Illawarra Hawks import Tyler Harvey has sealed an 84-83 upset defeat of the Cairns Taipans with a clutch three-pointer in the final seconds at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Staring down the possibility of a 1-5 start to the NBL season, last year’s wooden spooners looked intent on staging an ambush on Thursday night as captain Sam Froling fired early.
But the Taipans chased down a 13-point lead and edged in front in the final quarter, with Patrick Miller (24 points, seven assists) leading the charge.
Miller’s jump shot in the final 10 seconds gave the Taipans a two-point lead that looked as though it could have been match-winning.
But the Hawks belted down the court and the ball found itself in Harvey’s hands for their final roll of the dice.
His deep three swished through the net with one second remaining, sending the home crowd into raptures and improving the Hawks to 2-4.
“I turned around to my assistants and I said, ‘That’s why we have him (Harvey)’,” said Hawks coach Jacob Jackomas.
“It’s good that people can be reminded how special he is at the end of the clock.
“In that space, he always gives us a chance.”
The Taipans are now 2-2 to start the season, having also dropped their two games against NBA sides as part of that league’s pre-season.
“It’s a tall order to expect us to win if we keep giving up second-chance points,” said Taipans coach Adam Forde.
“I don’t want to discredit Illawarra (but) during the game, I felt like we were better-equipped to close it out, but we didn’t and Illawarra did. It’s the one that got away.”
Nine first-quarter points from Froling helped the Hawks to a nine-point lead at the first change.
Froling (16 points, 13 rebounds) had his double-double with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But Cairns did a better job at targeting him later on, keeping the rangy centre scoreless in the second half.
“He had a great game,” Jackomas said.
Import Justin Robinson, who had struggled from the field to begin the season, hit a three that forced a timeout and restored a game-high 13-point lead in the third quarter.
But lapses in concentration threatened to cost the Hawks.
They invited Cairns back into the game by shooting only one of their last nine attempts from the field in the third quarter, having gone almost four minutes without scoring from the field in the second.
After the break, a free-throw from Sam Waardenburg tied things up, one of nine occasions in the final quarter alone that scores were level.
It took Harvey’s moment of magic to split the sides late.
“I’m really happy for the guys,” Jackomas said.
“It is a bit of a relief, but we need to move on into being a basketball team now, not the team that’s relieved to win.
“I’m really confident in these guys.”
Cheatham injured as 36ers upset Breakers
The New Zealand Breakers face a nervous wait after losing import Zylan Cheatham to a leg injury in the 97-85 upset loss to the Adelaide 36ers.
Without a hand being laid on him, ex-NBA forward Cheatham pulled up sore changing direction early in the fourth quarter at Auckland’s Spark Arena on Thursday night.
Cheatham was unable to put weight on his right leg as Breakers staff helped him from the floor.
He played no further part in the match, but there was no immediate update on his condition after full-time.
“It’s too early. We’ll pray for good news,” said Breakers coach Mody Maor.
Any long-term injury would be troublesome for last season’s runners-up, who have begun the campaign with only one win from four games.
Cheatham’s injury proved a turning point. The Breakers had maintained a slim lead for most of the night as Cheatham (17 points, eight rebounds) combined with guard Will McDowell-White to strong effect.
But the Sixers went on a 10-0 run straight after the American went off, then moved in front for the first time since the opening quarter.
Sunday Dech nailed a three-pointer to give what was then the 36ers’ biggest lead of the day (seven points).
They never again trailed, clinching the final quarter 27-14.
“Zylan’s a focal point for us in everything that we do, he’s also one of our leaders, one of our best competitors,” Maor said.
“To see him go down like this, I think deflated us.
“New team, new people, new leaders, these are the kinds of things that we need to learn to deal with.”
The 36ers, tipped as possible wooden spooners in the pre-season, have now won three of their past four games.
Mid-season recruit Dejan Vasiljevic (24 points, five assists) took centre stage for the Sixers after Cheatham went off.
The two-time NBL champion sank his 200th three-pointer in the first half and hit three more in the fourth quarter as the Sixers broke away.
“He’s a tough SOB,” 36ers coach CJ Bruton said.
“When it comes down to it, from the juniors, to the seniors, to the pros, that’s who he is and he carries that. He’s got respect from everyone, not only our team, but the league.”
Sixers big man Isaac Humphries, who starred in an upset defeat of Perth last game, had been instrumental earlier on.
The centre (17 points, 11 rebounds) used his size advantage to dominate the paint and help Adelaide remain in the game, despite giving up 10 first-half turnovers as a team. They finished with a staggering 23.
The Breakers were left to rue wayward free-throw shooting (12 from 20 attempts), which meant they were never able to open up a double-digit lead.
Former Golden State Warriors forward Anthony Lamb (25 points) is acclimatising quickly to the NBL, though the Breakers recruit had too little help as he notched nine fourth-quarter points.