on to the lead] is one thing we haven't been able to do all season," added Wesley.
"It would be nice if we could play some defence but we'll take the win any way we can get it at this point."