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Taipans nab crucial NBL win over Breakers

The Cairns Taipans have recorded a nail-biting 85-83 win over fellow finals hopefuls New Zealand Breakers to close in on an NBL play-offs spot while stretching their winning streak to six games.

As the season reaches its pointy end, the second-placed Taipans are three wins ahead of the third-placed Breakers, who have played one less game.

Barring losses to lowly Brisbane and Adelaide, Cairns should lock up second spot and a ticket to the semi-finals, capping off a remarkable comeback from two years in the doldrums.

The Breakers have won two of their past eight games and desperately need to find some form if they're to snatch second spot and avoid the play-in tournament implemented as part of the NBL's new finals structure.

"(I'm) unhappy with how we played," said Breakers coach Mody Maor.

"We need to go look inside ourselves, go look at tape, investigate and find out why we're not playing the way we need to play.

"The level of effort and the level of intensity are not what they need to be."

The Taipans opened up a buffer on either side of quarter-time that they did not surrender for the remainder of Sunday's game in Auckland, despite stiff resistance from New Zealand's Will McDowell-White, who had a season-high 29 points while making seven from 10 three-point attempts.

Cairns big man Keanu Pinder missed his sixth straight game with an ankle injury but the Taipans did not want for size nor scoring options, as captain Tahjere McCall, DJ Hogg and Bul Kuol all stood up with 18 points each.

The Breakers were prone to turnovers early and struggled from deep, hitting only six of 17 first-half attempts, but McDowell-White hit two three-pointers in the minute before halftime to close the gap to eight points at the main change.

McDowell-White and Jarrell Brantley contributed 30 of the Breakers' 40 first-half points, with their teammates chipping in only four field goals between them for the half.

McDowell-White went down with what looked to be an ankle injury just after halftime but managed to return to the contest, as teammates Tom Abercrombie and Izayah Le'Afa also appeared to be playing through niggles.

Adam Forde benched imports Shannon Scott and McCall when they clocked up their fourth personal fouls in the third quarter.

McDowell-White and Brantley helped the Breakers catch up and down two points in the final five seconds, the home side had one last chance to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter.

But Abercromie's three-point attempt bounced off the rim and the Taipans held on for a crucial victory.

"We did everything to try and lose that at the end," said Taipans coach Adam Forde.

"I'm just happy for the guys to close out another gritty win."