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Hawks gain edge in battle for NBL second spot

Wed, Feb 1, 1:28pm by Head Editor

With two rounds to go in the regular season, we’re set for the closest race to the finals in the history of the league. Besides the 36ers, no team is guaranteed of finals action with the six teams behind Adelaide all needing to keep winning to stay alive.

The second-placed Illawarra Hawks did just that when they came out on top in a classic top-of-the-table contest against the 36ers last Saturday night to spoil the party of the newly-crowned minor premiers.

Illawarra’s victory was set up by import Rotnei Clarke who finished with 25 points in the 95-92 win at Wollongong’s WIN Entertainment Centre.

Next up, the Hawks are $1.53 for win number 14 of the campaign when they host the Taipans ($2.37) to open the round at the same venue as their triumph over the 36ers.

It’s all set up for a brilliant contest as the Taipans are coming off a big 97-83 win over the Bullets in the Queensland derby. Travis Trice was on fire for the Taipans nailing 5-of-6 three-pointers in his round-high 27 points.

The result meant that the Bullets are the first club that are out of the running for the playoffs – it only took 17 rounds to eliminate a team.

Illawarra must then back it up by travelling to Melbourne on Monday night to face United. The early odds for that game see the hosts as $1.61 favourites after they lost a thriller (73-71) in Perth on Saturday.

That win gave Perth their 12th win of the season and with it gave them a huge chance of snatching a finals position. They are now level with the Taipans with two rounds to go.

The Wildcats are $1.25 to beat the Bullets ($3.50) in the late game on Friday at Perth Arena.

The Sydney Kings had a huge 84-57 win over the Breakers on Sunday that saw them move into third place on the ladder. Greg Whittington finished with 16 points but the visitors did more damage to themselves with 14 first-half turnovers.

The Kings ($1.61) host Melbourne ($2) on Saturday in what is a must-win for both clubs who are separated by two wins but Melbourne have two games in hand.

By Sunday, the ladder could have a vastly difference look to it, ahead of the 3pm tip-off between the Taipans ($1.72) and the Wildcats ($2) in Cairns.

As mentioned, Melbourne ($1.61) close out the round at home on Monday night with a key match against Illawarra ($2.20) at Hisense Arena, which depending on results, could be a virtual elimination final for the hosts.

Suggested Bet: Take the Taipans to beat the Wildcats: $1.72

Round 18:

Illawarra Hawks ($1.53) v Cairns Taipans ($2.37), WIN Entertainment Centre, 7:30pm, Friday 3 February

Perth Wildcats ($1.25) v Brisbane Bullets ($3.50), Perth Arena, 9:30pm, Friday 3 February

Adelaide 36ers ($1.36) v New Zealand Breakers ($2.87), Titanium Security Arena, 5:30pm, Saturday 4 February

Sydney Kings ($1.61) v Melbourne United ($2), Qudos Bank Arena, 7:30pm, Saturday 4 February

Cairns Taipans ($1.72) v Perth Wildcats ($2), Cairns Convention Centre, 3pm, Sunday 5 February

Melbourne United ($1.61) v Illawarra Hawks ($2.20), Hisense Arena, 7:30pm, Monday 6 February

All times are Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time*

Odds were sourced from Sportsbet and were correct at the time of publishing*


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