The New Zealand Breakers' playoff hopes are hanging by a thread after a 90-87 defeat to the Cairns Taipans last night.
Five straight losses had bombed the four-time champions out of the top four, and their slump stretched to six after losing in the final seconds to a valiant Taipans side.
The loss is frankly devastating for the Breakers, as the defeat sees them slip to three games back in the loss column with only five games remaining.
The 11-12 record is now well behind the 13-9 mark of the Adelaide 36ers, who have won six straight and show no signs of slowing down.
Additionally, they hold a 2-1 advantage in the head-to-head series with the Breakers, and a +15 point differential with one clash left between the two sides.
It was an improved performance by the Breakers in the confines of Cairns, making a far superior beginning to the game after a sloppy opening quarter in Townsville on Thursday.
With centre Alex Pledger inserted into the starting lineup over foulprone import Charles Jackson, the Breakers jumped out to a 20-7 lead.
Alert on defence, the visitors were aided by some inept Cairns offence early on, with only a Torrey Craig turnaround half-court buzzer beater keeping the Taipans in touch.
However, the Breakers' free-throw shooting remained abysmal, going at a 43% clip (13/30) compared to Cairns' 77% success rate.
Tom Abercrombie found his offensive spark after the high-flying small forward was held scoreless against Townsville, but his 23 points were eventually overshadowed.
In a scrappy game littered with fouls, the Taipans found contributions from bench players Cameron Tragadh and Shaun Bruce, while Markel Starks poured in 19, and Cameron Gliddon joined Abercrombie in leading all scorers with 23.
However, the Taipans bigs weren't up to standard on interior defence, as the Breakers' players dominated inside.
Pledger, Mika Vukona, Abercrombie and the Jackson duo combined to shoot 72% from inside the arc as the Breakers shot 59% on two-pointers, but that advantage didn't outweigh the horrors at the charity stripe.
Just as they started strongly in the first quarter, the beginning of the final period also proved prolific for the Breakers, as Cedric Jackson and Abercrombie both buried threes to stretch a four point lead at the break out to a double digit advantage.
Cairns came back into the contest through some long-range bombing of their own, and Craig hit two clutch free-throws with just eight seconds to go to give them a one-point lead.
That left the Breakers needing a game-winning shot, but the Taipans stole the ball and with it, the game.
Taipans 90 (Gliddon 23, Starks 19, Bruce 14)
Breakers 87 (Abercrombie 23, Ced.Jackson 20, Pledger 12)