ILLAWARRA will be fighting for their finals lives in Wollongong on Sunday after suffering a 93-78 defeat at the hands of Adelaide on Thursday night.
Adelaide came into the match on the back of four straight losses – their longest losing streak of the season and the longest any top-ranked team have ever taken into a playoff series – but snapped it in convincing fashion on their home floor.
Newly crowned MVP Jerome Randle talked a big game in the lead-up and delivered on the court with 26 points, six rebounds and four assists in a commanding performance.
Back-court partner Nathan Sobey also had a big game with 16 points and eight rebounds while big-man Daniel Johnson had 16 points and seven boards as the Sixers hammered the Hawks 56-40 on the glass.
Swingman Tim Coenraad produced perhaps his best NBL game with 26 points at 5-8 from long-range but it was a lone-hand with Rotnei Clarke (10) and Marvelle Harris (10) the only other Hawks in double digits.
The Hawks have now lost their past 10 straight finals games away from Wollongong and face the prospect of doing something that hasn’t been done in the past 14 straight NBL playoff series – win after dropping game one – to reach a grand final.
Big-men Johnson and AJ Ogilvy traded threes early in the piece before back-to-back triples from Kevin White saw the momentum shift to the visitors.
Coenraad made his presence felt from the bench with a rare four-point play and another triple as the Hawks led 27-24 at the first change.
Sobey shot out of the blocks after the resumption with five unanswered points to quickly overhaul the deficit and set in motion a 14-2 run.
Clarke landed his first three to briefly halt the Sixers’ momentum but Terrance Ferguson had a long-range two and a put-back slam to push the lead out to six.
Randle put an exclamation point in an 18-point turnaround with seven points to close the quarter with a three from Coenraad the only thing keeping the margin at 10 at halftime.
Randle’s shot from almost halfway saw the hosts take the ascendancy early in the third, and a fast-break slam from Mitch Creek saw the lead balloon to 17.
Clarke and Coenraad both had seven in a 14-3 run that got the margin back inside single figures at 73-65 at the final change, but it was as close as the Hawks got with the hosts running away with it in the fourth.