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Breakers down Sixers in NBL thriller

NZN 4/02/2017 Steve Barrett

The New Zealand Breakers have kept their flickering NBL finals hopes alive with a thrilling 88-87 win over the top-of-the-table Adelaide 36ers.

The Breakers trailed by 11 points early in the fourth quarter on Saturday before concocting a last-ditch miracle, transforming an 82-75 deficit into an 88-84 advantage inside three minutes with a swag of heady plays at the death.

Daniel Johnson (19 points) and Jerome Randle (16 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists) were valiant for the shell-shocked hosts, who sensationally lost coach Joey Wright in the second term when he was thrown out of the stadium.

Wright argued, correctly, that a 24-second violation should have been called against the visitors, whose clock-beating shot attempt didn't appear to touch the rim.

When Wright firmly repeated the point, he was handed a double technical foul and expelled, forcing assistant coach Kevin Brooks to take the reins.

After leading 22-16 at quarter-time, the Breakers' advantage swelled to 13 points with Kevin Dillard (20) prominent, with the Sixers still seemingly rattled following Wright's dismissal.

The 36ers regathered their composure and seized the momentum when Johnson's four-point play kickstarted a 10-1 run to reduce the difference to four points at halftime.

Adelaide maintained their stranglehold with a commanding 27-12 third term to convincingly move ahead 72-61 at the final change.

NZ looked shot when Mika Vukona became the second man turfed out of the arena after his fifth foul on Brendan Teys early in the fourth was followed by a technical foul for remonstrating.

But the Kiwis refused to surrender, clawing away at the deficit and levelling the scores when Dillard calmly nailed three free throws, then taking the lead with 51 seconds left through Alex Pledger.

Conversely, the 36ers lost their way and were unable to execute similarly at the other end late, chalking up their first home loss since November.

Wright, who watched the second half from his office, accused his side of playing "hero ball" in the fourth quarter as the Breakers mounted their successful charge.

"Our execution down the stretch was extremely poor as a group," he said.

"We were playing a bit of hero ball down the stretch - took some shots that we shouldn't have taken."

NZ coach Paul Henare praised the way his side dug its way out of trouble against the championship favourites.

"Extremely proud of the guys for responding the way they did," he said.

"We got ourselves in a bit of a hole and Adelaide got a bit of momentum.

"There have been times this year when that's happened and we haven't come out of that hole.

"For us to really dig deep and find a way, I couldn't be happier for the boys."

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