A host of Breakers players stepped up, none more so than 21-year-old Lithuanian Mantas Rubstavicius.

16 Dec

The New Zealand Breakers have a terrific record of getting young guns ready for the NBA - and Mantas Rubstavicius could be the next off the impressive production line after a standout performance in his first NBL start.

The Breakers bounced back from a pair of tough losses to the South East Melbourne Phoenix and Tasmania JackJumpers to dominate Cairns Taipans on Friday night, winning 111-82.

It was New Zealand's highest score, and biggest win, of the season at Cairns Convention Centre as they improved to a 5-9 record even with Zylan Cheatham not playing despite travelling, and Will McDowell-White still out.

A host of Breakers players stepped up, none more so than 21-year-old Lithuanian Rubstavicius.

The potential NBA draftee made the first start of his NBL career in his ninth appearance of the season, and had by far his best all-round performance.

Not only did the Next Star score 21 points on shooting 5-of-8 from the floor, 2-of-3 from downtown and 9-of-9 at the foul line, but his all-court contributions were impressive with eight rebounds, three assists and a steal.

His coach Mody Maor couldn't have been more impressed.

"This kid, he had eight rebounds, nine free-throws and was aggressive versus the press," Maor said.

"It's not what you see from kids usually. He played big."

It hasn't been a smooth introduction to the NBL for Rubstavicius, with injury restricting him to just nine appearances in the 14 games so far.

But now he is healthy and getting used to the league, he's showing what he's capable of.

"I'm just enjoying playing basketball, that's all the coach said that he wanted me to start the game and for me to do my job. I helped my team in the best way I can," Rubstavicius said.

"It feels really good because I had a really tough start of the season. I had two injuries and it was a really tough time for me, but I kept working and I received a good game today as a result."

Last Saturday against Tasmania, New Zealand not only lost by 17 on their home floor but were out-rebounded by 26 by the JackJumpers, who had 25 offensive rebounds for 21 second-chance points.

Former NBA forward Anthony Lamb guaranteed an improved Breakers showing after that.

He stepped up with 29 points and eight rebounds with an offensive rebound on a missed free-throw highlighting the team's improved effort.

Rubstavicius was also a key part in that with his season-high rebounds of eight. Prior to Friday night, he had pulled down eight in total across eight games.

"Last game I had zero rebounds and we lost rebounds by 20 something," he said.

"The coach said that I had to go to rebound the ball so I did that."

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