Illawarra Hawks down Taipans to keep finals hopes alive

The Illawarra Hawks remain in the running for a top four finish after their convincing 88-78 home win over the Cairns Taipans.

American guard Rotnei Clarke (20 points) and Australian Boomers forward Nick Kay (17) were on Sunday prominent for the Hawks, who claimed their 10th victory to keep hold of fifth spot.

Illawarra are three wins behind New Zealand and four behind reigning champions Perth with six games of the regular season remaining.

Melbourne United are on top of the table with a 16-7 win-loss record, while Adelaide (15-9) are second after Saturday's surprise loss to Brisbane.

The Hawks led from start to finish and were up by as many as 22 in the second half before the Taipans mounted a late revival to make the score respectable.

"For 75 per cent of the game we were very good, we were in complete control," Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said.

"In the last part of that fourth quarter we went away from our press-breaker rules and they pressured us and we gave them half a sniff.

"It's been one of the toughest seasons I've ever been involved with but I feel good that we're getting our full team back together with six games to go."

Cairns are now at 10-15 for the season and effectively out of finals contention.

Paced by six points apiece from Kay and Clarke, the Hawks started strongly to build an early lead.

The home team knocked down an impressive 60 per cent of their shots in the first period, while the Taipans made just 28 per cent and fell to 23-15 at quarter-time.

By halftime, Illawarra had a comfortable 47-32 lead, with Clarke (13 points) and Kay (12) the main scorers.

The Hawks pushed the margin to 22 in the third quarter and were never seriously threatened in the fourth period despite the Taipans cutting the deficit to six with a minute left.

"The guys are battling and working hard and it was a couple of shots away from being a real contest down the stretch," Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said.

"They got going early on and we were really poor defensively. We gave up too many lay-ups instead of making them take contested jumpers.

"We haven't shot the ball great all year. We just don't have the ability to make them this season and it makes it tough if you don't shoot the ball well."

Illawarra host New Zealand on Friday night and the Taipans are at home against Sydney on Saturday.