Bench vets lead as United beat Breakers

Melbourne United have kept their flickering NBL finals hopes alive with a 77-65 victory over the travel-weary New Zealand Breakers at Christchurch Arena.

United were never headed in Thursday night's defence-dominated clash, piloted by bench veterans Xavier Rathan-Mayes (20 points) and Brad Newley (14).

Eighth-placed Melbourne moved to 12-12 after securing their third successive win and their sixth from their past seven outings in the past month, their only loss in that stretch coming to rampant title favourites Sydney on Christmas Day.

"Big win for us; we're playing good basketball right now," Rathan-Mayes said.

"We're trending in the right direction and hopefully we can keep this rolling.

"It showed the character of our group, down (David) Barlow (concussion), down 'Ice' (Isaac Humphries, knee strain), to be able to come out and play like this, we're pleased with it."

Jarrell Brantley (17 points) was the leading scorer for the third-ranked Breakers, whose offence spluttered all evening in the absence of star import Barry Brown Jr, the league's third-leading scorer, with a groin injury.

Playing their third game in five days -- the previous two in Adelaide, then Perth -- and without their best player, the Breakers appeared to run out of puff on return the New Zealand soil.

All nine Melbourne players had already hit the scoreboard by early in the second stanza.

The Breakers connected on only two field goals in that second quarter, the majority of which saw their half of the court cloaked in darkness after the manual lights had collapsed.

Rathan-Mayes finished the half with a powerful reverse layup for a three-point play and continued his hot form in the third, stretching United's buffer to 15 points.

Izayah Le'Afa poured in 11 of the Breakers' 17 third-quarter points, including three triples, to trim the deficit to single digits.

Rayjon Tucker, well held for most of the match, produced a moment of brilliance in the fourth term when he lost his right shoe before somehow finding Mason Peatling with a behind-the-back pass for a bucket as Melbourne cruised to the finish line.