The New Zealand Breakers have managed to pack every emotion into their Australian NBL season, and there are still nine games to go.
A 90-79 defeat to the Illawarra Hawks has dropped the Breakers back down to third on the Australian NBL ladder with a 12-7 record. It is a far cry from their 9-1 start, but they are improved from their rough patch as well, having alternated wins and losses over their past four games.
Their playoff spot is unlikely to be in jeopardy, with a significant gap between the fourth-place Adelaide 36ers (13-8) and the Hawks in fifth (9-10), with all teams having fewer than 10 games to go.
However, the Breakers still play the Hawks three more times, and they will need a better performance to get their season back to where it was earlier in the season.
That prospect is more likely with Rakeem Christmas on board, and showing his potential on debut.
Christmas had an immediate impact coming off the bench, being a threat on the offensive glass as the Breakers gave themselves early second-chance opportunities.
They needed that output, as shots weren't falling from deep, and the Hawks were defending well in the half-court to take a 46-44 halftime lead. The Breakers will take time to gel in their new lineups with Christmas, with their big man rotation undergoing a serious change. Rob Loe started and got 20 minutes, Alex Pledger played just two minutes, while Christmas produced 14 points and eight rebounds in just 15 minutes on court.
That lack of continuity was perhaps to blame as the Hawks took an eight point lead during the third quarter, before Edgar Sosa (20 points) went on a mini-run to bring the Breakers back to level proceedings at the start of the final period.
However, while the Breakers continued to win the rebounding battle (50-36), it was outweighed by their poor shooting from deep (8/28) and sloppy passing, committing 20 turnovers.
In the end, those deficiencies proved to be their fatal flaws as the well-balanced Hawks closed out a deserved victory.
Hawks 90 (Nick Kay 20, Demitrius Conger 17)
Breakers 79 (Edgar Sosa 20, Rakeem Christmas 14).