Leagues keep the spark alive with an impressive win over Melbourne United

Melbourne United's Lachlan Barker defense against the Breakers attack started poorly on Saturday night.

Anna Peters/Getty Images

Melbourne United’s Lachlan Barker defense against the Breakers attack started poorly on Saturday night.

At Spark Arena, Auckland: NZ Breakers 80 (Dererk Venise 13, Jarrell Brantley 16, Rayan Rupert 12, Rob Lowe 15); Brisbane Bullets 74 (Xavier Nathan Mayes 15, Christopher Goulding 11, Rayon Tucker 14). 1Q: 10-19; HT: 31-34; 3Q: 58-56.

The New Zealand Breakers just might turn the Auckland Spark Arena into a fortress this season after all.

On Saturday night, in front of a packed crowd – well the only thing in the city that wasn’t canceled – they produced an 80-74 come-from-behind victory over Melbourne United to confirm their first place in the playoffs. 2017-18 season.

The Breakers have lost their last three games at Spark Arena and were 3 and 5 at the venue this season.

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That record isn’t helped by the ridiculously tough NBL travel schedule they’ve been handed, but not winning games in front of your home fans is expensive and if it wasn’t for Australia this season’s nine wins and three losses in an impressive record, things could be pretty average for them.

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks looked at the Breakers' impressive win over Melbourne United.

Anna Peters/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks looked at the Breakers’ impressive win over Melbourne United.

The Breakers are chasing second place on the ladder, which will give them their first bye into the playoffs and went into this game as one win behind the Cairns Taipans, who currently hold the spot.

Melbourne United were fighting to keep their hopes alive and were on a five-game winning streak, plus they had won in previous meetings against the Breakers this season, so this was not going to be easy. But when it counted, the Breakers went.

Former longtime Black and Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks was at the game, making a rare home visit to New Zealand.

They are keen to watch French Breakers import Ryan Rupert, who is expected to be selected in the first round of this year’s NBA, and will also watch him win in Brisbane on Thursday.

The Breakers didn’t get off to a great start and trailed 6-1 after less than two and a half minutes as coach Mody Mayor called a timeout.

However, they didn’t have too much of an impact as they trailed 19-10 at the end of the first quarter, with 16 points from Melbourne in the paint.

The Breakers were able to tighten things up defensively in the second half, but their output remained troublesome despite Rob Loe excelling at both ends of the court.

An eight-point scoring run at the end of the first half, which included a big three-pointer by Jarrell Brantley, became a 24-31 advantage.

Rupert’s impressive layup at the start of the third quarter was enough to get a nod of approval from Marks in the back seat.

The Breakers kept within touching distance of Melbourne, with Dererk and Venia and Rupert going in, and a last-second basket from Brantley put the home team first.

They continued that red-hot form in the fourth quarter, when Lowe made two ridiculously good three-pointers.

It took three minutes, 42 seconds of that quarter for Melbourne to score the first points, but then they lost all momentum.

Although Melbourne were able to go within one point with an 8-1 score, the Breakers kept their composure to win the tie.

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