Larry Davidson picked a perfect time to play his best game of the season on Saturday night in Melbourne.
Wollongong’s bandana-wearing centre poured in a season-high 23 points in his team’s 88-82 victory over the Melbourne Tigers, doing his damage in the paint and from the perimeter as he connected on 9/11 shots.
The Hawks (11-14) are third with three games remaining and know exactly how important Davidson is to their prospects of a top four finish.
‘‘Larry was big, real big,’’ guard Adris Deleon said of Davidson’s performance against the Tigers.
‘‘Our team depends on him. It’s not so much the offence, it’s everything he does. It’s the things he does that don’t show up on the stat sheets, the talk on defence and telling people where to go. We know without him we’re not going to go far.’’
Davidson would’ve been expecting to be up against burly American Seth Scott on Saturday.
But the Tigers centre was a late withdrawal with back spasms and his replacement in the starting line-up, veteran centre Matt Burston, was soon back on the bench with early fouls.
Maybe that was all Davidson needed to get into an offensive groove.
He scored on low-post moves inside and showcased his long-range touch with 3/4 threes.
‘‘The way they were blitzing Adris on the on-balls [screens], it opened up looks for me and it was going down, so that was good,’’ Davidson said yesterday.
‘‘That’s something we’ve been really working on in video sessions and at training.
‘‘Adris is a massive factor with our offence, so teams are trying to slow him down and get the ball out of his hands.
‘‘When he comes off [screens] and kicks that ball on, it really puts the defence on the back foot because they have to rotate. With all the shooters we’ve got on our team, if we move the ball around someone’s going to have an open look, and that’s what happened last night.’’
The Hawks are on the road against Townsville this Saturday before wrapping up the regular season with home games against Sydney and Adelaide.
Davidson said his side wasn’t feeling any pressure in the lead-up to the clash with Melbourne.
‘‘You’re almost in a situation where it’s nothing to lose. You’ve just gotta go out there and play your arse off and stick together,’’ he said.
‘‘They still won the series, but we went there to win the game. We got the win, so we’ll take some confidence up to Townsville with another series on the line and try and do the same thing.’’
Deleon was Wollongong’s standout against the Tigers with 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
‘‘It was a big game for us. This game could mean the play-offs for us,’’ the 28-year-old playmaker said.
‘‘It wasn’t an individual game by myself, it was the whole team. It feels good to get a lot of points and all that, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t win. The best thing is that we came away with the win.’’