Breakers outclass Illawarra Hawks to secure NBL play-off spot

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NZN

The NBL's play-off contenders have been found two weeks early and will include the New Zealand Breakers following their 88-84 win over the Illawarra Hawks.

Having beaten the Hawks by four points when they met in Wollongong 48 hours earlier, the Breakers repeated the dose in another arm-wrestle in Auckland today.

It ensures the Kiwi outfit (15-9) will finish the regular season in the top four along with Melbourne United (17-7), the Perth Wildcats (15-9) and Adelaide 36ers (15-10).

The Hawks were the only other team who could break into the post-season but a 10-14 record means they join Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney in planning for next season.

There are still two full rounds for the Breakers to fight for home court advantage in the play-offs, having been boosted by back-to-back wins for the first time in a month.

As was the case on Friday, they unleashed a big finish after trailing the Hawks entering the final quarter.

The hosts increased their defensive intensity and guard DJ Newbill found his range to finish with 20 points, supported by Shea Ili and Tom Abercrombie (17 each).

Tall Blacks guard Ili produced one of his more accomplished all-round displays, pulling off a key rebound in the dying seconds when Hawks opposite Mitchell Norton missed on a drive to the basket.

Guard Edgar Sosa subsequently sunk two clutch free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining to give the Breakers breathing space.

Rotnei Clarke unleashed a game-high 22 for Illawarra while Norton contributed 14.

The Breakers are away to league leaders Melbourne on Friday.

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