South East Melbourne Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell has called on his players to lift their standards after a disastrous three-day stretch resulting in back-to-back losses.
The NBL newcomers burst out of the blocks in their inaugural season to build an impressive 5-2 win-loss record.
But consecutive defeats to cross-town rivals Melbourne United and Adelaide leaves the Phoenix in jeopardy of falling behind the league's frontrunners.
While Mitchell was disappointed with the results on the court, he also had issues with their preparation and mindset leading into the Sixers clash.
"I think we've let down ourselves in a couple of areas away from basketball," Mitchell said after Monday's 103-92 loss to the Sixers at Melbourne Arena.
The first-year coach later revealed that two players were late to a team meeting earlier in the day while he also issued some stern words to his squad after not liking what he saw at the team's shootaround.
"Shootaround should be rolling the balls in, come in and get your job done but our heads were not where they needed to be and I thought we saw a bit of that tonight," he said.
"We've got to do a better job at prepping these blokes and getting them ready."
Mitchell was full of praise for Adelaide's performance as the Sixers snapped their own four-game losing sequence, Jerome Randle weaving his magic on the way to a 27-point haul.
The Phoenix were ice cold from deep in the first half, making just two of their 14 three-point attempts, but after finding their rhythm in the third quarter, the home side could never make enough plays to grab the lead.
After slipping from second to fourth on the ladder, and with the Sixers and Brisbane Bullets breathing down their necks, Mitchell will be looking for big improvements in the aftermath of a rough week.
"There will be some heart-to-heart talks about how we are going to be better as a club and how we want to push forward in the season," Mitchell said.
"We've fallen back to the pack now, we had a chance to get a little separation this weekend and we failed.
"We're in a dogfight with everybody else which is, you know, it's going to be ok."
The Phoenix face their toughest test of the season so far when they host the Sydney Kings on Saturday but Mitchell remains optimistic of his side's chances against the high-flying ladder leaders.
"They are the leader of the pack but it's not an insurmountable challenge for us at all," he said.
"We had them in the preseason, different I know but we've seen a little bit of what they can do."