Croc shock a catalyst for Hawks

BASKETBALL

Hawks big-man Dave Gruber believes a disappointing loss to Townsville in round 16 was the catalyst for the three-match winning streak that's rocketed his side back into finals contention.

The Hawks were decidedly lacklustre in posting just 67 points against the Crocs that night, but have since managed two 100-plus scores against Adelaide and Sydney and a redemptive 90-75 victory over Townsville.

"We went up to Townsville four games ago and we weren't embarrassed, but we were very disappointed with our effort up there," Gruber said.

"That was a real eye-opener because we really wanted to get that game and we didn't," he said.

"Since then, we've played well as a group, we've got good contributions across the board. We're being aggressive, we're running the open court and we're hitting the shots.

"We're playing with a little bit of desperation at the moment. The finals are around the corner and there's a group of teams fighting for that last spot."

The Hawks three-match winning streak has coincided with Gruber's personal return to form with 12 points and 11 rebounds in victories over the 36ers and the Crocs.

The veteran enforcer said he has tried to impose himself on the contest from the tip-off.

"I'm trying to be super aggressive out there and help the team anyway I can, whether it's rebounding, whether it's getting a deflection here or there or whether it's making a post move inside," Gruber said.

"When you've got Rotnei [Clarke] hitting shots from everywhere, it opens things up for me."

Gruber faces another test in keeping New Zealand Breakers big man Mika Vukona off the boards in another must-win match on Friday night.

"He's probably been the benchmark in the league the last few years as far as rebounding and energy and just getting it done in there - you know what's coming, but he just finds a way.

"He'll be fired up, I'm sure, and we'll be fired up playing at home in front of our home fans, so it's going to be a great challenge for everybody."

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