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Breakers burst into NBL top four

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/01/2017 Scott Bailey

New Zealand have broken into the NBL's top four courtesy of a thrilling 86-82 win over Perth on Sunday evening to conclude round 16.

After downing Illawarra in Wollongong by nine points on Friday night, Sunday's win in New Zealand puts the Breakers (12-12) above Melbourne and Perth (both 11-12) into third spot, with just four games remaining in the regular season.

The result dropped the Wildcats to fifth on the ladder, who were left to rue the wasted opportunity to finish the round in as high as second after the Hawks were beaten for a second time in the round, this time by Cairns in Sunday's other game.

Sitting on the bottom of the ladder earlier in the month, Perth's revival looked set to continue following a six-point win over Cairns at home on Friday.

However, the long-haul travel appeared to catch up with the defending champions on Sunday, as they all but managed the clock perfectly in the final quarter, but couldn't make the most of the Breakers' 24 turnovers, going 32-of-78 from the field.

They remain equal on wins with fourth-placed Melbourne, but behind on percentages after United were shocked 88-71 on the road by last-placed Brisbane (10-14) on Saturday night.

"I'm in a quandary as to why we didn't spark up," Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos said.

"They outplayed us. Their players were better than ours tonight and their coaches were better than ours, including myself."

Sydney then missed a chance to capitalise on Melbourne and Perth's demise, falling 87-73 to ladder-leaders Adelaide on Saturday night.

The Kings missed 38 shots to go at just 41 per cent from the field as they slumped to their seventh loss in eight matches, continuing their fall from the top of the ladder down to sixth.

With four games to go, it leaves the Kings (11-13) needing at least three wins to have any chance of figuring in the finals series.

But coach Andrew Gaze knows a lot has to change before then.

"You can't ignore our record over the last seven-to-eight games," he said.

"We've gone from 10-6 to 11-13. Form needs to improve."

The win was Adelaide's second of the round, after they downed Brisbane 101-68 on Wednesday night.

They remain 17-7, now five games clear of Illawarra at the top following the Hawks' upset loss to Cairns on Sunday.

The Hawks (12-11) trailed from midway through the first quarter, and by as much as 21 points in the third, before they clawed the deficit back to two in the final period.

However, the Taipans (9-12) ran away with it late at home, with Travis Trice the star as he finished with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in the 85-79 win.

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