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GAME REPORT

Hawks Unleash Firepower on Bullets

The Illawarra Hawks flexed their muscles once more to further consolidate their place inside the NBL's top four with a comprehensive 108-77 win against the Brisbane Bullets on Saturday evening.

The Hawks came into Nissan Arena in hot form having won five straight while welcoming back superstar guard Tyler Harvey, but the Bullets were coming off a win themselves and were out to play spoilers.

Illawarra didn’t take long to ensure that didn’t happen, though racing to a 13-4 advantage. By quarter-time their lead was out to 32-15 and they were rolling.

When Duop Reath warmed up in the second quarter too, the Hawks lead ballooned out to 21 points, but to the Bullets' credit they got it back to 15 at the half.

Brisbane could never get back closer than 13 during the second half, though, with the Hawks cruising to the 31-point win in the finish on the back of another 25 points in the fourth quarter.

It gives the Hawks six straight wins to improve to 17-8 on the season as they try to chase down a top two finish over the final two rounds. 

The Hawks produced their highest score of the season in the win with Duop Reath a dominant force with 28 points and 11 rebounds on a stunning 13/15 shooting.

Tyler Harvey marked his return with 18 points and six assists while Antonius Cleveland had another 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian was happy with the performance as you would be to win by 31, but the defensive effort to limit Jason Cadee and Lamar Patterson to a combined six points on 2/17 shooting had him happiest.

"I was happy with both ends. If you said things to get better at, I just thought we got a little sloppy with the ball, we got in foul trouble in the second quarter with a lot of time left and we had little passages at the end of the second quarter, and the end of the third when we were sloppy with the ball," Goorjian said.

"I know we won the game by 30 but it's just trying to get ready for what's ahead and getting better. The other aspects to the game, match up on Patterson and match up on Cadee, we saw them as huge and to hold Patterson to three points and Cadee to three points, that virtually puts them in a situation where they're not going to win. The guys did a really good job there."

It was a tough night for the Bullets as they slip to 9-16 on the season with Robert Franks top-scoring with 19 points and five rebounds. Tom Digbeu continued his season best run of form with another 14 points, six assists and two steals.

Bullets coach James Duncan once again lamented another slow start.

"It does feel like Groundhog Day and it's a message that we've been putting forth throughout the whole season. Obviously our group hasn’t been able to take that message and execute that message to be better in that situation to start games," Duncan said.

"We turned up our defensive intent and purpose and pressure and physicality and rebounding there to get back into the game, and I think if you look at the top defensive teams in the league which is Melbourne, Sydney, Tassie, Illawarra and Perth, they're competing for those four playoff spots.

"This is the message that I said at the beginning of the season that defensive teams get into the playoffs and they are consistent, and they invest in that. When you're investing in that you reap the rewards and we have not done that."

The signs were ominous early with the Hawks racing out a 7-2 lead with Antonius Cleveland bringing the energy and Sam Froling converting a three-point play. It didn’t get much better for the Bullets with the Hawks soon leading 13-4 and then the last four points of the term saw them up 32-15.

Duop Reath was then warming nicely after a quiet last up outing against the Bullets with six quick points early in the second period with Illawarra's lead growing to 21.

Brisbane showed some life late in the half starting through Chuanxing Liu before four points from Tom Digbeu as part of an 8-0 run, but still the Hawks led 54-39 going into half-time.

The Bullets started the second half well with six straight points to close the deficit to 10, but that would be as close as they got. Illawarra went on two separate 6-0 runs to be back up 20 with Cleveland bringing the energy once more.

The Hawks scored another nine straight points to lead by 24 at three quarter-time before cruising to the 31-point victory.

The Bullets are next up on Monday night in Adelaide against the 36ers while the Hawks now prepare for a monster clash with the Sydney Kings in Wollongong.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 19

BRISBANE BULLETS 77 (Franks 19, Digbeu 14, Drmic 11)

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 108 (Reath 28, Harvey 18, Cleveland 18) 

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