There were three matches in the NBL on Saturday night across two states with the New Zealand Breakers beating the Wollongong Hawks 78-76 in a thriller with 22 lead changes at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
Then just a little north at the Crown Kingdome, the Sydney Kings bounced back and continued the Adelaide 36ers' misery with an 86-82 victory. Then in Cairns, the Perth Wildcats kept pace with the Breakers with a commanding 85-66 win over the Cairns Taipans.
New Zealand remains on top of the ladder with a 12-3 record after holding on to beat Wollongong.
Even though the Hawks played well to get so close to the two-time defending champions, they have now lost their last three games, and five of their last six to slip to an 8-6 record and down to fourth position on the ladder.
The Breakers are now on another winning streak with four straight after hitting a little hurdle losing two from three games a little over a month ago.
The most pleasing thing from their performance against the Hawks was the evenness of contributions from so many players. Will Hudson and Alex Pledger were terrific as the big men with 14 points each, while Hudson picked up 10 rebounds as well.
Point guard Cedric Jackson had 11 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals to continue his MVP-calibre season with Mika Vukona adding 11 points and six rebounds.
Wollongong was once again without centre Larry Davidson and his back up Daniel Jackson, but one positive was the return from injury of Tim Coenraad. He scored seven points to go with three rebounds and two assists in his first game of the season.
Seasoned point guard Rhys Martin was also tremendous with 28 points while Lance Hurdle added 12, Glen Saville 11 and Oscar Forman 11.
The Sydney Kings bounced back from a 34-point hiding at home to Perth on December 30 to beat Adelaide by four points with the victory improving Shane Heal's team to a 10-6 record and into third position on the ladder.
They have now won seven of their last eight games and against the 36ers, MVP candidate Ben Madgen was on fire with 30 points, five rebounds and three assists. Aaron Bruce added 14 points, Darnell Lazare 12 and Corin Henry 11.
Adelaide's horror run continued with an eighth straight loss. Back on November 16, the 36ers had just beaten the Wildcats in back-to-back games to be sitting pretty at 5-3, but they had the bye the next week and have not won a game since – or looked like it.
Despite it only being a four-point loss, it was another tough night against the Kings despite 19 points and five assists from Adam Gibson, 18 points from Luke Schenscher, 16 points and 12 boards from Daniel Johnson, and 16 points and five rebounds from Stephen Weigh.
Then in Cairns, the Taipans slipped to the bottom of the ladder as their horror home record this season continued, this time in the form of a 19-point loss to the Wildcats.
Cairns has traditionally been quite the fortress for the Taipans, but this season they remarkably have lost six of eight matches inside the Snakepit.
While the Snakes are at the foot of the NBL table, the Wildcats are now just two wins, but with a game in hand, back from the Breakers with a two-game advantage over the third-placed Kings.
The Wildcats pulled a surprise on Saturday night as well hurrying the return of big man Matt Knight from a calf tear. That meant that his import replacement Michael Dunigan had to sit out and now is finishing up with the 'Cats after just four games that saw him average 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Knight had no trouble fitting back in, though, after missing five matches with 13 points and seven boards in over 21 minutes of court time.
Reigning NBL MVP Kevin Lisch was the star for the Wildcats, though, with 26 points including 3-of-5 from three-point territory. Jesse Wagstaff added 15 points and Shawn Redhage 10 in the comprehensive victory.
It was a disappointing night all round for Cairns with only Jamar Wilson the only player finishing in double-figures with 17 points and seven rebounds.