A month ago, the New Zealand Breakers would have had little trepidation taking on Melbourne United in the Australian NBL playoffs.

They had won 10 of their past 11 meetings with Melbourne, were in the mix to finish atop the regular season table, and a chance to earn home advantage in the playoffs.

Fast forward to tonight, and the Breakers come in having lost four straight games - including two to Melbourne who have broken their Breakers blight and have won 14 of their past 16 games.

It has been a year of breaking droughts for Melbourne, and they will have to end another when their three-game series against the Breakers starts in Melbourne at 7.30pm (NZT).


The four-time champion Breakers have the edge in terms of playoff experience A win for Melbourne would be their first since switching to the United moniker in 2014.

Breakers coach Paul Henare knows the threat Melbourne present, especially after the 89-83 and 100-82 defeats last month, but is expecting a slight twist with influential United import Casey Prather returning after an injury layoff.

"They're a talented side - Casper Ware is going to try and run the show but they've brought Casey Prather back in, it will be interesting to see how they continue to make that adjustment as the series goes on."

The Breakers got back together only on Wednesday after a break for an international window which saw Henare join five players for Tall Blacks games in China and South Korea.

It's not ideal preparation, but Henare is confident that they have made the most of a difficult situation.

"We dealt with it in the best way that we could. The energy and intensity at practice was outstanding, it was probably our best practice of the year - it was a good sign of where the guys are at physically."

The Breakers should be at full strength for the encounter, with Kirk Penney ready to go after a five-game layoff. United, too, will have all their stars on deck, with Chris Goulding declared fit after overcoming an ankle injury.

Henare has emphasised the importance of health all season, and now hopes he has his wish - a side ready to peak at the perfect time.

"Hopefully we have timed it right to get all these guys right," he mused.

Tonight, we'll find out.