The NBL1 men's finals might still be a few weeks away, but for the Ballarat Miners the play-offs might as well start now.
Miners forward Jerry Evans is anticipating a desperate finals-like performance by Waverley Falcons at the Minerdome on Saturday night.
The absence of three players - Marquese Coleman, Josh Fox and Ross Weightman - will not make the Hotondo Homes Miners' task any easier even though they sit on top.
Back-up forward Jordan Lingard will start his first game for the Miners in place of captain Josh Fox, who is playing for Fiji in the Pacific Games.
Coleman has aggravated a hamstring strain and teenage swingman Ross Weightman is playing the Australian University Games.
Lingard will start alongside alongside Evans, who has confirmed he is 100 per cent fit after having his front tooth knocked-out against Hobart.
Joyce said the absences would provide an opportunity for other players to step-up.
"It just means other guys have to put points on the board," he said.
"If everyone can grab an extra rebound and score an extra basket then we'll be okay."
Despie this, the Miners will relish the challenge against the Falcons, which are fighting to make play-offs.
"We are playing to get better, and we want to start playing play-off basketball now and not wait for the finals," Evans said.
"We need to be in that mind set now and continue to grow as a team."
This will be the first meeting of the season between Ballarat and ninth-placed Waverley.
The Falcons have proved one of the more capable scoring teams in the competition.
They will be tested though against a Ballarat outfit which has forged an identity around suffocating defence.
"Hobart averaged 91 and only scored 60 against us last week," Ballarat Miners head coach Brendan Joyce said.
"I think we play the best defence in the league, and these teams come into our gym with a high level of point scoring ability, but they don't tend to get them against us," he said.
Tip-off is at 8pm.