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Breakers stay alive with win over Crocs

By Chris Pike
28 February 2014 03:48AM EST

NEW Zealand kept its slim NBL title defence hopes alive with a high-scoring and entertaining 102-99 win at home over the bottom-placed Townsville on Thursday night.

Both the Breakers and Crocodiles ended up combining for over 200 points at Auckland's North Shore Events Centre on Thursday, but in the end it was New Zealand who came from behind at every change to end up prevailing by three points.

The win improves the three-time defending champion Breakers to a 10-14 record on the season to keep their slim hopes of getting the chance to shoot for a historic fourth title alive.

New Zealand has now won just two of its last five games, but Thursday night began a run of having four of its last five matches in Auckland to close out the season.

The Breakers likely will need to win all those matches to sneak into the top-four, but they got things off on the right foot on Thursday night for their 10th win of the season to be closing in on third placed Melbourne (12-11) and fourth-placed Sydney (11-11).

New Zealand now finishes the 2013/14 regular season with a road clash to Cairns but then three straight home matches against Melbourne, Sydney and the Taipans.

Despite an impressive performance by Townsville particularly without suspended import Josh Pace, the three-point loss sees the Crocs slip to an 8-15 record on the season to remain on the bottom of the table.

From here, the Crocodiles finish the season with a home game against Wollongong but road clashes to Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney.

On Thursday night in Auckland, Townsville managed to finish the first three quarters in front albeit narrowly.

The Crocs led 25-22 at quarter-time, 50-45 at half-time and then 75-70 at three quarter-time, but the Breakers then turned it on in the fourth quarter outscoring the Crocodiles 32 points to 24 to end up winning by three points.

The Crocs did dominate the glass as well finishing with 34 rebounds to just 24 from New Zealand, but the Breakers' shooting was on song finishing with 37-of-68 from the floor at 54 per cent and 10-of-22 at 45 per cent from three-point range.

While Townsville certainly didn’t shoot badly itself with 33-of-66 from the floor at 50 per cent and 8-of-20 at 40 per cent from downtown.

Tom Abercrombie was the star of the night for the Breakers finishing with a season-high 29 points on the back of shooting 12-of-19 from the field.

Experienced tough man Mika Vukona was also outstanding with 20 points and six rebounds for New Zealand with Gary Wilkinson adding 14 points and 10 rebounds while CJ Bruton scored 14 points and dished out six assists.

Corey Webster forgot about being fined by the Breakers during the week for being outspoken on Twitter to score 11 points and deliver five assists as well with import point guard Kerron Johnson finishing with nine points and seven assists.

Townsville's import big man Brian Conklin did all he could for his team finishing with 26 points and six rebounds on the back of shooting an efficient 9-of-15 from the field.

Swingman Todd Blanchfield also had a good game for the Crocs with 17 points and 10 rebounds while Steve Markovic scored 15 points (six assists), Mitch Norton 14 and Jacob Holmes 11 (five assists, four rebounds).

Round 20 of the NBL continues on Friday night with the on-fire Wollongong Hawks hosting the second-placed Adelaide 36ers at the WIN Entertainment Centre.

Then on Saturday night there are two matches with the third-placed Melbourne Tigers hosting the Townsville Crocs at Hisense Arena with the Cairns Taipans hosting the New Zealand Breakers.

Then on Sunday afternoon, the top-placed Perth Wildcats hit the road to take on the fourth-placed Sydney Kings as Shane Heal's men try to beat the Wildcats for the first time since returning to the NBL fold for the 2010/11 season.

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