When the Halifax Rainmen were supposed to host the Puerto Rico Capitanes three weeks ago, it was billed as a battle for first in the Premier Basketball League.

How things have changed.

The Rainmen are fighting for their playoff lives — a scenario that seemed inconceivable on Feb. 26 when Puerto Rico couldn’t fly in to Halifax because of inclement weather — and the Capitanes are suddenly stronger than ever.

During the past three weeks, the Rainmen have fallen from 9-2 to 9-5, while the Capitanes have gone from 12-1 to 14-2, clinched a playoff spot and bolstered their roster with the signing of former NBA centre Courtney Sims and the unexpected return of PBL double-double king Angelo Reyes.

The outcome of Sunday’s clash at the Metro Centre could determine whether the Rainmen are the contender they looked like a month ago or a pretender at risk of being surpassed by the fifth-place Vermont Frost Heaves (7-7).

“We want to come out there and get a big victory on them and let them know that if we see you in the playoffs, we can get y’all,” said Rainmen forward John Strickland.

It’s been a brutally tough stretch for the Rainmen. Since their last home game on Feb. 20, they’ve lost three overtime nail-biters, including last Saturday’s 115-113 setback against the two-time defending champion Rochester RazorSharks.

“Real tough” Strickland said. “Especially that last one. It really hurt.”

But a little adversity might not be the worst thing for the Rainmen.

“This is a challenge,” said Rainmen three-point specialist Desmond Ferguson. “We’re not looking to lose four games in a row, we’re not looking to lose our first home game, so we’re going into this game excited and ready to play.”

With nearly 6,000 tickets reportedly sold for Sunday’s game, a record crowd could be on hand.

“There ain’t nothin’ like playin’ in front of the home crowd to get us going,” Strickland said. “That’s going to be good for us.”