The New Zealand Breakers have broken out of their slump in the best possible style.
The Breakers have claimed one of their most impressive victories of the season, holding off a storming comeback to take down Melbourne United 98-81 at the North Shore Events Centre.
It was a much-needed boost for Paul Henare's side. The Breakers hadn't beaten a top-four team since November, but tonight's victory showed the Breakers do still possess legitimate title credentials.
They now sit in a three-way tie at the top of the table, alongside the Perth Wildcats, and Melbourne, who had started to look like the title favourites after seven straight victories.
A win in New Zealand would have solidified that viewpoint, especially considering their history against the Breakers, having only won one of the two sides' last 10 clashes and never tasting victory on the North Shore.
That shocking run continued, as United fell behind early after a remarkable offensive onslaught from the Breakers. While a stunning run brought them back right into the contest, their initial deficit proved too much to overcome, with the Breakers putting together a near-perfect offensive first half.
The hosts hit eight threes in the first quarter, racking up 34 points — the most in a quarter this season. Edgar Sosa was the early instigator, and while the threes stopped dropping, the Breakers went inside, snaring eight offensive rebounds by halftime.
Comparatively, Melbourne had just seven total rebounds — partially because there were so few rebounds to snare, with the Breakers dropping 60 first-half points.
Things quickly turned after halftime, when Sosa immediately went down with a twisted ankle. He didn't return, and as players kept slipping on the NSEC floor, the Breakers' lead started to slip away.
As expected, the Breakers' offence came back to earth, and simultaneously Melbourne caught fire. The Breakers scored just three points in six minutes to start the second half, and while they slumped, United guard Casper Ware found his form.
Ware had the Breakers looking like they'd seen a ghost as a 24-point lead was cut to four, but Kirk Penney — called into extra action with Sosa sidelined — stabilised proceedings, as did fellow veteran Mika Vukona, who was rebounding relentlessly.
While Ware kept firing, Melbourne's discipline betrayed them in the final moments, with the Breakers being fouled on several three-point attempts.
That allowed the Breakers to regain their substantial lead, and climb back to the top of the table.
Breakers 98 (Kirk Penney 19, Edgar Sosa 15)
United 81 (Chris Goulding 20, Casper Ware 20)