Basketball: NZ Breakers playoff hopes hang in balance following Melbourne United's road win in Cairns

Melbourne's former Breakers centre Shaun Long
Melbourne's former Breakers centre Shaun Long Photo credit: Getty

NZ Breakers' hopes of playoff basketball in the Australian league are fading without even taking the court.  

Melbourne United have taken a major step towards securing the last remaining playoff spot at the expense of Dan Shamir's side, recording a crucial 99-83 victory over the Cairns Taipans.

Needing a win on Thursday night to move into fourth spot with one game to play, United came up big in the final-quarter at Melbourne Arena to take control of their semi-final destiny.

Taking a one-point lead into the fourth quarter, Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble combined for 14 points, as Melbourne outscored the Taipans 31-16 to join the Breakers and Brisbane with a 14-13 win-loss record.

With a superior percentage over the Breakers and Bullets, United will have the opportunity to lock in fourth spot in Sunday's final match of the regular season against South East Melbourne.

Goulding drilled five three-pointers in his team-high 23-point haul, with Melo Trimble (19) and veteran David Barlow (15) making important contributions.

The Taipans were in the contest for most of the night, but fell short of pulling off a season sweep over United, leaving them locked into third spot heading into the finals.

Cam Oliver led the way for Cairns with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while centre Nate Jawai made seven of his eight shots to finish with 16.

United coach Dean Vickerman stuck with Shea Ili in his starting line-up and the move paid immediate dividends, the Tall Blacks guard scoring seven first-quarter points, as United looked to push the tempo.

But a dynamic start from Oliver and Jawai's impact off the bench restricted Melbourne's quarter-time advantage to 20-18.

A 7-2 start to the second period handed the momentum to the visitors, but United held firm with back-to-back triples from Goulding energising the crowd.

United reeled off six straight points nearing halftime, but could only take a 45-42 edge into the main break, Majok Deng's triple in the closing seconds, keeping the Taipans within striking distance.

Deng combined Oliver to trigger a 7-0 start for Cairns in the third quarter, as two quick fouls to Shawn Long saw the United big man head to the bench.

But the Taipans could not build on their advantage, with Goulding scoring on the drive and from long range, and Trimble's late lay-up handed United a 68-67 advantage heading into the final term.