STORY OF THE WEEK
Violet Crumbles, Cardiac Kids ... Sydney Kings have been called many things - some unprintable here - over the course of their start-stop-and-start-again National Basketball League existence.
But Wildcats Wreckers might be a new moniker they (and a lot of neutral observers) would happily adopt if the results of Round 15 are anything to go by.
For the first time this season, the Kings posted back-to-back wins, and also held the mighty Wildcats to just 56 points. Fifty-six points. It was the second-lowest total in Perth's proud history, and the lowest total by any team this season.
Such was the Wildcats' offensive ineptness they could manage just 21 second-half points, a shooting drought that never really abated over the course of the two games, such was their insipid accuracy from the field.
For beleaguered, frustrated Kings coach Andrew Gaze, the two wins were the rays of sunshine that warmed his winter of discontent.
"We made some adjustments and everyone is happy even though our record is not something we're all that proud of," Gaze said on Fox Sports' post-game broadcast.
"But there's a contentment that everyone is working hard and striving for the same goals. It's about our character, our determination, and our commitment to each other.
"And also, unfortunately, we're playing for our lives, we're playing for our jobs."
Meanwhile, if the questions surrounding Perth's championship credentials had previously been whispered, the double defeats to the Kings raised the volume to much, much more than a murmur.
The Wildcats have dropped four of their past six contests and what had only recently looked like another powerhouse season has been thrown wide open to doubt and, for the rest of the league, a healthy dose of schadenfreude.
Perth stalwart Damian Martin was decidedly unimpressed with his team's efforts of late, noting the Wildcats weren't doing the unselfish things that built their championship foundation.
"It's frustrating, we're not playing with that energy, that enthusiasm, and that intensity we're accustomed to and required if you want to win," Martin he said on Sunday.
"Right now, we're playing selfish basketball. I don't mean one guy going one-on-one, I mean giving up something for the betterment of the team.
"We've spoken about it once or twice but this was a real eye-opener over this weekend. We definitely haven't qualified for the finals and we're kidding ourselves if we think we're going to walk in to that."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings) - The waterbug playmaker quarterbacked Sydney to a pair of stunning wins over the reigning champion Perth Wildcats. Despite being hampered by a groin injury, Randle top-scored for the Kings with 19 points in Friday's smash-and-grab road win before backing up with 12 points and six assists in Sunday's home triumph at Qudos Bank Arena.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
G: Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings) - See above.
G: Casper Ware (Melbourne United) - Averaged 21 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists as United split a tricky road double against New Zealand and Brisbane. Responded to some indifferent shooting against the Breakers to nail four triples in the 105-98 win over the Bullets.
G: Nathan Sobey (Adelaide 36ers) - Bounced back from a subdued Round 14 with a sublime all-around performance against the Hawks on Friday night that saw him post 25 points, six boards and six assists. Backed that up with 15 points in the triumphant return bout with the Hawks on Sunday afternoon.
F: Perry Ellis (Sydney Kings) - Has worked tirelessly throughout a long and frustrating season, and Round 15 was no exception. Posted a tidy double-double of 13 points and 11 boards in the Kings road win and then top-scored with 20 points at home on Sunday.
F: Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers) - The big pivot continued his recent high-quality play with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Illawarra on Friday night, and he was again a key contributor with 12 points against the Hawks in the road rematch two days later.
The Week Ahead
Perth, mired in a most uncharacteristic form slump, face New Zealand on Saturday in a 3-vs.-4 matchup that will tell us much about both teams and their fighting qualities. Meanwhile, Melbourne United can consolidate top spot with games against Cairns and Sydney.