It came as no surprise that the two biggest failings of the Waikato Pistons finally ended their slim hopes of making the NBL playoffs today.
A lack of consistent scoring - an important part of which can be attributed to poor free-throw shooting - ensured the AdviceFirst Pistons went down 85-74 to the Manawatu Jets in Palmerston North yesterday.
The defeat - the ninth in 17 National Basketball League matches for the Pistons this season - means the Pero Cameron-coached side won't be part of the Final Four in Wellington early next month.
Prone to scoring slumps all year, the Pistons suffered another one yesterday and finished shooting just 41 per cent from the floor and 7 of 33 (21 per cent) from deep, despite Zac Carter knocking down six treys from 14 attempts.
Carter led the Pistons' scoring with 25 points, while Akeem Wright added 21 on 9-20 shooting.Bench player Alonzo Burton was a big factor for the hosts, going 4/5 from three-point range while contributing 21 points in only 22 minutes.
The Pistons could also only convert nine of 17 free-throw attempts, while the hosts nailed 22 of their 28 trips to the charity stripe, courtesy of a size advantage and late fouls from the trailing Pistons.
The first quarter saw the lead swing back and forth before the hosts emerged with an 18-17 advantage at the end of the opening 10 minutes.
They then opened the first notable gap during the initial stages of the second quarter as the Pistons again suffered the type of scoring slump that has hugely hampered them all season.
The visitors went almost six minutes without a point as the Jets established a 32-21 lead with three minutes remaining in the half.
The Pistons finally found some scoring prowess late but not enough to stop the Jets from entering the halftime break up 39-32, with the Pistons shooting just 39 per cent (14-36) from the field and a cover-your-eyes awful 2-17 from three-point range.
Wright was the only Piston to make a notable mark in the first half, with 16 points on 7-14 shooting while adding eight rebounds, while Jets guard Brandon Jenkins was proving a handful with 12 points and four assists.
The visitors finally gained some traction in the third quarter as they stopped the Jets and managed to get their offensive game flowing, with shooting guard Carter prominent.
Wright's basket gave the Pistons their first lead since early in the first quarter at 47-46 and that was part of a 20-7 run from the visitors, before Burton gave the Jets some spark of the bench with back-to-back threes.
Leading 56-53 with 10 minutes left, the Pistons got consecutive treys from Carter to eke further ahead but Burton again swayed the game the way of the hosts with two quick baskets.
The encounter remained tight with just over three minutes to play, but the Pistons' offence again went cold at a crucial time.
A three-point play from Jeremiah Trueman put the Jets up 76-69 with 1:30 left and the score blew out from there to end the visitors' chances of playing in the post-season.
They will finish their season with a home match next Sunday against the playoff-bound Wellington Saints, who will be joined in the Final Four by the Hawke's Bay Hawks, Southland Sharks and Nelson Giants.
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