Illawarra Hawks coach Ron Beveridge has wasted no time in trying to heap pressure on Adelaide 36ers after his team sent their NBL semi-final series to a game three decider.
The Hawks kept their championship hopes alive with a nail-biting 100-94 home victory over the 36ers in game two on Sunday, setting up an all-or-nothing clash in Adelaide on Thursday night.
“We respect them but there’s no fear,” Beveridge said of minor premiers Adelaide. “All the pressure is on them.
“They’re the number one team and they’ll be on their home court, so all the expectation is on them to win.”
The series has had an intense and physical edge ever since 36ers star import Jerome Randle described the Hawks as a dirty team on the eve of game one.
Beveridge’s post-match comments showed there was still plenty of feeling.
“They wanted to finish the series on our court and rub it in our faces and we didn’t let them,” he said.
“We know we have to go over to Adelaide and go to another level and be even better than we were tonight.
Beaten 93-78 by the 36ers in game one, the Hawks held their nerve in a high-pressure final quarter.
Guard Mitch Norton rose to the occasion with a season-high 17 points and forward Tim Coenraad had 17 in a strong performance off the bench.
Adelaide front-court duo Daniel Johnson and Eric Jacobsen combined for 29 points, while recently-crowned NBL MVP Randle scored a game-high 20 points for the Sixers but made just 8-22 shots and had five turnovers.
The Hawks led by five at half-time and took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter where the lead chaged several times.
“We had some opportunities out there when it was a tied ball game,” Sixers coach Joey Wright said.
“A few possessions weren’t real clean and we got a bit stagnant.
“It was a great game. If we’d just done one or two things different we’re talking a different game.
“There’s not many adjustments [needed) at this point. We know what they’re running, they know what we’re running. We’ll just come out and see what happens.”