Record Breaking Crowd Cheer Breakers to Series Decider
With their season on the line and in front of the largest ever crowd to watch them play, the New Zealand Breakers delivered a scintillating last five minutes of Game 4 to beat the Sydney Kings 80-70 to force the Championship Series to a decider.
On the back of an NBL all-time record crowd of 18,049 watching the Kings beat the Breakers in Game 3 on Friday night at Qudos Bank Arena to take a 2-1 lead, the Breakers needed to bounce back on Sunday and a record New Zealand crowd of 9742 greeted them at Spark Arena.
The Breakers were on top most of the way with their season on the line but still with six minutes to play the Kings had done well to stay in the contest, and it was just a three-point ball game.
However, some inspirational defensive plays from captain Tom Abercrombie on his way to six steals and with Barry Brown Jr, Will McDowell-White and Jarrell Brantley coming up huge, the Breakers outscored the Kings 11-2 and ended up winning by 10.
The Championship Series will now be decided with Game 5 back at Qudos Bank Arena on Wednesday night.
It was a standout defensive performance from the Breakers to limit the Kings to 70 points and then they were able to be efficient enough offensively with Jarrell Brantley outstanding with 23 points and five rebounds on 9/15 shooting.
Barry Brown Jr added 20 points, five rebounds and three assists with Will McDowell-White adding 19 points, six boards and five assists.
It was a frustrating evening for the Kings but Derrick Walton Jr did what he could with 18 points and four assists with Angus Glover contributing 12 points on 4/5 three-point shooting, and Xavier Cooks 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Breakers needed to start well in the must-win game and did so with an early triple to Will McDowell-White and bucket to Izayah Le'afa to go up 5-0 before Justin Simon and Derrick Walton Jr responded for the Kings.
It became a bit of a grind for the rest of the opening quarter but the Breakers were up 18-12 by quarter-time with Cam Gliddon draining a late three ball but offensive wasn’t exactly flowing with the combined 30 points on 9/29 shooting from the field.
As the second quarter unfolded, New Zealand were able to work their way further on top and 7-0 that began with a McDowell-White floater and finished with five points to Jarrell Brantley had them leading 32-20.
It was their defence that was shutting the Kings down completely and Le'afa hit a late three in the first half to stretch the lead to 15 before DJ Vasiljevic dropped a three ball for Sydney to pull the Breakers lead back to 39-27 at the break.
At half-time, while the Breakers only shot at 40 per cent and hit just 4/18 from downtown, their defence was superb to hold the Kings to 34 per cent shooting, 2/10 from long-range and into eight turnovers.
Walton and Brantley traded three-pointers to open the second half but the Kings worked their way back into the contest by lifting their intensity, and finding some offensive flow.
Walton got more aggressive and scored eight early points and then consecutive three balls to Angus Glover closed the gap to one, and by three quarter-time New Zealand were just clinging to a 54-52 advantage.
New Zealand made the first statement in the fourth quarter with a triple from McDowell-White and basket to Brantley to go back up seven but it was Jordan Hunter keeping the Kings close with their first three buckets of the period.
It was just a three-point ball game with six minutes to play but then the Breakers made the decisive run of the game by scoring the next eight points including Tom Abercrombie's only field goal of the night and then another steal from the captain leading to a Brown Jr finish in transition.
That had the Breakers up 11 and then soon after Brown knocked down yet another three-pointer and that stretched New Zealand's lead to 12 and they would go on to win by 10 and force the deciding Game 5 back in Syndey on Wednesday night.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL FINALS – CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES GAME 4
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 80 (Brantley 23, Brown Jr 20, McDowell-White 19)
SYDNEY KINGS 70 (Walton Jr 18, Glover 12, Cooks 10)
Best-of-five game series is tied at 2-2