Breakers beat Bullets to lock in NBL Finals spot

Shayne Hope |

Parker Jackson-Cartwright has led the Breakers to a 103-87 win over Brisbane and an NBL finals spot.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright has led the Breakers to a 103-87 win over Brisbane and an NBL finals spot.

The New Zealand Breakers have ensured Tom Abercrombie’s farewell tour will extend into the NBL post-season with an emotion-charged 103-87 win over Brisbane.

Spurred by Abercrombie’s mid-week retirement announcement, the Breakers (13-14) locked in their finals spot with a dominant display in Auckland on Friday.

Import guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright starred for the home side with 27 points and eight assists, while Zylan Cheatham (19 points) and Izayah Le’afa (15) also shone.

Club legend Abercrombie contributed five points off the bench, including a team-lifting triple on the halftime buzzer, in what could be his final home appearance.

The Breakers, who face the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday in their final regular-season outing, can finish as high as fourth and no lower than sixth.

It means retiring veteran Abercrombie’s dream of a fifth championship to round out his stellar career is still alive.

“I didn’t want this (retirement call) to be a distraction for the team and we’ve done a great job just focusing on the job at hand,” Abercrombie said.

“We knew it was going to be a really tough, physical game (against Brisbane). So we knew we had to bring it.

“We were able to play with that right balance of energy and enthusiasm whilst maintaining our focus, which was really pleasing.”

Sixth-placed Brisbane’s fate is out of their hands as they seek a first post-season appearance since 2019.

The Bullets (13-15) will fall out of the top six if the two-time defending champion Sydney Kings (12-15) beat last-placed South East Melbourne on Saturday.

“It’s a hurting locker room right now because we believe we were good enough to get there,” Bullets coach Justin Schueller said.

“The hoop gods need to look after us and hopefully we still get (into the finals).

“But it’s frustrating because we just had that five-minute window (late in the second quarter) where you can’t get it done in these games.”

Brisbane find themselves in the unenviable position of needing results to fall their way despite Josh Bannan’s career-high 29 points on outstanding 12-of-14 shooting in New Zealand.

Bullets captain Nathan Sobey added 16 points but import Casey Prather had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

MVP candidate Jackson-Cartwright took control early, dropping 10 points and four assists in the opening period to help New Zealand to a nine-point lead.

The Breakers maintained the advantage, ahead 55-40 at halftime after Abercrombie drained his three on the buzzer to capitalise on the home side’s period of dominance.

The sloppy Bullets committed 10 first-half turnovers but never gave up and got within six points with plenty of time left in the final period.

But Jackson-Cartwright shut the gate with some big plays late in the game, leading a Breakers team that had five scorers in double figures.