THEY gave themselves a chance late but there's no escaping the fact Illawarra let a vital home win slip against Brisbane at the WEC on Wednesday.
The Hawks led by as much as 14 in the first half, and enjoyed a nine-point cushion at halftime, only to hit the all too familiar third quarter wobbles and ultimately go down 88-82 on their home floor.
Jason Cadee did the damage with 22 points, while Harry Froling had 21 points and nine boards and Nathan Sobey exploded late to finish with 17 points. With star import Vic Law still sidelined, the Bullets welcomed back Lamar Patterson, who had six points in 12 minutes before fouling out.
Justinian Jessup led the Hawks with 19 points, while Tyler Harvey had 18 points in a rearguard action, but Dan Grida was arguably the Hawks best with an up-tempo 12 points from the bench.
It was another ice-cold night from deep, with the Hawks shooting a lowly 8-29 from long-range in a third straight loss for the first time this season.
It leaves Brian Goorjian's side in free-fall having dropped five of their last six and also leaves them at 1-3 on their home floor with a short turnaround into Friday's clash with bogey side South East Melbourne.
With Cairns looming on Sunday, their third outing in five days, what looked like a dream run at home could quickly turn into a nightmare.
Jessup opened the scoring with a triple and had another from mid-range on a 14-4 start for the hosts that forced Andrej Lemanis into a timeout. It had little effect, with the Bullets managing just nine points for the quarter to trail 20-9 at the first break.
The Bullets opened the second with a 12-7 run, including two from the line from Sobey after Harvey was called for an unsportsmanlike foul. It brought the margin back to five but Harvey's first three and a couple from the line from Grida saw it quickly shoot back out to double figures.
It was part of an 9-0 run that was finally halted by a three from Cadee. Grida fired straight back from the perimeter, with Harry Froling going two of two from the line to bring it back to single digits at the break.
Harry Froling had a pair of triples on a 12-4 run to start the third that cut the margin back to one. The visitors remarkably took the lead on a floater from Cadee, who followed up with a three to extend the run to 17-4 and take a four-point cushion.
Froling and Grida had buckets to square the ledger but a quick-fire five from Sobey forced Goorjian into a timeout trailing by five.
Grida again turned momentum, drawing two offensive fouls and grabbing three points, before Harvey re-took the lead from deep. A tip-in from Deng Deng gave the Hawks a slender one-point lead at three-quarter-time but the Bullets made all the running in the fourth.
Cadee and Sobey fired away from deep as the lead ballooned to 10 before Jessup drew the Hawks back within four with a pair of triples. Sobey twisted the knife from the Kmart logo but Harvey pulled the margin back to five with a deep three.
It saw Goorjian call timeout with 42 seconds left and Jessup nail an impossible looking three from the corner to bring it back to two. It was as close as they got, with the Hawks failing to nail the trap and letting Matt Hodgson slam home the win unchallenged in the paint.