Kings top Hawks to stay in NBL finals race

·2-min read

The Sydney Kings have kept their playoff dreams alive for at least 48 hours after surviving a 79-73 scare from a Tyler Harvey-less Illawarra Hawks side in Wollongong.

The Kings entered the contest needing to win their final two games of the regular season to have any chance of sneaking past South-East Melbourne Phoenix into the fourth and final playoffs spot.

Their chances received an enormous boost when, with his side already qualified for the playoffs, Hawks coach Brian Goorjian pulled Harvey from the game just before tip-off.

Illawarra, who are undefeated when Harvey scores at least 25 points, showed plenty of tenacity in going toe-to-toe with their long-time state rivals.

However, led by double-doubles from twin big men Jarell Martin (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Xavier Cooks (19 points, 10 rebounds), the Kings joined South-East Melbourne on 18 wins.

The Phoenix need to win just one of their two games in this weekend's final round - against either the New Zealand Breakers on Saturday or the Brisbane Bullets on Tuesday - to seal their berth.

Sydney face Brisbane in the latter game on Saturday, meaning their fate could be decided before they step onto the court for what could be departing coach Adam Forde's final game in charge.

"Is that going to change how the guys are going to perform? No, because it's the last game of the season," Forde said.

"We want to finish on a high note, a winning record, and getting head to head on Brisbane too."

Tyler had been named to start pre-game but was a shock observer at tip-off, and the Kings took full advantage by jumping out to a 20-9 run to start the game.

The Hawks found some energy from their bench to find their groove and steal the lead in the second period, staying within seven at the main break.

The home side threatened to pull off an upset the longer they traded blows with the visitors in the second half, however they simply didn't have the firepower they needed to steal the win.

Goorjian made no apologies for sitting Harvey, the league's third leading scorer, as well as reducing the minutes of starters Justin Simon and AJ Ogilvy.

"It's like our fourth game in eight days, (and there were) danger signs there for a guy like Harvey, carrying a Bryce Cotton load," he said.

"To get through tonight and get Justin, get Ogilvy some rest, take Harvey off the floor and still be competitive ... we got everything we wanted out of that game.

"Obviously it would've been great to win. Where we are physically, we got this period of time now to get ready for this first game.

"Ticked a lot of boxes tonight other than losing to your arch-rival."

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