Sydney Kings hold off fiery Hawks in NBL

The Sydney Kings have survived a scare from intra-state foes Illawarra Hawks to notch a 84-79 win and all but guarantee automatic qualification for the NBL semi-finals.

The Kings' sixth win on end also marked the first time since 2007-08 that they have defeated their traditional rivals in every game of a regular season.

But spirited performances from Tyler Harvey (24 points) and Sam Froling (14 points, nine rebounds) had the last-placed Hawks in the game up to their necks and threatening to pull off the upset of the season against the ladder leaders at Qudos Bank Arena.

With the game on the line late, Derrick Walton Jr's precision from the free-throw line and some solid team defence was enough to get the Kings over the line for a scrappy win.

"There are a lot of things we'll need to clean up," Kings coach Chase Buford said.

"I'm not taking a bunch of pride in beating a team that's missing two imports and has got 21 losses on the year. I think we just need to be better."

Illawarra led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter and did a great job on Sydney's danger man Xavier Cooks, who had only two field goal attempts for the half.

"I don't want to discredit Illawarra but I think Xav got in his own way a lot tonight," Buford said.

Kings substitute Kouat Noi nailed a corner three on the stroke of halftime to level the scores at 37-all and become the Kings' leading scorer for the half with just eight points.

A 10-0 run early in the third quarter gave the Kings the lead for the first time since the first quarter as Sydney figured out if they stopped Harvey and Froling, they'd go a long way to stopping the Hawks.

Froling and Harvey had six field-goal attempts between them in the third period and just after the final change, the Kings opened up their first double-digit lead of the game.

But the Hawks refused to lie down.

A Harvey three-pointer from directly in front levelled the scores but Derrick Walton Jr (19 points, seven assists) made two free-throw attempts to restore the Kings' lead with 59 seconds to play.

When Cooks turned the ball over in the final 30 seconds, the Hawks had a chance to win the game, but the Sydney star belted up field and slapped Harvey's lay-up attempt away.

Two more Walton baskets from the charity stripe were enough to confirm a hard-fought victory.

Hawks coach Jacob Jackomas said his players could hold their heads high after back-to-back tight losses to the top two sides.

"Our record is disappointing, our injuries are disappointing," Jackomas said.

"(But) the way we're playing isn't disappointing.

"I'm not going to be frustrated with them. By no means. I'm going to teach them, I'm going to grow with them."

As long as they win three of their last six games, the Kings will finish the season in the top two, meaning they'll automatically qualify for the semi-finals under the NBL's new play-offs structure.