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Fraser Barton

NBL Breakers clinch play-offs, beat United

Jarrell Brantley of the Breakers was in fine touch as his side beat Melbourne Utd in the NBL. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

New Zealand Breakers have punched their ticket to the NBL play-offs for the first time since 2017-2018 and are in the hunt for an automatic semi-final berth with just two games remaining following a second-half blitz against Melbourne United.

The Breakers trailed for the majority of Saturday's contest in Auckland but frequently found their way to the free-throw line in the back end of the match and ultimately snapped United's five-game winning streak with an 80-74 victory.

New Zealand got to the stripe six times in the third term and had 22 free throw attempts through 30 minutes of play.

With the score at 51-47 and their home crowd firing up, Mody Maor's side went on a 17-5 run either side of the third and fourth terms to earn their first lead of the game.

Rob Loe (15 points) played a huge part in their comeback, nailing timely three-pointers after his side struggled from beyond the arc early on.

Jarrell Brantley (18 points) continued his purple patch of form and gave New Zealand the lead by three-quarter time before Izayah Le'afa and Loe rattled home three-pointers to begin the fourth period.

Brantley stuffed Rayjon Tucker at the rim in a momentum-shifting block, with Melbourne's late game threes not enough as New Zealand held on to finish their NBL home games with a 7-7 record.

They also clinched their 16th win of the season, ticking off a goal for coach Maor.

"Sixteen wins has been up on my board for a very long time - a number one goal," Maor said.

"Happy we accomplished it but we're onto the next one now."

United need results to go their way for a chance to make the inaugural play-in tournament, with one game remaining against Adelaide next week.

Dean Vickerman's side enjoyed a nine-point lead at quarter-time behind some jitters from the hosts offensively and putting the clamps on at the defensive end.

New Zealand shot just 22 per cent through 10 minutes, making only four field goals as they struggled against the tall timbers of Marcus Lee and Isaac Humphries in the paint.

The Breakers had a clear plan defensively to run United's sharpshooters off the perimeter but that led to easy back-door cuts and 16 points in the paint, Tucker leading the way with seven in the first quarter.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Chris Goulding sparked a mini-run for United as their margin grew to 11 midway through the second term but Will McDowell-White and Loe combined on three consecutive possessions forcing Vickerman into a timeout.

After starting 0-7 from behind the arc, Jarrell Brantley hit New Zealand's first three-pointer to trim the deficit and the Breakers trailed by just four at the half.

The Breakers face Illawarra and Brisbane on the road to finish their season.

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