HE said he needed to step up and Deng Adel did just that for Illawarra on Thursday, producing his best game of the season in a 98-89 win over Adelaide.
After an indifferent start to his NBL career, 24-year-old spoke about his need to find another gear and "start having an impact on games" in the lead-up and found that gear in a timely fashion with 13 of his 19 points in the final term. It came after the scores were locked at three-quarter-time, with the former NBA swingman also finishing with eight rebounds and five assists in a breakout performance.
Tyler Harvey had his 24 points through three quarters to go with six assists, while Justin Simon had a typically blue-collar 13 points and nine rebounds. Cam Bairstow had a super efficient 14 points at 60 per cent from the field, including 4-5 from deep in a crucial win for Brian Goorjian's side.
It was a much needed win for the Hawks who are now 2-3 through the NBL Cup ahead of a tough turnaround into Sunday's clash with Perth - their first match-up against the defending champs this season.
After publicly stating that Harvey and Justinain Jessup have been forced to shoulder too heavy a load, Goorjian was pleased to see Adel find his range.
"We did talk and we talked about getting to the rim, getting on the foul-line and getting on the glass," Goorjian said.
"If he does those things there won't be as much pressure on the shot. On his first possession he got that ball in the corner, pulled through and got right over the front of the rim. The next time he got it in transition, got a rebound and went to the foul-line.
"That loosens things up, now you've got some points and some stuff in the bank when you're taking that three-pointer in the corner and there's not as much pressure. I'm really happy for him, it was a really desperate situation for the team tonight. Another one's coming real quick but you can't take those away."
The Sixers made most of the early running, leading at halftime in the absence of star big-man Isaac Humphries, with Tony Crocker finishing with 23 points, while Josh Giddey had 14 points and nine assists. Skipper Daniel Johnson finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, while super-sub Jack McVeigh had 16 at a tidy 7-11 from the field.
Harvey had two early triples as his side went 2-10 to start the game, before Goorjian got some much-needed punch from the bench, with Bairstow dropping a couple from deep while Adel grabbed his side's only six points from inside the arc.
Harvey had a monster three and went two of three from the line to cut the margin to two and take his tally to 16 at the half and added two more triples on a 12-6 run to start the third.
Giddey responded with a quick-fire eight with two threes, while Johnson also had eight before McVeigh locked things up at 72 apiece on the buzzer at the final break.
The Hawks went 7-0 to start the fourth, forcing Connor Henry into a quick timeout trailing by as much as his side had at any point of the contest. Crocker and Adel traded two threes each after the resumption to keep the game balanced on a six-point edge, before Adel's third triple for the term pushed things out to nine.
It effectively put the game to bed, with Adel having the final say from the foul-line.