Basketball: NZ Breakers' playoffs hopes dealt major blow with defeat to Melbourne United

NZ Breakers' 2023/24 ANBL campaign has been left hanging in the balance, after a lopsided 94-81 defeat to league-leading Melbourne United on Sunday.

Entering the contest with four wins in their past five games, the Breakers couldn't keep the ball rolling against the competition's No.1 team, continuing their six-year winless drought at John Cain Arena.

Turnovers and cold shooting proved obstacles too big for the NZ-based side to overcome, connecting on just 7/23 from three-point range and registering an abysmal 6/17 from the free-throw line.

While the result isn't a definitive knockout blow to the now seventh-placed Breakers' season, they'll now likely need to win their final two games and rely on other results going in their favour to clinch a post-season berth.

Matthew Dellavedova of United and Will McDowell-White of the Breakers contest the ball.
Matthew Dellavedova of United and Will McDowell-White of the Breakers contest the ball. Photo credit: Getty Images

'Next Star' Mantas Rubstavicius personified the Breakers' struggles, going scoreless from the field on 0/5 shooting and failing to register a single statistic other than the five fouls that forced him off the court near the end of the third quarter.

Import point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright remained the Breakers' best, scoring a game-high 24 points with five rebounds and three steals. Will McDowell-White finished with 19 points (8/12 shooting) and five boards.

Zylan Cheatham double-doubled with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while big man Mangok Mathiang notched 17 points on 8/9 from the field.

The two sides traded blows through the opening quarter, as McDowell-White led the way for the visitors with some scorching shooting.

The Australian poured in 15 quick points, before a questionable call forced him to head to the bench with three fouls to his name.

The second quarter was all United. Sparked by sixth man star Ian Clark (18 points), the hosts reeled off a 28-point stanza, punishing the Breakers from beyond the arc to take a 55-39 advantage into halftime.

With Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Shea Ili (12 points, five assists) finding their groove, United extended that lead to 23 points at the start of the fourth quarter.  

Meanwhile, the Breakers shooting woes continued, managing a paltry 16 points in the third quarter.

Jackson-Cartwright helped breathe some life into the Breakers in the final quarter to narrow the deficit, but it was too little, too late.

The Breakers now return home to face Brisbane Bullets on Friday, where another loss would be terminal.

Their final game of the regular season takes place next weekend in Adelaide against the 36ers.

Melbourne United 94 (Lual-Acuil Jr 19 points & 11 rebounds, Clark 18 points) NZ Breakers 81 (Parker Jackson-Cartwright 24 points & five assists, McDowell-White 19 points, Cheatham 13 points & 12 rebounds)