The New Zealand Breakers' winning streak has been snapped, falling 86-79 to the Cairns Taipans at Vector Arena tonight.
After three consecutive victories, Paul Henare's side were beginning to display their title-contending bonafides, but a below-par final quarter dropped the hosts to a 4-4 record on the campaign.
The Breakers controlled the contest for the majority of the encounter, holding leads at every interval and showcasing enough offensive potency to paper over a mediocre defensive display.
However, a 14-4 fourth-quarter run drastically swung the contest in the favour of the visitors, turning a tight game into a comfortable final scoreline for the Taipans.
The Breakers were short-handed at point guard with Ben Woodside injured and replacement David Stockton having just landed in the country. While the offence rarely missed a beat early on, the absence of Woodside was at times shown on the defensive end, with Cairns putting together one of their better offensive displays of the season.
The Taipans fired at 56% from deep, a figure which Henare felt may have been a result of defensive breakdowns which gave Cairns some wide open shots in key moments.
"They shot the ball really well - on the road you've got to be able to knock shots down and they did, but I feel a good majority of those made threes came from our defensive breakdowns and that's not good enough from us."
Now also at 4-4 on the season, the Taipans aren't one of the league's premier sides, but showed plenty of fight and execution. Coming into the clash, Cairns were rated as the worst offensive team in the league per Offensive Rating, as well as being the slowest paced team in the competition.
However, led by consistent Australian veterans Cameron Gliddon and Mark Worthington, they stayed in touch all night, before pouncing as the Breakers ran cold.
Gliddon provided composure and class on his way to 25 points on 9/11 shooting, while Worthington added 17 points and seven assists. The pair also hit the biggest shots of the encounter, with Gliddon hitting a three-pointer off the back of a massive offensive rebound, before Worthington splashed home a triple which gave the visitors an eight point lead with just over two minutes remaining.
While the Breakers were left ruing defensive breakdowns, Gliddon praised his teammates for creating space for him to let fly.
"Mark gave me a couple of nice passes and it also helps to have Nate [Jawai] and Nnanna [Egwu] setting the picks for me. We ran some great sets and also set some great screens."
The Breakers have been lights out from deep so far this season, and they continued that trend early on, but were eventually hit by variance. Penney's triples fell in the first three quarters but bounced out in the crunch, while Webster and Rob Loe had some late looks clank off the rim as regression struck at a cruel moment for the hosts.
In totality, the hosts did get valuable contributions from their usual suspects. Kirk Penney, Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie all put in solid shifts, while up front Mika Vukona and Akil Mitchell gave decent production in spurts.
Yet, nobody could find the game-winning touch as the clock ticked down, dropping the Breakers to .500. Things don't get easier from here, with a testing trip to Perth on Sunday next on the schedule.
Taipans 86 (Gliddon 25, Worthington 17, Edwin 14)
Breakers 79 (Abercrombie 18, Webster 17, Penney 16)