NBL MVP Jerome Randle will be public enemy number one in Wollongong on Sunday.
With the Hawks fighting to stay in the title race at WIN Entertainment Centre, the controversial 36ers guard is set to be firmly in the cross-hairs of Illawarra’s faithful.
Randle caught the ire of Hawks fans earlier this week when he labelled Illawarra ‘dirty’ team who he ‘didn’t like’.
And he did little to steer away from the statements during game one of the two clubs final series on Thursday night in Adelaide.
“It is personal. I think every game is personal when it comes to the finals,” he said.
“At the end of the day, my teammates played hard.”
The 29-year-old continued to stoke the fire in several confrontations with Illawarra players as the 36ers fought their way to a 1-0 series advantage.
Backing up his pre-game chat, Randle scored 26 points, six rebounds and four assists in Adelaide’s 93-78 victory on their home floor.
His performance helped put Adelaide within one game of a grand final series and Illawarra on the edge of elimination heading into Sunday’s game two in Wollongong. Randle wasn’t expecting to receive much fanfare during his visit to the Illawarra.
“We are expecting [a hostile crowd],” he said heading into the match.
“But there is no need to celebrate right now because we have to go to Illawarra and play in front of their hostile crowd.”
Asked if supported Randle’s outspoken behaviour in the lead-up to the final series, Adelaide coach Joey Wright said: "He has his feelings and emotions and I am going to support him 100%.”
Hawks coach Rob Beveridge wasn’t as enthused by Randle’s antics.
The experienced mentor was quick to praise Randle as a player, but was disappointed by his public statements.
“I would prefer to say Jerome is one of the best players I have ever coached rather than shooting your damn mouth off,” he said "Maybe it worked for him.
“Maybe he needed that little bit of drive to get him going or the team.
“I personally thought he was better than that.”
Randle was well supported by Nathan Sobey and Daniel Johnson (both 16 points) in the Adelaide’s game one win.
Bench weapon Tim Coenraad was the Hawks’ only bright spot in an otherwise disappointing evening, scoring 26 points.
- NBL FINALS SERIES
Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers
WIN Entertainment Centre (Sunday, 3pm)
Live: Fox Sports