Taipans win NBL thriller against Breakers

The Cairns Taipans look certain to play in the NBL finals after claiming a 85-79 victory in a nailbiter against the New Zealand Breakers.

Down by as much as seven points in the fourth quarter on Thursday, the Snakes found an extra gear when it mattered to extend their winning streak to five matches.

Scores were deadlocked at three-quarter time and it was the Breakers who fired the first shot in the final stanza, breaking out two a two-possession lead for much of the term.

It appeared the visitors would be the winners until imports Scott Machado and DJ Newbill took the game by the scruff of the neck.

Machado hit a long three-pointer, while Newbill made clutch buckets in the final two minutes to seal victory.

Machado finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and four assists to be the clear player of the match.

Newbill ended the game with 20 points, while Cam Oliver had 14 to round out the Taipans' top scorers.

New Zealand found an unlikely hero in Rob Loe, who came off the bench to score 24 points in a career-best performance against his former side.

The centre was a shining light in the opening three quarters as the Breakers struggled to find individual winners.

Loe scored 17 in the opening two terms and had 24 by three-quarter time.

"It was nice to have a good game but you always want to get the win," Loe said post-game. "They just made better plays in the final few minutes."

Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie was clutch for his side when it mattered, scoring nine points in the last quarter.

He finished with 16 points for the game to go with his seven rebounds.

The game was billed as a mini-final, with both sides fighting for a spot in the NBL's top four. The Taipans were on a four-game winning streak, while the Breakers had won five in a row.

"We didn't play fantastically well tonight," Cairns coach Mike Kelly admitted. "Playing in a number of close games like that has taught us the belief that you're never out of it, though.

"The guys have just been in that situation enough now that they know they have to play until the buzzer."

Cairns' win elevated them to third spot on the ladder with a 12-9 record and puts them three wins clear of the fifth-placed Adelaide 36ers, who are 10-11.

The Breakers, who are 9-11, remain in sixth spot and are still a chance for fourth spot, having played one less game than Cairns and Adelaide.

The Taipans must back up quickly when they travel to Sydney to take on the ladder-leading Kings on Saturday evening, while New Zealand returns home to play Brisbane on Sunday.