Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson has welcomed the team’s challenging finish to the season, saying it will give his charges the chance to test themselves against the best in the competition.
The Wildcats are on top of the ladder by percentage, locked on 12 wins with Melbourne United and the New Zealand Breakers.
The Adelaide 36ers are one win behind in fourth place.
The Wildcats host United at Perth Arena tonight in what will be the first of five games against top-four sides in their last 10 matches.
United also have five games against the top four, the Breakers four and Adelaide two.
Gleeson said the schedule was perfect preparation for the play-offs.
“You want to play against the best going into the finals,” he said.
“We’ll hopefully make the finals. We’ve still got to get there first. But you want that edge. You want that competitive spirit.
“You want to be able to execute under pressure and all those things that come out when the bright lights are on.
“We’re still developing. We’ve probably been a little bit more inconsistent than we’d like.
“We played some good games on the road and we’ve got to make sure that we get consistent in the last two months of the season.”
United are the form team of the competition, having won their past six games.
Their performances have come despite former Wildcats star Casey Prather being sidelined for the past four matches with a dislocated left elbow.
Melbourne replaced Prather with former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Carrick Felix and he showed his undeniable talent with 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Illawarra Hawks last round.
United already had a potent array of scorers and Gleeson said Felix gave them a different dynamic.
He said the Wildcats would have to be at their defensive best tonight.
“With Casey going out, the pieces align a little bit better with their roles,” Gleeson said.
“There’s not someone having 20 shots per game, so there’s more shots for (Chris) Goulding and (Casper) Ware and every-body else.
“They’ve settled a little bit. Last time we played, we played one of our best defensive jobs and held them to a low score.
“That’s what’s going to be needed again.
“They’re super talented and probably the most talented team in the league.
“Any player can get off at any time — Goulding or (David) Andersen, then you’ve got your imports with (Josh) Boone, Casper and Felix and then they’ve got shooters coming off the bench.”