The New Zealand Breakers' struggles in Perth have continued, dropping to fourth on the Australian NBL ladder following a 90-76 defeat to the Wildcats overnight.
Like most teams, the Breakers have historically been hard-pressed to topple the Wildcats in Perth, and their most recent defeat sees them fall to 13-9 on the season.
They remain streets ahead of the fifth-placed Illawarra Hawks, who hold a 9-12 record, and a playoff spot is likely. However, it is looking probable that the Breakers will need to win on the road when they get there.
With Melbourne (15-7), Adelaide (15-9) and Perth (14-9) ahead of them, hopes of a top two finish and home advantage is dissipating, and that could be significant, considering the Breakers have won just one of their last six away games.
Their most recent Australian clash was a contest between the competition's front-runners for the last decade, but both sides have had their issues of late.
After building a sizeable gap atop the table, both the Breakers and Wildcats came into the game in a slump, with the Breakers having not claimed back-to-back victories since November, and Perth having won just three of their last nine games. As a result, Melbourne and Adelaide had stolen a march to take the top two spots on the ladder, but with this win, Perth have now closed the gap.
Perth had the early edge, with big man Angus Brandt combining with star guard Bryce Cotton for 27 first half points. Comparatively, the Breakers had just 16 points from their starting five, as foul trouble to their starting big men caused an egalitarian minutes distribution.
With several unique lineups seeing early time on court, the Breakers converted well inside but were struggling from deep, hitting just two of 14 from beyond the arc as Perth stole a 48-43 halftime lead.
That lead immediately disappeared as Rob Loe and Edgar Sosa changed the Breakers' luck from three, knocking in two quick treys to put the visitors back on top.
However, things dried up once again, and Perth's intensity stepped up a level. With Kiwi guard Jarrod Kenny playing a pivotal part, the Wildcats grafted out a double-digit lead, holding a 71-60 advantage with a quarter remaining.
They held that lead to the final buzzer, claiming a win which steadies the Wildcats' ship, but pushes the Breakers into slightly murkier waters.
Wildcats 90 (Cotton 27, Brandt 16)
Breakers 76 (Sosa 10, Alex Pledger 10, Rakeem Christmas 10)