The New Zealand Breakers will traverse Christmas as Australian National Basketball League leaders after battling back to down the Melbourne Tigers 90-80 in Melbourne tonight.

The Breakers recorded a fifth-straight win to extend their lead atop the standings with a 10-2 record, having also won away to second-placed Wollongong 89-85 last night.

That match clearly took some spark out of the New Zealand side, who trailed 17-6 after seven minutes but they gradually clawed their way back against the league's second-last placed team, who slumped to a ninth defeat.

Perhaps wary they wouldn't be playing again until a trip to Townsville on New Year's eve, the Breakers dug deep after training 22-29 following the opening quarter. With their defensive intensity increasing, they won each of the following stanzas, trailing just 44-47 at halftime and levelling the scores at 64-64 with a period to play.

As he did against Wollongong, star shooter Kirk Penney led the scoring with 25 points, having lodged just six by halftime. There was another solid outing for American forward Gary Wilkinson, who scored 18, while the team's other import - Kevin Braswell - sunk 16, including 11 before halftime.

The Breakers managed to win despite an uncharacteristically quiet night from veteran guard CJ Bruton, who as scoreless in nearly 24 minutes on court. Bruton missed all his six shots and his only other contributions were a turnover and steal.

Guards Corey Williams (19) and Eric Devendorf (17) led the Melbourne scoring while centre Luke Nevill was a handful in the first half on his way to 14 points and 12 rebounds.

- NZPA