24 Jan 2016

Breakers slump to sixth straight loss

12:39 pm on 24 January 2016

The New Zealand Breakers have slumped to their sixth straight loss, putting another dent in the champions' chances of making the NBL basketball playoffs.

Cedric Jackson

Cedric Jackson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Breakers blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to be beaten 90-87 by the Taipans in Cairns.

The loss means the New Zealanders remain fifth, one place outside the top four playoff spots, while the come from behind win helped the sixth-placed Taipans close the gap on the Breakers.

It wasn't until midway through the fourth quarter that both teams showed flashes of their 2015 grand final brilliance.

Taipans captain Cameron Gliddon (23 points, 3 assists) and Markel Starks (19 points) traded buckets with Cedric Jackson (20 points, 6 assists) and Tom Abercrombie (23 points, 4 rebounds) to take the game down to the wire.

Jackson fouling out late in the game proved a pivotal moment and a resurgent Torrey Craig, who scored most of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, proved the turning point for the Taipans after the team's shaky start.

They shot just 5-of-18 (28 per cent) from the field in the first quarter in contrast to some early shooting form by Jackson and Alex Pledger, who clocked up 13 points between them to see the Breakers dominate in the opening term.

A dazzling half-court hail mary by Craig that landed on the buzzer set the crowd alight for the first time as the Breakers led 22-14 after one.

That special Craig moment jolted the Taipans into action in the second quarter, with their zone defence finally clicking and Shaun Bruce (14 points) and Gliddon leading the fight back with two three-pointers each on their way to a combined 22 points for the quarter.

The first half proved to be a tale of two Taipans, who turned around a woeful first term to claw back within three points of the Breakers at the half, who led 49-46.

The third quarter was a scrappier affair, which suited the home team, particularly a fired up Mark Worthington.

But the Taipans' lacklustre shooting again cruelled their performance, Charles Jackson hammering a dunk in the final minute to take the Breakers' lead to four heading into the final quarter.

But when Cedric Jackson was benched with four fouls and just five minutes remaining, the Taipans surged in his absence with a 24-11 run home.

Despite Jackson's steady hand when he returned to the court including his fourth three of the night, he soon fouled out for good and Craig proved the match winner by landing two clutch free throws to get the Taipans ahead with eight seconds left.

"You fight for 40 minutes and that's what we did," a relieved Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said post-game.

"They had their noses in front but we kept hanging on and I'm really proud and happy for the guys because you had two teams extremely desperate to get a win and keep things alive, and we got the win.

"You can't be a one man or two man show in this league, it's got to be a team effort and that's what we did tonight."

New Zealand Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said the game-changer was the Taipans' ability to get to the free throw line in the final minutes.

"They got to the foul line 36 times. They shot it pretty well and it's harder to play defence in that period where they continue to get cheap ones from the line," Vickerman said.

"I loved the way we played, I was proud of the boys, but we missed a bunch of free throws and that's plagued us all season."

Taipans captain Gliddon said the team still believed they could scrape into the final four.

"We'll battle it out against New Zealand and Adelaide for that fourth spot so to get the win against one of them tonight is a big confidence boost."

The win takes the Taipans to 10-13 for the season, while the Breakers slip to 11-12.

The Taipans now make the journey west for a daunting Monday night clash against the Perth Wildcats at Perth Arena, while the Breakers are at home at Vector Arena against the Townsville Crocs on Friday.