Breakers surge to comeback NBL win at Hawks

The New Zealand Breakers are just one win away from a second-place finish in the NBL and an automatic semi-final berth, after overcoming a 16-point deficit to defeat the last-placed Illawarra Hawks 91-81 in Wollongong.

The Breakers are now second on the standings on points percentage after winning their 17th game of the season to share a 17-10 record with Cairns.

Barry Brown Jr ensured their enormous comeback was not in vain, as the frontrunner for sixth man of the year guided his side home in the clutch with Illawarra pushing the result down to the final possessions.

He would finish with 22 points off the bench and plus 22 on the box score after being minus 22 in the opening half.

Jarrell Brantley spurred the visitors' third-quarter surge and finished with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting from behind the arc to go with six rebounds and three assists.

New Zealand are now a league best 10-3 on the road with one game remaining against Brisbane away to seal a top-two finish, just one year after finishing last in the NBL.

"An abysmal first half from us ... but the response in the second half was great," Breakers coach Mody Maor said.

"Both from an effort and from a focus standpoint, showed a lot of character with what this game means to us and how important it is to come into the second half and play steady, strong, consistent, keep them to nine points in the third quarter. It's good."

But things didn't come easily for the streaking Breakers as Tyler Harvey (22 points) kept Illawarra in the contest late, trailing by just one with three minutes to play.

New Zealand trailed 50-34 at the main break after their lowest scoring second quarter of the season (13 points), but took a 63-59 buffer into the final term.

At 76-75, Maor was forced into a timeout and Brown Jr took the reigns for New Zealand push ahead and hold on by 10.

Illawarra were outscored 57-31 in the second half and the difference was 29-9 in the third term.

With the loss and one game remaining, Illawarra (3-24) are now destined for their worst season on record after finishing 5-23 in 2020.

Co-captain Sam Froling said their matchup against Tasmania will be about pride and playing for their fans one more time this season.

"We're playing hard and we got a young group that does that and we've done that pretty consistently bar couple games through the whole year," he said.

"This is the last one, we got no excuses, we're gonna go out and compete. We gave them a little run last time. I don't see why we can't beat them, we just got to produce four quarters."