Melbourne United part-owner Larry Kestleman always knew his NBL club would eventually come back to the field despite its dream 9-0 start to the season.
But while he was prepared for a fall, he didn't expect United to crash to three defeats in a row.
Successive losses to Cairns, Townsville and New Zealand have suddenly sounded alarm bells.
United had been matching winning strides with Andrew Bogut's Golden State Warriors, which equalled the best ever start to an NBA season on Monday with a 15th straight win.
Their nose-dive has triggered concerns they rely too heavily on their outside shooting game.
Kestleman said he still believes United will contest for the title but nominated Perth and New Zealand as the teams to beat.
"With a start like we had I would be extremely disappointed if we weren't in the finals," he told APN.
"But what I have learned over the years is it will come down to the health of your players - who's injured and who is healthy.
"You look at teams like Perth and New Zealand, they are incredibly tough to beat."
The action continues tonight when the unpredictable Illawarra Hawks host Sydney, which will hope to have Josh Childress back on the court.
United, featuring Nat Tomlinson (pictured), will be out to end its losing streak in Townsville on Friday while the game of the round sees second-placed Perth lay out the welcome mat for New Zealand in what looms as a highly physical battle.
- WAYNE HEMING