Breakers 90 Melbourne Utd 68
The fork was hovering above the Breakers but they're not done yet. Facing a must-win game, they produced a commanding defensive performance today to shut down Melbourne United and keep alive their playoff hopes.
What it really means is they've earned another must-win encounter and remain at long odds to reach the top four, especially with a road trip to Perth looming, but two wins over top four teams in a three-day span proves it's not impossible.
Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie labelled his side lethargic last week after the second game of a back-to-back weekend when they were disappointing against the Brisbane Bullets at home.
But this afternoon, they were lively from the start and held that dominance for the full four quarters to improve their record to 11-12.
Five games remain and they likely need to win at least four to jump from sixth into the final playoff spot.
Breakers director of basketball Dan Shamir had concerns about endurance after his starters put in big minutes against league leaders Sydney in New Plymouth on Friday, while Melbourne were fronting for the first time this week.
He needn't have worried. The Breakers were strong in all areas, forcing 16 turnovers, winning the rebound battle 40-25 and the over-worked starters didn't need much help from the bench.
Scotty Hopson again led the way for the Breakers, backing up 30 points on Friday with 22 against Melbourne. Finn Delany produced a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while fellow starters Rob Loe (14 points), Jarrad Weeks (13 points) and Abercrombie (11 points) all reached double figures.
Fourth-placed Melbourne United arrived at Spark Arena looking for a season sweep over the Breakers and had plenty of offensive weapons in their arsenal.
However, they just didn't fire a shot, or least the ones they did fire failed to hit the target, losing their fourth game in five with their worst shooting performance of the season by a long way.
The last time Melbourne United were in Auckland, a 104-101 win on November 7, they scored 33 in a quarter. Today, they barely had that at halftime, while they didn't crack 50 until the final minute of the third quarter. By then, the Breakers were up by 14 and the game was well beyond the visitors' reach.
"We just understand that every game we've got is a must-win situation. We just came out and played really competitive basketball and hopefully we can keep that up down the stretch," Hopson said.
"The reason we did so well this week was because we had a few good days of practice, so we've got to do the same this week. We took down two big teams this week. Here's hoping we can do the same next week."
Weeks added the team continuity was improving after a string of injuries through the season.
"We're a little bit more composed," said Weeks. "We've had a lot of injuries this season, so we're trying to get continuity together and learn to play with each other. We get these guys together, and if we had this group all season, we could have had a lot of wins out there."