A players' poll at the start of the season tipped the Breakers the most likely to win the competition. That same poll also suggested Cedric Jackson was the second-most likely to be named season MVP.

The prospect of either happening looked pretty grim recently, after the club slumped to a six-game losing streak and out of the top four, but they have turned things around to have a serious shot at the playoffs.

A lot of that has to do with the fact Jackson has been the influential figure that helped the Breakers to three titles under his watch. In fact, the American not only doesn't know what it's like to miss finals basketball in a Breakers shirt but also doesn't know what it's like to miss out on the title.

There has been a subtle, but important change in the way the Breakers have played lately and it's translated into on-court success.


"We spread the floor a bit better to let Cedric be the guy that his is - a great decision maker - and talked about him being a little bit more aggressive and him making more decisions for the team," explained coach Dean Vickerman. "I think he's done a great job of that."

The numbers would support that assessment.

Jackson has never been a consistently heavy scorer, with his contribution coming in other ways, but he scored 31 points in the big 106-84 win over close rivals Adelaide and has guided the Breakers to three-straight wins. Crucially, the likes of Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster are also prospering, meaning the Breakers are a lot more dangerous as a team.

"[Jackson's] so unselfish that he saw Corey's game really grow," continued Vickerman. "We went to Corey a lot more and at times he wasn't attacking the rim enough. Once we recognised that, that for us to be great, it's about him getting in the lane and making those decisions. Now he's got the confidence back to hit that three-ball, and that's when he's most dangerous."

The Breakers as a team have got their swagger back and are on the cusp of making the playoffs. Two wins over Melbourne in their last two regular-season games - they play them in Auckland on Friday and in Melbourne on Sunday - would mean Adelaide would have to win both their games to usurp the Breakers from the playoffs.

However, if the slumping 36ers fail to win both their games, the Breakers win only need one win to make the playoffs due to winning the tiebreaking season series against Adelaide.

It's still a difficult assignment. Melbourne (18-8) are the toughest team in the league and have lost only two games at home all season.

Interestingly, the Breakers matched up well this term against Melbourne's star-studded outfit. They beat them 80-69 at home in round 7 and were narrowly beaten 87-86 in Melbourne in round 5.

"So far we have done the best of any team in the league against them," Vickerman said. "Hopefully we can be as good as we have been in the first two games.

"I think our confidence is growing. We have been as healthy as we have been as a group all year. Confidence plays a massive part at this time of year."

So, too, does a firing Cedric Jackson.

The equation

- The Breakers play Melbourne in their last two regular season games.

- If Adelaide win both their games, they make the playoffs and the Breakers miss out. This is because the Breakers, Adelaide and Illawarra would all end on 16 wins, leaving the Breakers to be eliminated due to having the least wins in the games involving those three sides.

- They can still qualify if they win one and Adelaide also win only one of their two games (away to Illawarra and away to Perth) and can even qualify if they lose both and Adelaide lose both