Bullets keep NBL finals hopes alive in NZ

·2-min read

After spoiling the New Zealand Breakers' official homecoming in Auckland, the Brisbane Bullets now have their sights set on gatecrashing the NBL finals party.

Import Lamar Patterson stood tall with 21 points to lead the Bullets to a convincing 95-83 victory over the Breakers to keep their slim finals hopes alive.

Sixth-placed Brisbane (16-17) still need to win their three remaining games and hope other results fall their way to scrape into the playoffs.

Yet Patterson said they would be backing themselves to make the top four after defying a spirited Breakers and a feisty Kiwi crowd of more than 7500 to emerge triumphant.

"This gives us all the confidence in the world," said Patterson, who also grabbed seven rebounds.

"We know what we have to do at this point. Everyone wants to win, everyone wants to play the finals and we have to win games (to do it)."

It seemed only something special could silence the New Zealand faithful who arrived in droves for their team's first and only match of the season at the Breakers' official home venue, Auckland's Spark Arena.

The Breakers had hosted matches in west Auckland, New Plymouth, Christchurch and Pukekohe since returning from more than five months on the road due to COVID-19 travel restrictions but were finally home when they hit the court for their sole clash at Spark Arena on Sunday.

Yet Brisbane dug deep to ambush the Breakers from the outset and keep the fired up crowd quiet, grabbing a 21-point lead in the second quarter before sealing their fourth win in seven games.

"It was a great atmosphere. Credit to the Auckland public, they make it a difficult place to play," Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said.

Matt Hodgson (16 points, nine rebounds), Boomers squad member Nathan Sobey (15pts, seven rebounds, six assists) and import BJ Johnson (14pts) also stood up for the visitors.

For the Breakers, import Levi Randolph (30 points, six rebounds, five steals), tireless captain Finn Delany (17pts), Tai Webster (15pts, five assists) and his brother Corey (13pts, six assists) were standouts.

Brisbane now face fourth-placed South East Melbourne Phoenix twice (on Wednesday and June 8) plus fellow finals hopefuls, No.5-ranked Sydney Kings (on Saturday), and must keep winning to remain a mathematical playoff chance.

"The first thing is not to get lost in that (finals talk). We will be maintaining our level headed approach," said Lemanis, who will end his five-season Bullets stint and leave for the Japanese league at season's end.

"We don't have any margin for error now but we are aware of that. We have been there for a little while."