Tough run home to determine Hawks finals fate

ALL IN: Illawarra face a tough run home. Picture: AAP
ALL IN: Illawarra face a tough run home. Picture: AAP

THEY face arguably the toughest run home of any team in the NBL, but Illawarra will have the weight of recent history behind them in their tooth and nail fight to reach the playoffs.

The Hawks host New Zealand in Wollongong on Saturday, the first of four clashes over the last six rounds, with eight of their last 10 games against teams currently in the top four.

It includes three crucial games against Adelaide, while they will finish the season with back-to-back road games against New Zealand and Melbourne. 

It’s a tough stretch that puts coach Beveridge at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons – the longest active streak of all NBL coaches. 

Adelaide are currently 12-8 but, with two games in hand, Illawarra are capable of reeling them in. The Hawks have also proven a bogey side for the Breakers and 36rs in recent times.

They have won six of eight games against the Breakers during Beveridge’s tenure and memorably bundled Adelaide out of the finals on their floor last season.

New Zealand coach Paul Henare has taken the Breakers to 12-6 for the season. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito

New Zealand coach Paul Henare has taken the Breakers to 12-6 for the season. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito

They notched a dominant win over the Breakers in their first appearance at the WEC last season, the 31-point margin the biggest defeat of coach Paul Hanare’s career.

New Zealand got one back on their second trip to Wollongong with import Kevin Dillard and former Hawk Kirk Penney putting on a shooting clinic in a 95-86 win.

With 15 wins the magic number to secure a finals berth, Beveridge is confident the Hawks can still get there.

“We know it’s going to be tougher [than last season], but we’re still 100 per cent in the equation,” Beveridge said.

“We need a minimum seven [wins] to make the playoffs, that’s seven of our last 10, and that’s definitely achievable. 

“I can’t see us catching the top three, I think it’ll come down to us or Adelaide and if you the look at the equation we’re two games behind them. 

“We play them twice next week but right now our focus is fully on New Zealand.

“All these teams have got to play each other as well. If we can take care of us and some other teams drop some games, anything can happen

“We still believe but, if we’re going to get into the playoffs, we need to harden up put the foot on the throat and not take it off like we did last week [against Melbourne].

“We’ve discussed that this week, that this is it, it’s us versus them. We’ve got to go in with that mindset.” 

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