Sydney has maintained its stranglehold on the Freeway Series rivalry, a stunning shooting display from bench weapon Kouat Noi burying the Hawks as the reigning champions tipped off their push at a third straight title with a 96-81 win in Wollongong.
While much has been made of a new-look Kings, it was some familiar faces that returned to haunt the Hawks, with Noi going 6-8 from long-range in his 23 points from the bench.
Former MVP Jaylen Adams also made his presence felt on NBL return with 20 points while Jaylin Galloway had 18 points at 8-9 from the field and five steals in the absence of marquee recruit DJ Hogg.
Having gone win-less through the pre-season Blitz, the result was a maiden victory for new coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah on the road with his side going a tidy 50 per cent from the field despite coughing up 19 turnovers.
After a promising start that saw the lead change seven times in the opening term, the Hawks were ultimately made to pay for a sluggish second quarter in which the Kings kept them to just three field goals an 11 points until skipper Tyler Harvey sank long bomb on the halftime buzzer.
A Dan Grida-led rearguard action cut an 18-point margin to just six with just over three minutes to play only for Noi to to snuff out the resistance down the stretch.
Grida had just two points at the half but finished with an efficient 14 points and seven rebounds, while Harvey top-scored for the hosts with 19 points at 5-10 from deep.
Sam Froling had eight of his 12 points in a 12-11 double-double in the opening quarter, while Justin Robinson had 12 points two steals and drew four offensive fouls despite a tough night (5-13) from the field.
It was a tough opening night for fellow import Gary Clark, who struggled to get going and finished with seven points at 3-10 shooting, though he did finish with seven boards and two assists.
It leaves the Hawks a work in progress under coach Jacob Jackomas and desperate to avoid an 0-2 start to the season at home against the Phoenix next Saturday.
The Hawks were slow out of the blocks, with Jordan Hunter and Galloway both slamming their first points in with emphasis. Adams had his first three on an 8-2 run that also also saw Hawks chief stopper Wani Swaka Lo Buluk forced to sit with two early fouls.
Froling had eight of the Hawks first 10 to drag the Hawks back within one, with the host taking their first lead when Harvey buried his first triple. In a term that saw seven lead changes, Robinson produced a steal and dish for.Todd Blanchfield three that gave the hosts a four-point cushion.
Noi had six points on his injection from the bench to put his side back in front, with Glover having the final say of a 26-24 period for the visitors from the line.
Adams opened the second term with a three that sparked a 7-0 run that prompted Jackomas' first timeout with the margin shooting out to nine in under two minutes.
The Hawks went 6-0 on the resumption, an 8-4 run enough for Abdelfattah to burn his first timeout with the margin back at five.
It had the desired effect, with back-to-back threes from Noi, and Bolden's first from deep, forcing Jackomas into another timeout with the gap swelling to double figures for the first time.
It got ugly from there for the hosts, the Kings closing the term 11-1 as the lead ballooned to 15 before Harvey drained one from the Kmart logo on the buzzer to bring things back to 11 at the interval.
Jackomas didn't like what he saw to start the third, calling a timeout 70 seconds in despite going 4-4. Robinson responded, scoring four, drawing this fourth offensive foul and grabbing his second a steal on an 8-0 run that quickly cut things back to seven.
It saw Abdelfattah call time that saw the Kings snatch back momentum with threes to Adams, Valentine and Noi as the margin shot out to a game-high 18 midway through the term.
Three straight buckets to Grida, including his first three, brought things back to 12, with a neat runner from Hyunjung Lee bringing the gap back to 10 at the final interval.
Grida continued his blitz, following a three from Swaka Lo Buluk with a long bomb of his own to drag the game back to single digits for the first time since the second quarter.
Harvey had it back to six with a transition three, but Noi fired straight back, with Galloway also getting in on the long-range act. Noi's sixth triple for a 14-point lead with 2.40 left on the clock proved the dagger blow.
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