Coach Rob Beveridge blasted his "soft" Perth Wildcats after they relinquished top spot on the NBL ladder with an 86-73 away loss to Gold Coast Blaze last night.
The Wildcats were forced to swallow some of their own medicine in front of a record Blaze home crowd of 4588, succumbing to the Queenslanders' full-court pressure defence in the second half.
The home side pinched the lead for the first time in the game with a 10-0 run in the latter stages of the third quarter.
The Cats clawed their way back to lead by four at the final break but then fell apart, losing the final period 29-12.
It wasn't the first time the Wildcats had faded this season and Beveridge lamented his side's poor application ahead of another crunch game, against Melbourne tonight.
"We were soft in that final quarter, when it really counted we were soft as putty," Beveridge said.
"We set ourselves a goal to finish in the top four and we've established that. But I think there's some people that are just content with that and it's not good enough.
"It was a total inexperience thing. There were some people out there that were like they were deer with lights in their eyes.
"We broke down under the pressure and we've got to get better at that."
Blaze guard Adam Gibson broke the shackles of Damian Martin and Brad Robbins to post a game-high 23 points.
Gibson stepped up with top shooter James Harvey in foul trouble on the bench.
Import Erron Maxey added 19 points and Anthony Petrie scored 15.
Dropped from the starting five for the first time this season, Perth captain Shawn Redhage still top-scored for his side with 13 points. Martin scored 12 points on return from an abdominal muscle injury and veteran Martin Cattalini had 11.
The Cats have lost three times to the Blaze this season, once at home, but deny the Queenslanders are their bogy side.
Gold Coast guard Tyson Demos said he believed his side had the wood on Perth.
"We've beaten them three out of four times now so I think we're pretty confident in going against them," Demos said.
The loss places huge importance on the Wildcats' clash with the Tigers in Melbourne tonight, with a loss likely to end the WA side's hopes of claiming the minor premiership.
The sixth-placed Tigers will not be pushovers.
Their play-off hopes are still alive after New Zealand beat Wollongong on Thursday.
"We've got two games to go in the regular season and if we win both those games, we can still finish in top spot," Beveridge said.
Both of tonight's other games will help shape the play-offs, with Townsville hosting Cairns and Blaze away to Wollongong.
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