The Illawarra Hawks gave their finals hopes a much-needed boost with a commanding 96-84 victory over Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.
A second quarter blitz orchestrated by the Hawks bench propelled the visitors to an important road win, which boosts their record to 9-11 on the season.
Illawarra went on a 17-2 to start the second quarter to put themselves in the box seat.
Bench weapons Emmett Naar (18 points) and Jordair Jett (16 points) were at the centre of the offensive onslaught.
Import Brian Conklin added 17 points and Cedric Jackson 13.
Kings star Andrew Bogut (10 points, 10 rebounds) was kept relatively quiet as former NBL MVP Jerome Randle tallied a game-high 23 points.
The Hawks shot out of the blocks and had a 9-4 advantage after veteran David Andersen hit the target from beyond the arc.
When former Hawk Kevin Lisch hit a contested lay-up late in the quarter, Sydney had wrestled their way back into the contest to hold a four point lead.
After trailing 20-18 at the first break, bench weapons Jett, Naar and Tim Coenraad went to work to drag the ledger firmly in the Hawks’ favour.
A three from Dan Grida helped Illawarra burst out to a 35-21 advantage.
Sydney relied on the efforts of star duo Bogut and Randle to stay in touch, with the latter draining a late three to help the Kings cut the margin to single digits at the main break.
Naar finished with a perfect 5/5 shooting for the half to lead the scoring with 12 points.
It took just 30 seconds for Illawarra to restore the double digit lead as Todd Blanchfield made his jump shot stick with the Hawks’ first possession.
Conklin was relishing the battle inside with Bogut and took the fight to the former NBA champion in the third.
It saw Bogut pick up a third foul early in the quarter, forcing him to take a seat.
Randle single-handedly tried to drag the hosts back into the contest, but the Kings could do little to stop the Hawks’ offensive output at the opposite end.
They stormed into the fourth quarter with a commanding 72-54 lead.
An 8-2 spurt in the first three minutes gave Kings fans some hope of a miraculous comeback as Deng Deng’s jumper cut the margin to 12 points.
With less than three minutes left on the clock Lisch added to the building pressure with a clutch long bomb.
They got as close as eight, but the Hawks held their nerve at the death to notch up a crucial road win.