We saw the headlines shouting that the Illawarra Hawks had produced the boilover of the 2019 -2020 NBL season and immediately assumed that LaMelo Ball had returned from his injury to prove conclusively that he deserves to be the No. 1 draft choice in the NBA’s June draft.
Ball is still sidelined and even when he was playing; his efforts seldom resulted in any victories for the team claiming the bottom rung of the NBL’s nine-rung ladder.
The Hawks, winners of fewer games than league leading Sydney Kings have lost, had their finest moment of the season when they beat Sydney 85 – 80 in Wollongong on New Year’s Eve.
Former NBA centre Josh Boone had his highest point output of the season, 21 points.
The game seemed like business as usual for the Kings, but their shooters went cold in the fourth quarter and the Hawks went on an 18 – 5 run to take the lead.
Sydney had an opportunity to steal the game at the death, down by two, when Casper Ware missed from long range. They had no choice but to foul a Hawk, in this case Emmett Naar, who put the game away with three free throws.
The loss for Sydney threatens to take them from the top of the ladder to be replaced by Perth Wildcats.
The two clubs have identical won/loss records and the only separation is the advantage Sydney enjoys in difference.
As the season moves into a new year, the NBL competition looks like a two-team race led by Sydney and Perth, followed by the rest, but results that allow for a last place club to beat a first place club simply points to the reasons they play the games in the first place.
The Hawks’ win also revealed the Achilles heel of the Kings. They are the second-worst team in the league from three-point range, something that bodes ill for a club in the current era of basketball.