The top four sides have created a slight buffer in the National Basketball League after victories for the Southland Sharks and Canterbury Rams tonight.
The Rams and Sharks have both jumped above .500, moving to 4-3 with their important wins to remain ensconced in the top four.
Canterbury were too good for the Taranaki Mountainairs, winning 95-82, while the Sharks took down the Bay Hawks 102-87.
The Airs and Hawks both came into the night requiring wins to support their status as playoff hopefuls. Taranaki could have moved into the top four with a victory, while the difference between 2-4 and 1-5 is extremely significant for the late-developing Hawks.
Despite decent starts, neither team eventually came close to threatening wins.
The Airs hung tough until halftime against the Rams, led by an excellent performance from Tylor Ongwae, who had 33 points (13/20 FG, 5/9 3PT) and seven rebounds.
Without import centre Daniel Gomis, the Airs' strong early start to the season has been somewhat negated, and their third quarter consigned them to a straightforward loss.
They scored only nine points in the period as the Rams opened up a 15 point lead, with Marcus Alipate finding space in transition to splash several threes.
Alipate ended up with 18 points on 6/10 three point shooting, while Marcel Jones had 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Marques Whippy added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Rams as they held steady in the final quarter.
Import Jeremy Kendle diverted from his usual status at the Rams' main scoring option, dropping 13 assists including some beautiful dimes, while his fellow import Will Neighbour had one of his better games with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Rams join the Sharks at 4-3 after they slogged past the Hawks in a feisty encounter.
In a game with several delays and a few skirmishes, the Sharks pulled away in the second and third quarter to eventually coast to a relatively straightforward victory.
Alex Pledger had an efficient 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Sharks, and was supported by the rejuvenated Reuben Te Rangi, who continued his excellent season with 17 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
37-year-old Hayden Allen turned back the clock with 20 points in 21 minutes off the bench.
For the Hawks, their big man import duo of Amir Williams and Grant Fiorentinos combined for 40 points and 11 rebounds, Jarrod Kenny had 12 points, five rebounds and eight assists, while Everard Bartlett had 10 points and seven assists.
The Hawke's Bay franchise are going to be a threat throughout the season, but with a 1-5 record may have dug themselves too big a hole to recover and make the playoffs.
The 3-2 Supercity Rangers host the 0-5 Nelson Giants tomorrow night, with the Giants playing their first game since firing coach Alan McAughtry and signing new import Morgan Grim.