The Perth Wildcats are back in the hunt to contest a remarkable 31st straight finals series after marking the return of defensive maestro Damian Martin and arrival of import Bryce Cotton with an 80-74 win over the Sydney Kings on Saturday night.
After a season dogged by injuries, near misses and some uncharacteristically poor performances, coach Trevor Gleeson indicated that his side was poised to prove the doubters wrong after stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time since October.
'We don't listen to outside. People are always going to have an opinion. They're like bums - everyone's got one and they smell,' Gleeson said.
'We're very lucky to have the bunch of guys that we do. It's a tough league, we're getting healthy now and we've made a good inclusion with Bryce on the roster. Now we've just got to learn how to play at that level for longer.'
Cotton, the former Utah Jazz guard who was signed by Perth on Tuesday, scored a game-high 26 points, including 12 in the first quarter, setting the standard for his teammates, including centre Jameel McKay, who scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and made four blocks.
'I was just going out there to enjoy myself and do whatever I can to fit into the system and get adjusted to the style of play of my teammates,' Cotton said.
Martin's return from a knee injury gave the Wildcats a massive leadership boost.
'It's the first time he's played in two months,' Gleeson said of the captain.
'You never know how rusty you are. You bring Damo back and Bryce in (and you can't predict) how that affects the team. But it was good tonight.
'It's amazing how much better you get defensively when you've got Damian Martin back.
'One thing about Damo that most people gloss over is, it's not his personal contribution, it's what effect he has on the team and what effect he has on the opposition.
'I've never seen a guy that can actually win a game and not score a point. That's Damo.
'We play better with him. He generates hard work and it's infectious.'