Illawarra has slumped to a third straight defeat, late-quarter fades costing the Hawks big in a 101-91 loss to Melbourne United in Wollongong on Friday.
Coming off an 0-2 road run the Hawks returned to the WEC desperate to reboot their fortunes and gave themselves every chance through the best part of two terms.
The hosts led by as much as five in the second, with the scores tied at 49 apiece with 1.50 on the clock only to go 1-6 from the field and give up a 9-2 run to trail by eight at halftime.
They trailed by just five with four minutes left in the third only to go 0-9 into three-quarter-time and trail by 14. It was effectively the end of the contest.
It sees Jacob Jackomas' side fall to 1-4 just one rung up from the bottom of the ladder through four rounds and desperately needing a win in their next home outing against Cairns on Thursday.
Having given up yet another 100-plus score, Jackomas says it's no secret where his team's issues lie.
"We start the game pretty well and then we just have these patches against really good basketball teams that let us down.
"Then we're playing catch-up to one of the better teams in the league, so that's never going to work. We're putting a lot of pressure on our offence.
"We've said it for a while, everyone's talking about it, you're not a brain surgeon by saying if teams that keep scoring 100 on us, we're not going to win basketball games, because we're scoring enough.
"We scored 91 points today against one of the better defensive teams in the league. We just didn't get enough stops.
"If we did get some stops, we could probably score some more points. It's a simple part of the game.
"My Dad doesn't know anything about basketball and he's [saying] 'they scored 101 points again Jake'. That's the reality of it."
With their subsequent two fixtures coming against top-two sides United in Melbourne and Sydney in Wollongong, the Hawks could fall out finals reckoning in the space of six rounds.
After a slowish start to his NBL career, Gary Clark continues to be the shining light for the Illawarra faithful, the former NBA big finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds, two assists and four steals.
Skipper Tyler Harvey had 19 points, but was 3-11 through three terms, with Hyunjung Lee contributing 11 from the bench.
Key starting men Justin Robinson and Sam Froling were a combined 5-20 from the field on a night their side could only manage a 38 per cent clip across the board.
United were far sharper, with six in double figures led by Ariel Hukporti's 21 points and 10 rebounds - at 9-11 from the stripe.
Ian Clark (16), Luke Travers (15), Chris Goulding (13), Jo Lual-Acuil (12) and She Ili also cracked double digits as United went to 5-1 on the season.
United grabbed the first four points, but the Hawks went 14-5 from there, Clark grabbing four points and an o-board put-back from Grida enough for Dean Vickerman to call timeout at 14-9.
It had the desired effect, the visitors going 11-3 from the resumption, Lual-Acuil grabbing a quick four and six from Kyle Bowen forced Jackomas to burn his first at 21-17.
Lee had the Hawks second triple to cut the margin back to a single digit, but Flynn Cameron fired straight back. Lual-Acuil and Lee traded two each from the line before Travers beat the buzzer with a triple for a 29-22 quarter-time lead.
AJ Johnson quickly lit up the second term, grabbing his first NBL triple and producing a no-look dime on a Clark slam as the Hawks drew back within two.
Hukporti remained a problem down low, grabbing four from the line, the latter completing a three-point play that re-took a four-point lead.
The Hawks edged back in front on a pair from the stripe to Clark. It was brief, Ian Clark re-injected and finishing a three-point play and following up with a triple.
The Hawks continued to have no answer to Hukporti, who took his tally to 11 for the term with an alley-oop slam that pushed the margin to seven and saw Jackomas call time.
Robinson and Lee had quick threes on the resumption, Vickerman having none of it with his second timeout. It didn't stop the raining threes, Clark grabbing another in transition to out the Hawks up two.
Quiet to that point, Goulding ignited inside the final 90 seconds, grabbing his first triple and backing in another off the glass with a foul from Grida. The four-point play gave United an eight point cushion on a 9-2 run at the break.
The Hawks went 7-2 to start the third, but United made the running from there, kicking clear by double digits for the first time on a deep three from Ian Clark.
Jackomas' timeout did nothing to halt the momentum, the Hawks scoreless on the resumption and going 0-9 into into three-quarter-time as United kicked clear by 14 with a term to go.
Goulding and Ili had threes to start the fourth with the lead ballooning to 19 before Jackomas burned another timeout.
The hosts went 7-0 out of the stoppage, but could never bring the margin back to single digits.
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