Six losses in nine games might not qualify as a genuine slump, but New Zealand Breakers coach Paul Henare's admits to growing concern about his team's recent form.
The Breakers were beaten 90-79 by the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday night in Wollongong, leaving them with a 12-7 record after winning nine of their first 10 games.
Newly-signed import Rakeem Christmas (14 points, eight rebounds) was impressive in his NBL debut, but the Breakers were overrun by the Hawks in the final period after trailing by just two at three-quarter time.
"The Hawks deserved to win, but for whatever reason we can't sustain discipline or momentum and it's an issue right now," Henare said.
"We haven't been able to put the foot on anyone's throat, and until we get that killer instinct we're going to allow teams to hang around."
Henare is looking forward to seeing how the Breakers perform next Thursday when they host NBL ladder leaders Melbourne United, owners of a seven-game win streak.
"We get to measure ourselves against the number one team in the competition," he said.
"We're in a dogfight to get in the playoffs."
Henare believes former NBA player Christmas, boyfriend of Michael Jordan's 25-year-old daughter Jasmine, will be a good fit for the Breakers.
"He was really effective," Henare said.
"Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."
Standing 2.06m and weighing 113kg, Christmas expects to improve with each game.
"I was out there trying to catch my wind and it'll take a couple games to get it back," the former University of Syracuse star said.
"I just want to come in and contribute as best I can."
Illawarra's ninth win of the season kept them in final four contention with nine games remaining.
"It's going to be tough to make the playoffs, but we've got New Zealand and Adelaide three more times each and at least we know destiny could be in our hands," Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said.
"We know we're playing well and can beat any team on any given day, so that's the attitude we're going with."
New Zealand host high-flying Melbourne on Thursday night with Illawarra having a crucial away-home double against the Adelaide 36ers.