Basketball: NZ Breakers all but clinch ANBL post-season spot with victory over Brisbane Bullets

NZ Breakers have virtually assured themselves of an ANBL playoff spot, with a 103-87 victory over rivals Brisbane Bullets in their penultimate regular season game at Auckland's Spark Arena.

With captain Tom Abercrombie making possibly the final home appearance of his 16-year career, the four-time champions had to withstand an inevitable comeback from Brisbane, despite holding a double-figure lead for much of the contest.

The Breakers led by 12 into the fourth quarter, but saw that advantage halved with little more than five minutes remaining. Two driving layups from American guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright - the second an 'and-one' play - helped his team rebuild their buffer, before Izayah Le'afa hit a fallaway three that put victory beyond the visitors.

Tom Abercrombie celebrates against Brisbane Bullets.
Tom Abercrombie celebrates against Brisbane Bullets. Photo credit: Photosport

The result promotes the Auckland club to fifth on the competition ladder, ahead of Brisbane on points differential. Champions Sydney Kings can leap above them with victory against South East Melbourne Phoenix on Saturday, but the Breakers would need a massive defeat to struggling Adelaide in their final game to miss out on differential.

They controlled most of the contest, jumping out to a 15-point lead in the opening period and maintain that margin into halftime, with man-of-the-moment Abercrombie slotting a popular three from an out-of-bounds play on the buzzer.

The Breakers were aided by some wayward shooting from the Bullets, particularly star scorer Nathan Sobey, who struggled to find his range all night. Forward Josh Bannan kept his team in contention, shooting 12/14 from the field and 4/4 from the arc for a game-high 29 points.

Jackson-Cartwright continued to confound markers with his blinding speed, scoring 27 points from 10/18 shooting, with most of his scoring coming at the rim. Le'afa and Tall Blacks teammate Finn Delany combined for five three-pointers off the bench, as the Breakers reserves outscored their counterparts 37-20.

After a season plagued by injuries to American Zyan Cheatham, Aussie guard Will McDowell-White and Delany, the Breakers have had to finish their playoff bid without American MVP candidate Anthony Lamb.

In his absence, Jackson-Cartwright has put the team on his back advancing his own award credentials.

They now face an anxious wait to see how other results affect their final standing and they will know exactly what they need from their visit to Adelaide, which is the final fixture of the regular season.

NZ Breakers 103 (Jackson-Cartwright 27, Cheatham 19, Lea'afa 15) Brisbane Bullets 87 (Bannan 29, Sobey 16, Norton 10)