The New Zealand Breakers have continued their steady early season improvement, tipping over the highly-fancied Melbourne United in Melbourne this afternoon.
The Breakers have made strides in each of their four games to date. Having started their campaign with a defeat to the Cairns Taipans, followed by victories of contrasting comfort over the Sydney Kings, this win was the Breakers' most impressive of the lot, and extends their upward trend.
Melbourne were installed as pre-season favourites in the Australian National Basketball League, and rightly so. Their lineup is truly stacked, and they arguably had the advantage at every position against the Breakers.
However, they are yet to gel as a team, and the well-oiled Breakers took advantage in their 88-76 upset victory at Hisense Arena.
Most of the Breakers core have enjoyed a rested off-season, and a settled pre-season, allowing them to click earlier in the season than some of their rivals.
It showed against Melbourne, who have now lost nine of their last 10 games against the Breakers, and put in a sloppy display which belied the immense talent on their roster.
The Breakers can take credit for that. Without Kirk Penney, who stayed in New Zealand after the death of his father earlier in the week, the Breakers forced Melbourne into mistakes - 17 of them, to be exact.
Those turnovers hurt Melbourne's offence, but the Breakers had little issues with their offensive game, mixing their inside and outside game efficiently.
They made most of their early inroads inside the arc, attacking the rim and getting to the line with regularity. Imports DJ Newbill and Edgar Sosa were creating good looks, and only nine first-half missed free-throws stopped them from crafting more than a 45-43 halftime lead.
The game opened up further after the break though, as the Breakers' shots started to drop. Tom Abercrombie found his range from deep, with a 17-6 run giving the visitors a double-digit lead.
Melbourne launched several comebacks, but the Breakers stayed steady, never letting them back within more than four points, with United only managing to connect on six threes from 25 attempts.
The win moves the Breakers to 3-1 early in the campaign, but most significantly, the victory bodes well for the difficult away trips ahead. Last season, the Breakers went just 5-9 on the road, and a better effort on their travels is essential to return to the playoffs.
More trials lie ahead, but so far, the Breakers have been up for the challenge.
Breakers 88 (Tom Abercrombie 21, Edgar Sosa 17, DJ Newbill 15)
Melbourne 76 (Josh Boone 22, Casey Prather 20)