Hawks face tough task toppling Tassie

KICKING off the weekend’s action in the National Basketball League is a clash between the Tasmania JackJumpers and the Illawarra Hawks at MyState Bank Arena on Thursday night.

The game marks the start of the third round of the 2023/24 NBL season, which has delivered plenty of entertainment to date so far. There have been upsets, comebacks and standout individual performances on a weekly basis, as the league grows on the world stage.

Thursday’s game brings plenty of intrigue, especially after last weekend’s results, which changed the outlook for both teams.

The JackJumpers defeated two heavyweights of the competition in Round 2, and announced themselves as one of, if not the favourite of the competition in the early stages of the season. It was as emphatic a weekend as any side has had over the first fortnight, and showed what the league’s newest side can do with the tools at its disposal.

With head coach Scott Roth leading the way Tasmania, produced a stirring comeback against Melbourne United at John Cain Arena on the final day of the second round. Roth made some crucial changes to the lineup and the team’s strategy down the stretch, having a huge say in the result of the game, and will likely have a big influence on Thursday.

Another big factor in Tasmania’s success in that game was the performance of star guard Milton Doyle, who stepped up with one of the most clutch performances of the season. The All-NBL Team recipient scored 12 points in six minutes to help produce a 13-point comeback for the JackJumpers, and appears in peak form at the moment.

The Hawks also had a notable win during the second round of the season, knocking off the in-form South East Melbourne Phoenix at WIN Entertainment Centre on Saturday evening. The Phoenix were coming off a big win over the Wildcats in Round 1, while the Hawks were yet to find their breakthrough victory to start the fixture.

However, Illawarra produced a magnificent performance on the offensive end, hitting triple-figures on the scoreboard and holding off South East Melbourne to get on the winners’ list to start the season.

A massive part of that win was the performance of returning import Justin Robinson, who starred for Illawarra and produced one of the performances of the round. One of the Hawks’ biggest problems over the past season has been finding a consistent offensive performer next to Tyler Harvey, and Robinson may answer the call. After missing all of last season, he produced 12 points in the final term en route to 26 for the match along with five rebounds and seven assists, and has a huge part to play against Tasmania.

The Hawks will be facing the vocal crowd at MyState Bank Arena, but this Illawarra side has shown plenty of resilience over the course of the season. With experienced heads such as Harvey and Sam Froling leading the charge, the Hawks will be eager to block out the influence of the crowd with some strong play early in the match.

Thursday’s game looms as a fair indication of where each side is at after a successful round for both, and although Tasmania will enter the game as favourites, the Hawks are more than capable of causing an upset.

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