The good news is the Sky Sport Breakers are in the Australian NBL's top four. The bad news is they probably won't be when the regular season finishes on Sunday.

The Breakers needed a big win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix in Christchurch tonight to put pressure on fellow playoff contenders Melbourne United.

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They got the result but not the margin they wanted. The upshot is that Melbourne can oust the Breakers out of the final playoff spot by beating the Phoenix in their final regular-season game on Sunday.

Victory would give Melbourne the same 15-13 record as the Breakers but the Victorian side would clinch fourth thanks to a better points differential (currently +56 compared with the Breakers' +42).

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The Brisbane Bullets can also theoretically qualify but would need to thrash the third-placed Cairns Taipans tomorrow night by at least 33 points to finish ahead of the Breakers and probably even more to displace United.

Given South East Melbourne have lost their last seven games, Sunday's result would initially seem a formality.

But the Phoenix took minor premiers Sydney to overtime last weekend, pushed the Breakers all the way tonight and may fancy their role as spoilers in their derby match.

South East Melbourne led for most of the first half tonight but a 10-point run near the end saw the Breakers ahead 46-39 at the main break.

The Breakers led almost the entire third quarter but couldn't shake the visitors, who levelled at 63-63 just before three-quarter time.

The Phoenix led with five minutes to play and there was just a point in it at 2m 30s but the hosts, playing in front of a crowd of more than 5000, again closed out the match well to finish with a game-high nine-point lead.

Scotty Hopson was again prominent for the Breakers with 25 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, while Tom Abercrombie and Rob Loe both contributed 18 points.

Whether the Breakers make the playoffs or not, they can reflect on a remarkable transformation, having gone 4-10 through the first half of this season, followed by 11-3 in the second half.

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