Illawarra has slumped to its 18th loss in its last 19 road games, with yet another late-game fade seeing a heavily undermanned Taipans overcome a halftime deficit to claim an 81-71 win.
The Hawks led by four at quarter-time, and took a five-point cushion into halftime only for a fourth-quarter capitulation to see Jacob Jackomas' side slump to 2-7 on the campaign heading into a tough road swing that will amp up the pressure on the second-year coach.
In one of the bigger calls of his young coaching career, Jackomas opted to bench skipper Tyler Harvey for the first time in his Hawks career, with the move seeming to bear early fruit as the Hawks made the early running.
It ultimately resulted in the Hawks ninth loss in their last 11 games when leading at quarter-time. It begs the question as to where change can come from as the Hawks look to be out of play-in contention just nine games into the season.
The Hawks have not been a trigger-happy franchise when it comes to coaches or players, but - fair or unfair - there's no escaping the 5-32 ledger the club's compiled through his tenure.
It was hard to be critical through an injury-riddled rookie campaign, but there's no question the Hawks boast a roster that should be travelling far better than 2-7. The reality is it's a Harvey buzzer-beater away from being 1-8.
Saturday's was a grafting clash, but the Taipans were heavily undermanned, with Next Star Bobi Klintman and point-guard Patrick Miller both unavailable, and were still able to notch a double-digit win.
The Hawks have a seven-day turnaround into a Sunday clash with the Breakers in New Zealand next weekend ahead of road trip to Brisbane seven days later. Should they fall to 2-9, some touch conversations may start to be had.
For his part, Jackomas said it doesn't help his playing group for him to have that on his mind.
"It's basketball, if the players start to see me worry about things that aren't basketball, it's over anyway," Jackomas said.
"There's some things that were good, there were some things that were bad. We're playing on the road and this and that. We need to be hungrier, there's a lot of other words you can use other than panic."
Let's face it, Jackomas had to try something given the recent run of outs and revealed post-game that it was actually his skipper who made the selfless suggestion that shift to the second unit.
In the end he coughed up the first of four turnovers on his first possession for an easy bucket for Tahjere McCall, and went 5-17 for his 12 points in 27 minutes on the floor.
It remains to be seen if it's a one-off but, with a long preparation heading in to the Hawks next outing, Jackomas said it's something he'll look at more closely in the debrief.
"Tyler's been one of our main pieces for a while and we were talking between a couple of us [about] what to do and, at the end of it, there was a couple of options and he said 'well, let me do this and let's have a look at it'," Jackomas said.
"It was about letting Tyler play free spirited, because that's where he's at his best, and maybe taking one guy out of [the starting line-up], whoever it is, and letting the other guys be the focal point. Then that other guy, with the second group, can be the focal point. That was the main idea.
"Did it go all to plan, obviously not because of the result, but I'd have to really go back to it, sit and think about it to see if it's worthwhile to keep doing. We're playing game by game, but we've got to give something a chance.
"Just because it didn't work today doesn't mean it isn't something that we should keep doing."
Getting noted scorer Harvey off the floor appeared aimed at getting Sam Froling more looks early, with the co-skipper grabbing seven of his team's first 12 points. He had 14 points and seven boards at the half but finished with just 18 and 10.
It was still a stellar performance from the skipper, but callers Pete Hooley and Damon Lowery repeatedly stated what many were thinking as he struggled to get a touch through the second and third terms.
His first field goal attempt came six minutes into second quarter after which he followed up and then drained a three-pointer on the halftime buzzer. The star big-man's only look in the third came off an offensive board and was 1-3 in the fourth term.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more selfless player, but the Hawks could do worse than making him the focal point of the offense alongside fellow big Gary Clark, who finished with 19 points.
"Both [Froling] and Gary, when you look up at the scoreboard, they were our two leading scorers and when I do look back at it, I'm sure I'm going look at [and see] for multiple possessions they didn't touch it," Jackomas said.
"Then we spoke about when Gary got it down there eventually, he got the offensive foul because he hasn't touched it in so long, he sort of wants to go with it. I'm sure we'll find some things with Sam the same.
"I don't know if we have to go in there all the time, but we definitely have to, in everything that we do offensively, have a better balance of perimeter, driving and then post touches.
"It was being said and we just fell out of it for a couple of possessions in a row and I thought that was a time where we could have really kicked on."
While benching Harvey was notable, it was part of a dramatically low early rotation from Jackomas, who used just eight players though the best part of two quarters.
Jackomas has been criticised for making too many rapid changes early in games, but getting just 26 minutes and four points out of his second unit outside of Harvey looked to take a toll late.
The Taipans went into the clash without Klintman and Miller but managed to take the Hawks into the trenches.
They were 5-12 from deep, 14-23 from the line, coughed up 14 turnovers and still found a path to victory. Of all the Snakes in double digits, McCall (16) Sam Waardenburg (15) and the outstanding Bul Kuol (19), none shot at better than 50 per cent from the field.
It wasn't pretty, but they grafted a way to victory. The other conclusion: it's one the Hawks should have won.
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