Cleveland clutch as 36ers edge Taipans

The Adelaide 36ers have shaken up the race for the NBL playoffs with a hard fought 99-96 win over the Cairns Taipans to snap a five-game losing streak.

Antonious Cleveland came alive in the fourth quarter with 11 points as the 36ers held on in a frantic finish at the Cairns Convention Centre on Monday night to blow the race for second on the ladder and an automatic semi-final berth wide open, as well as keeping their playoff aspirations alive.

Cleveland missed two free throws to seal the game giving Cairns one last shot to tie it down with a three, but the reigning defensive player of the year redeemed himself and stripped Tahjere McCall and the game clock expired.

Cairns (17-10) entered the contest one game up on New Zealand (16-10) in the standings, but with an inferior points percentage, and now must win their remaining game against the Perth Wildcats for a chance at a second overall finish.

The lowest Cairns can finish is third with the Breakers ending their season with two games on the road against Illawarra and Brisbane. Two wins will ensure a semi-final berth.

"We sort of went all in on tonight with that (top-two) mindset," Taipans coach Adam Forde said.

"You would assume - no disrespect to other teams - but you would assume Breakers take care of business. So losing that top two spot now is a quick turnaround."

Adelaide (8th) are 12-14 and trail Melbourne United (14-13) and the South East Melbourne Phoenix (15-13) in the final play-in spot.

They face the Sydney Kings at home then Melbourne United away to finish the season and are still a mathematical chance to qualify for the final post-season spot.

They had Cleveland's late heroics to thank in a see-sawing contest as the American guard finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.

Robert Franks also had an efficient night with 20 points on just nine shots to go with nine rebounds and five assists.

Adelaide's stars thwarted a career-high night from Sam Waardenburg (26 points) and 26 from DJ Hogg as Cairns fell just short in their third game in six days.

"I liked the way the boys stuck with it and fought," 36ers coach C.J. Bruton said.

"The resilience to keep fighting from where we've been at to know that we've got a very slim chance."