The Sydney Kings' NBL finals hopes have been dealt a massive blow with a heart-breaking 78-75 defeat by the Cairns Taipans.
Despite leading for the majority of Friday night's contest and holding 12-point leads in both the second and third quarters, the Kings couldn't shake off the stubborn Taipans.
Remarkably, when Brad Hill (11 points, 14 rebounds) sank both free throws with just 3min 54sec left on the clock in the fourth quarter, it handed the Taipans their first lead of the night.
"We couldn't defend tonight in the first half," Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said.
"We turned it into an ugly grind in the second half and we really defended."
Sydney centre Ian Crosswhite (21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) did his best at both ends of the court to thwart the Taipans with another dominant display in tandem with a season-best performance from forward Tom Garlepp (11 points, 6 rebounds).
James Harvey (11 points) and Ben Madgen (12 points) had big games to cover for the injured Corin Henry, but a second-half collapse cost the hosts.
"All week we spoke about the processes and for 16 minutes I felt like we dominated that process," Kings coach Shane Heal said.
"We got 12 points up and then we went away from the processes and the things that work. We didn't have the mental toughness to do it for 40 minutes and that's been the story of our season."
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