Basketball: NZ Breakers suffer another injury setback, as home playoff game slips away

NZ Breakers' hopes of bringing retiring captain Tom Abercrombie home for one more game have been dashed by a devastating 76-70 road defeat to Adelaide 36ers.

In the process, they appear to have lost the services of Aussie guard Will McDowell-White, who succumbed to a shoulder injury in the final quarter, as his team tried to mount a desperate comeback. 

A five-point victory would have promoted the Breakers into a top-four finish on the Australian NBL table and an extra life in a convoluted post-season format. A smaller win would still have consolidated fifth and a home playoff against defending champions Sydney Kings.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright in action against Adelaide.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright in action against Adelaide. Photo credit: Getty Images

Ultimately, both possibilities slipped through their fingers and they now face a sudden-death elimination game at Sydney. They would need two road wins to bring Abercrombie back to Spark Arena in the post-season.

Far more concerning is the the injury to McDowell-White, who had stepped into a major role within the rotation, after American Anthony Lamb ruptured his Achilles tendon two weeks ago.

The Breakers were already reeling from the loss of Tall Blacks forward Finn Delany, who experienced back spasms during the flight across the Tasman and could not take the court.

They have struggled all season with back-to-back fixtures involving travel and again failed to regroup, after their win over Brisbane Bullets - Abercrombie's emotional home farewell - on Friday. 

They built a six-point lead in the second quarter, but completely lost any momentum in the third, when they managed only 12 points - their least productive period of the season.

As McDowell-White grabbed his shoulder and headed to the bench, the Sixers built a 16-point advantage in the final quarter, but the Breakers closed to within three inside the final minute and were somehow within a basket of their rivals.

Cam Gliddon stole an inbounds pass and fed Abercrombie, who seemed to draw a foul on his dunk attempt, but went unrewarded. That frustration spilled over at the other end of the court, when the skipper was called for an unncessary foul, and American guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright earned a technical and fouled out disputing the call.

Adelaide duly sealed their win from the free-throw line.

In a scrappy, lowscoring affair, neither team shot better than 36 percent from the field and the Breakers were a paltry 8/36 (22 percent) from the three-point arc.

Offensive rebounds again hurt the Breakers - they allowed their opponents 20 second chances under their basket.

Jackson-Cartwright continued his recent scoring tear with 24 points, but Mcdowall-White (14) was the only other Breaker in double figures.

Coach Mody Maor may now need to find Plan C, before they face the Kings at Sydney on Wednesday, February 28.

Adelaide 36ers 76 (Vasiljevic 25, Humphries 15) NZ Breakers 70 (Jackson-Cartwright 24, McDowell-White 14)