Gutsy NZ Breakers force decider in NBL finals series

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

With hard-edged 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.

Sydney could have sown up back-to-back titles with a road victory, but instead the 2023 title will be decided on Wednesday night in Sydney in front of another huge crowd at Qudos Bank Arena.

Brantley (23 points), Will MacDowell-White (19) and Barry Brown Jr (20) led the Breakers scoring and all 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.

"Words about Tom Abercrombie will always fall short. This old guy gives you everything he's got every second he's out there -- effort plays, leadership, communication," coach Mody Maor said.

Maor'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.

"We knew we were going to get hosed," he said.

"They (the Breakers) were allowed to get away with stuff they weren't allowed to in the first few games."

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 -- who Buford said was "well below" 100 per cent -- 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 in the first half with 13 points and three boards, helping the Breakers tally a double-digit lead.

Down 39-27 at the main break, the Kings showed their class after the interval, led by Derrick Walton Jr (18 points) and Angus Glover (four threes).

The pair went to work 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 free throws: Pardon the worst offender by spraying his first five.

MacDowell-White led the Breakers fourth-term charge with two early threes, but Jordan Hunter showed defiance with three powerful lay-ups in response.

Pivotally 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 Game 5 one minute later with a rainmaker three.

Maor said his side's never-say-die attitude was crucial on Sunday and would be again on Wednesday.

"We competed every second we were on the floor. Sydney is an incredible team ... and we kept competing," he said.

"This has been the thing we've been the proudest of all year. These guys step on the floor and give it everything they got all the time."

Buford said his side would be ready on their home court.

"The guys earned the right to host game five at home where they've played all year, so we're excited about that," he said.