What may have initially been dismissed as indifferent form can now be deemed a slump.
The Breakers tonight lost their third game in four fixtures, held in check throughout a six-point loss to the Adelaide 36ers at the North Shore Events Centre.
While the defending champions would have drawn some consolation in fighting back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit, all that effort did nothing to prevent them from dropping to an 11-8 record.
That mark left the Breakers ahead of fifth-placed Adelaide (10-9) but level with the Illawarra Hawks, who will be aiming to repeat a pair of previous thrashings when the when the sides meet for next week's double-header.
And if they are to avoid falling victim to another Kirk Penney-orchestrated onslaught, the Breakers know they have some serious work to do.
Accused by their coach in recent weeks of playing well only in brief bursts, that was again true as the home side started sluggishly and trailed for almost the entire encounter.
"We were really trying to ramp up the intensity," said coach Dean Vickerman, "and I thought we had it in patches. But patches are not good enough to beat a good team like that."
Vickerman was particularly perturbed by his side's offence, which produced a second straight stuttering effort. After recording a season-low in the New Year's Eve loss in Cairns, the Breakers again lacked fluidity and were unable to overcome an off night from Corey Webster.
The league's leading scorer equalled a campaign-low of 12 as Cedric Jackson led the Breakers with 16, while Tai Wesley's 14 was the only significant offensive contribution from the bench and Mika Vukona added a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds in his 350th appearance in the Australian NBL.
Unfortunately for the captain, the milestone appeared an unhappy one from the outset, as Jackson's half-court buzzer beater was just about all the sell-out crowd had to cheer about during an indifference opening half.
Vickerman would have been hoping for in-game adjustments from his charges, whose defence was sloppy throughout the half and allowed Adelaide to plunder 53 points, and they eventually did arrive in the third.
But, by that point, the Breakers had fallen into a 17-point hole, courtesy of an offence that failed to respond to their coach's halftime call.
"There were some things said in the locker room and I didn't like the way we came out in the first few minutes," Vickerman said. "Our offence just took really bad shots and we just didn't share the ball enough in that first part coming out from the break."
The lethargic hosts finally did find some life midway through the third, embarking on an 11-0 run to reduce the margin to single figures. They headed to the fourth behind by four and, when Webster picked the perfect time to make his first triple of the night, the Breakers were suddenly level.
But a combined 50 points from the dynamic duo of Daniel Johnson and Jerome Randle - both ranking inside the league's top 10 in scoring - were enough to help Adelaide barely retain the upper hand as time eventually ran out for the vulnerable champs.
Breakers 81 (Jackson 16, Wesley 14, Abercrombie 13)
36ers 87 (Johnson 25, Randle 25, Teys 9)