Setback in Melbourne but Breakers Still Control their own Destiny
The BNZ Breakers remain in the Top Six despite a 94-81 loss to ladder-leading Melbourne United at John Cain Arena.
Sunday's defeat leaves the Breakers needing to beat Brisbane in their penultimate game of the regular season to guarantee they will make the Play-In Tournament.
Last season's runners-up, who have been haunted by injuries all season, could still finish in the top six if they lost that game.
But they would be relying on other results falling their way, and would almost certainly need to beat Adelaide next Sunday.
Melbourne United, meanwhile, have moved within touching distance of finishing first.
For United not to end the regular season on top of the ladder, they would have to lose their two remaining games, while Perth Wildcats would need to win both of theirs - likely all by big margins.
A shrewd offensive play from ex-NBA guard Matthew Dellavedova (12 points, four assists) tilted a close game towards United midway through the second quarter.
As he charged through the paint en route to the basket, Dellavedova was called for an offensive foul on Will McDowell-White (season-high 19 points), who had been the Breakers' danger man to that point.
But when the call was flipped by a United coach's challenge, McDowell-White picked up a third foul and went to the bench.
The talismanic McDowell-White missed the final six-and-a-half minutes of the quarter, during which United scored 19 points.
Ian Clark (18 points, four rebounds) and Chris Goulding (10 points) each hit three-pointers in the final minute of the second quarter amid a 15-5 run for United.
Having won the quarter 28-17, the hosts took a 55-39 lead into the main change and led by double digits for the rest of the game.
The Breakers' 10-2 run to begin the fourth helped cut the 23-point three-quarter-time deficit to 10 in the final two minutes.
United centre Jo Lual-Acuil was important late, with 15 of his 19 points coming in the second half, and pulled down 11 rebounds to confirm a double-double.
Fading late, the hosts were handed a technical foul for accidentally having six players on the court, but Izayah Le'afa missed the ensuing free throw for the Breakers.
American guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright led the scorers for the visitors with 24 points but became one of three Breakers to foul out late on a tough afternoon.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 19
MELBOURNE UNITED 94 (Lual-Acuil Jr 19, Clark 18, Ili 12, Dellavedova 12)
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 81 (Jackson-Cartwright 24, McDowell-White 19, Mathiang 17)