Basketball: NZ Breakers one win away from ANBL final after dispatching Tasmania JackJumpers in playoff opener

NZ Breakers have returned to the Australian NBL playoffs in style, dispatching Tasmania JackJumpers 88-68 in their semi-final series opener at Auckland's Spark Arena.

After beating their rivals in three of their four meetings in the regular season, the home side were heavily favoured in their first postseason appearance in five years and never trailled, scoring the first six points of the game to take the early momentum.

Trailling by 15 points in the second quarter, the JackJumpers mounted a 16-3 run that brought them within two at halftime, but that was as close as they got, as the Breakers scored the first seven points after the restart to ease away again.

Will McDowell-White in action against Tasmania
Will McDowell-White in action against Tasmania. Photo credit: Photosport

American centre Dererk Pardon led all scorers with 15 points and nine rebounds, but the contributions were evenly spread across his teammates, with guard Will McDowell-White chipping in 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

The Breakers have dominated the league defensively this season - now 7-0 when holding opponents under 70 points and 15-2 under 80 - and again locked down their rivals to just 33 percent shooting from the field, with American Rashard Kelly finishing with just 12 points, as Tasmania's leading scorer.

After two seasons of trans-Tasman exile during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Auckland club buried the road trip bogey that has plagued NZ teams contesting Australian competitions, compiling the league's best road record of 11-3. 

"This makes everything worth it," said McDowell-White. "What we've been through and coming back home to this unbelievable crowd...

"This is what we want every game. We don't want one guy to stand out - for us to win with a topscorer of 15, that's a credit to our team."

In the best-of-three semi-final series, they can now clinch their place in the final with victory at Hobart on Thursday or host a series-deciding Game Three next Sunday, if needed.

NZ Breakers 88 (Pardon 15, McDowell-White 13, Rupert 12, Brown Jr 11) Tasmania JackJumpers 68 (Kelly 12, Doyle 10)