STORY OF THE WEEK
If ever you needed a healthy reminder of the unpredictable nature of the National Basketball League, then Round 12 provided it.
And then some.
Teams didn't just throw out the form guide, they set fire to it and watched it all turn into so much ash.
As a result, there's a significant logjam in the tussle for the third and fourth playoff spots, with just a game-and-a-half separating fourth from seventh.
Cairns set the tone to open the round, finally finding some summer warmth as they cantered to a big win over Brisbane, and snapping a 14-game losing streak that had become more than a millstone around their collective necks.
The losing run was in danger of something far more humiliating; the general consensus around the league was one of pity, never a good sign for your team's fortunes going forward.
Indeed, there had been more than mild concern that Cairns would struggle to win another game this season.
But playing with pace and poise, the Snakes erased those doubts in comprehensive fashion to record their first home win of the season; the victory a just reward for coach Mike Kelly, who has continued to persist in the face of overwhelming mediocrity.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Breakers made everyone sit up and take notice with a comprehensive road-home double over Adelaide and Perth.
The Breakers stared down what was essentially a season-defining game against the 36ers and didn't blink, roaring to a 104-96 triumph that included a monstrous, beast-mode game from Shawn Long.
Long poured in 28 points on 12-21 shooting, grabbed 18 boards (7 offensive), and added three blocked shots for good measure.
But the former Philadelphia 76er wasn't done there, not by a long way.
Two nights later, Long dropped 33 points and eight boards on a Wildcats outfit that continues to disappoint; the Breakers moving back into playoff contention with a 97-84 win at Spark Arena.
Perth is officially in a slump, having lost five of its past six games. However, a very friendly schedule the rest of the way should help the Wildcats ease into the postseason.
Elsewhere, Illawarra celebrated coach Rob Beveridge's 300th game in the best way possible -- sending archrival Sydney back to the city with their tails between their legs after a 78-71 boilover at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
And just to throw another wrinkle into the round, Brisbane continued its recent dominance of Melbourne United with a comfortable 95-86 victory on the Gold Coast.
It was the third straight time the Bullets have defeated the reigning champs, and like the Wildcats, United is mired in a slump, having lost four of their past six contests.
It wasn't until the final game of the round that relative order was restored, with Sydney defeating the Taipans to maintain its place on the throne atop the standings.
Mind you, even that was a close-run thing, with the Snakes closing fast in the final minutes. Buckle up for the run home folks, this is only the start of the mayhem.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Shawn Long (NZB) - Could it have been anyone else?!? Has there been a more dominant round by ANY player this season?!? Long started as he meant to go on, scoring 28 points and hauling down a mammoth 18 boards (including seven at the offensive end) to lead the Breakers to a stunning road win over Adelaide. He then backed that up with 33 points and eight rebounds as New Zealand upended Perth at Spark Arena to keep their top-four hopes well and truly alive.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
G: Kevin Lisch (SYD) - The veteran guard had looked to be in something of a slump recently, but shook it off as the Kings split their road double against Illawarra and Cairns. Lisch averaged 18.5 points over the round, ensuring the Kings maintained their unfamiliar place at the head of the NBL standings.
G: Devon Hall (CNS) - If ever there was a time for Hall to step up, this round was it. The NBA draft pick submitted a sublime all-around stat sheet of 24 points, six assists, and five rebounds as the Taipans snapped their lengthy losing streak with a big win over Brisbane.
F: Lamar Patterson (BNE) - Continues to perform at an elite level. Averaged 19.5 points and five rebounds per games as the Bullets split their road-home double against Cairns and Melbourne United.
F: Tai Wesley (NZB) - If Long was the undisputed star of the round, then Wesley can consider himself a close second. Playing the role of second fiddle to perfection, the Utah State alum dropped his own big double-double against Adelaide, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 boards - including an absurd nine offensive caroms. Repeated the role of Robin to Long's Batman against Perth with a tidy statline of 20 points and nine boards.
C: Shawn Long (NZB) - See above
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO
A slate of six games for Round 13 and there are some absolutely crucial contests, starting with Sydney playing host to New Zealand on Friday night. The Breakers will be looking to continue their recent rich vein of form, while the Kings will be keen to give themselves more breathing room at the top of the table.