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Gutsy New Zealand Breakers force decider with win over Sydney Kings in NBL finals series

Jarrell Brantley has led New Zealand Breakers to an NBL championship series-levelling win.

Jarrell Brantley has led New Zealand Breakers to an NBL championship series-levelling win. Photo: AAP

The NBL championship series is headed for a winner-takes-all Game 5 after New Zealand Breakers denied Sydney Kings 80-70 in Auckland.

With all-round defence and an attack led by Jarrell Brantley, the Breakers made the running all night in a clutch showing to tie the series 2-2.

The 2023 title will be decided on Wednesday night in Sydney in front of another huge crowd at Qudos Bank Arena.

The Breakers won through courtesy of Brantley (23 points), Will MacDowell-White (19) and Barry Brown Jr (20), who came up trumps in the fourth term when the Kiwis were seriously challenged.

To the delight of a New Zealand record basketball crowd of 9742, veteran Tom Abercrombie was also pivotal with six show-stopping steals.

Mody Moar’s side began at break-neck intensity and didn’t let up in a low-scoring first half, with their physical brand of basketball riling up the Kings.

Sydney’s hot-head coach Chase Buford fumed at officials throughout, sarcastically cheering their decisions, and walking out from his post-match media conference, alleging home crowd favouritism from officials.

On the court, NBA-bound league MVP Xavier Cooks was all wound up too, pulling Breakers big man Derek Pardon to the ground and earning an unsportsmanlike foul.

Cooks sunk just four first-half points and was sat down after three first-half fouls, including a petulant off-ball charge on Jarrell Brantley.

Brantley was best afield with 13 points and three boards, helping the Breakers tally a double-digit lead.

Trailing 39-27 at the main break, the Kings showed their class after the interval, led by Derrick Walton Jr and Angus Glover.

Both drained a pair of threes as Sydney put together a 25-point term, shrinking the deficit to just two at the last change as the contest roared to life.

The Breakers were leaving points out there from the line, missing nine of their first 17 shots: Pardon the worst offender by spraying his first five.

Macdowell-White led the fourth-term charge with two early threes, but Jordan Hunter responded with three powerful lay-ups.

More importantly for the Kiwis, their hard-edge defence had returned, Abercrombie producing two steals and his first field points of the night in a frenzied 30 seconds.

With less than four minutes on the clock, Brown Jr produced the play of the night to close the book.

The American pulled down his own board and ran the court for a mighty dunk, setting the crowd alight, confirming a Game 5 a minute later with a rainmaker three.

-AAP

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