Shawn Long has unleashed another of his irrepressible nights above the hoop as the New Zealand Breakers beat Cairns 113-106 to keep their slim NBL play-off hopes alive.
Breakers big men Long and Tai Wesley won a prolific duel with Taipans guards Melo Trimble and DJ Newbill in New Plymouth on Thursday, as the league's lowest-ranked teams played out a game bereft of defensive intensity.
The win was much-needed for the Breakers, who'd lost three straight in the lead-up, including Monday's 106-98 overtime defeat in Cairns.
The home side ensured there was no repeat late meltdown as they improved to 9-12.
Cairns dropped to 4-18, regretting their inability to contain big leaping centre Long, who scored 23 of his 32 points in the first half.
He also pulled off nine rebounds and four blocks to impress a crowd attending the first ever NBL game in the Taranaki region.
Wesley was just as impressive across the stat line, blending 16 points with six rebounds, four steals and 10 assists.
Long said his on-court relationship with Wesley was forged on hard work.
"It took a while for us to get the chemistry that we have, but I think we're where we need to be," he said.
"He realises he can throw it anywhere and I'm happy to go and get it. I'm just happy to have him on the team."
It was Cairns' little men who thrived. Newbill scored 32 points - including 15 in the final quarter - and Trimble 31.
Classy American Trimble, who tallied 32 on Monday, has inched ahead of Perth's Bryce Cotton to top the NBL's points-per-game leaderboard.
Trimble tipped his hat to Long, who has set his sights on a return to the NBA.
"He's an NBA player. He can stretch the floor for a three and then crash the glass and finish," Trimble said.
"He's one of the most athletic bigs in this league, and he's hard to stop, especially when he gets going and stays out of foul trouble."
The Breakers won every quarter but the last to steadily accumulate a lead they never looked like squandering. Their second-half advantage was never less than six.
The Kiwi outfit probably needs to win six of their last seven to threaten the top four.
They host Brisbane on Sunday while Cairns are away to Illawarra on Saturday.