IT'S crunch time for defending champion Perth as the wounded Wildcats face a weekend tropical road double against Townsville and Cairns which it desperately needs to at least split to arrest a worrying slide down the NBL ladder.
After losing yet again to Melbourne United 86-78 in a midweek clash to end round 15, things could get even uglier for Perth should it drop both games tonight and tomorrow night against the Crocs and hard-finishing Taipans.
Tonight's main challenge against Townsville, which needs to win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, will be to cool down Crocs duo Brian Conklin and swingman Todd Blanchfield (pictured), who've helped themselves to 71 points at 50% in two clashes so far this season.
Backing up against Cairns 24 hours later will be a real challenge, with the Taipans flying with nine wins from their last 11 games, and a real chance of knocking New Zealand out of top spot.
The table-topping Breakers play host to sixth-placed Sydney, which needs to win to stop Adelaide from jumping ahead of it.
The Kings are just 3-8 against top-four teams and their star import, Josh Childress, will need a breakout game to cause an upset.
The Kings return across the Tasman for a crucial Sunday showdown with Adelaide which takes on the Hawks tonight in Wollongong.
The round closes with Melbourne United hosting Townsville on Sunday, knowing its hold on fourth position is very tentative.
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