If first impressions count for anything, Hawks import Malcolm Grant will be a marked man in tonight’s must-win game against the Adelaide 36ers.
The 36ers didn’t know anything about Grant when he first crossed their path.
Wollongong’s skilful guard made sure the Sixers knew who he was by the end of that February 1 meeting in Adelaide, scoring 21 points and nailing 4/5 threes in just his second game to lead the Hawks to an 86-78 triumph.
Grant’s backcourt teammate Adris Deleon is the reigning NBL Player of the Week, after averaging 30.5 points in two games last weekend, but the Sixers might be more concerned about minimising Grant’s influence.
‘‘I don’t like games like this, because mentally you might be thinking ‘I had a good game last time so I’m expecting it again’, but I try to block that out,’’ Grant said.
‘‘I just want to come out and be aggressive and pick my spots, and most importantly I’m just trying to get the win. We want to keep winning and put ourselves in a good position.’’
Indeed, the Hawks (10-13) can barely afford a single loss over their final five games.
The last-placed Sixers (7-16) kept their faint top four hopes afloat with last week’s road win over Cairns but need to win all five of their remaining matches and hope for the best.
‘‘A team like that is very dangerous because they don’t have anything to lose,’’ Grant said.
‘‘They’re just coming out and playing, so you have to be disciplined against a team like that and not get into their style of play. We have to play the way coach [Gordie McLeod] wants us to.’’
Wollongong’s 24-point win over Townsville last Sunday was just their third in their past 15 games.
‘‘It was a great win for us,’’ Grant said.
‘‘Coach had been challenging us the last few games and last few practices. There was a lot of pressure on the line because we needed to win to put ourselves back in the play-offs picture, and we responded well.
‘‘To have just seven turnovers, it’s phenomenal. If we can keep valuing the ball like that, the sky’s the limit.
‘‘From here on every game is important. I think we’re just going to keep getting better.’’
Grant has played seven games for the Hawks since arriving as a replacement for injured import Lance Hurdle.
The 24-year-old from Brooklyn is hungry for a taste of finals basketball in his inaugural professional season.
‘‘It’d be great to go to the play-offs in my first year,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m on a great team like this, in a great situation.
‘‘Coach has been really tough on us and we’re all competitors and we want to compete at a high level, so we’re going to continue to respond.’’