The Southland Sharks will return to their home court at Stadium Southland on Friday in search of a much-needed spark as the playoffs draw closer.
After a six-game winning streak Southland has lost their last three outings against teams will join them in the playoffs.
The latest loss was to the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch on Saturday night when they went down 79-71.
Veteran Hayden Allen was already missing for the Sharks team with a groin injury but were dealt another blow with key figure Alex Pledger again sidelined because of a concussion precaution.
The victory took the Rams to 8-7 and means they will join the red-hot Wellington Saints, Southland, and the Super City Rangers in the final four in Tauranga over June 16-17.
Canterbury, Southland, and Super City will be eager to rack up wins in their final round games to finish either second or third, so they won't have to face overwhelming title favourites Wellington in the semi-finals.
Canterbury limited Southland to just 32 points in the first half as the Rams grabbed a 40-32 lead.
The third quarter had been problematic for Southland of late but they did manage to turn that around against the Rams to win the third period 20-15 and reduce the gap to 55-52 heading into the final quarter.
It was Canterbury however who finished best winning the final quarter 24-19.
Reigning NBL MVP McKenzie Moore starred in the Rams win with a game-high 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Canterbury limited the Sharks to 71 points on 34 per cent shooting.
For the Sharks there wasn't a lot to get excited about although Nick Kay did bank a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Southland will now turn their sights on the Taranaki Mountain Airs in Invercargill on Friday night.
Taranaki are out of playoff contention and it is a game where the Sharks will be hoping to find their mojo again.
Allen is scheduled to make a return from his groin injury while the hope will be Pledger can shake of his concussion problems.
AT A GLANCE:
Canterbury Rams 79 (McKenzie Moore 25, Marcel Jones 16, Jeremy Kendle 11, Marcus Alipate 10) Southland Sharks 71 (Reuben Te Rangi 17, James Hunter 16, Nick Kay 12, Luke Aston 9)
1Q: 18-16, HT: 40-32, 3Q: 55-52
Article and image courtesy of The Southland Times/Stuff.co.nz