UPDATE 4.40pm: Perth Wildcats have rediscovered their defensive snarl and overcome a late-season case of the staggers to consolidate their spot at the top of the NBL.
The Wildcats (16-5) produced a remarkable recovery on Sunday to inflict a particularly painful 81-57 home loss on third-placed Melbourne Tigers (12-9), who were held to one of the lowest scores in their storied history.
Perth had lost four of their previous seven games after a 12-1 start to the season and were coming off back-to-back home defeats by Melbourne and Cairns.
Things again looked gloomy for Perth on Sunday when they trailed 18-8 late in the first quarter.
However, an extraordinary 26 straight points either side of halftime turned the match around.
The Wildcats scored the last 22 points of the second quarter, winning it 35-9 and keeping Melbourne scoreless for almost seven minutes.
Perth scored the first four points of the third quarter and although Melbourne then had an 11-0 run, they never got the deficit below 10 points.
After conceding more than 80 points in eight of their last nine games, and more than 90 in six of those, Perth regained their defensive intensity for the last three quarters of Sunday’s game.
“We had a real focus on the defensive end,” Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said.
Jermaine Beal top-scored tor Perth with 21 and fellow import James Ennis added 16 points, 12 rebounds and five steals.
Melbourne shot at just 30 per cent from the field, made only five from 26 three-point attempts and had just two players record double figures.
“We couldn’t have shot the ball worse,” Melbourne coach Chris Anstey said.
Earlier in the round, Perth fell to a 99-94 overtime loss to Cairns (9-12), despite 32 points from Ennis and 27 from Shawn Redhage.
Former Wildcat Stephen Weigh top-scored for Cairns with 21 as the Taipans notched a third straight away win.
The streak ended two days later and their finals hopes were dealt a blow by a 89-87 loss at second-placed Adelaide (13-6).
Gary Ervin scored the match-winning basket with four seconds left, while Adelaide centre Daniel Johnson bagged a career-high 33-point haul.
A match-high 29-point haul from celebrated import Sam Young couldn’t stop fourth-placed Sydney’s (9-9) four-match winning streak coming to an end with a 105-87 away loss to New Zealand (8-11).
Townsville (5-13) snapped their eight-match losing streak with a 80-67 home win over Wollongong (6-13).
Guard Steve Markovic spearheaded the Crocs effort with 20 points and eight assists, but both teams appear to be slipping out of finals contention.