STORY OF THE WEEK
"Ugly game but the home team took care of home."
Shakespeare it wasn't but Fox Sports commentator Corey Williams couldn't have given a better description of Melbourne United's gritty 75-72 win over 2018 Finals protagonist Adelaide.
The Sunday afternoon match-up at Melbourne Arena promised much, and while it didn't deliver high-octane scoring, it more than made up for it with physicality and sheer intensity from two teams who somehow have both a healthy respect and mutual dislike for each other.
In a see-sawing game, United veteran Dave Barlow provided the go-ahead triple with 72 seconds remaining after Adelaide led 72-70 with 2.13 to go in the fourth quarter but did not score again.
36ers stars Nathan Sobey and import playmaker Adris Deleon both missed three-point attempts that would have sent the game to a fifth period as United barely held on for its second win of the season.
As far as early season matchups go, it was an ideal Round 2 encounter, a title rematch between two teams who both have designs on another championship tilt in 2019.
With such intensity from the tip-off it was little wonder both squads never really set the scoreboard alight, with United and the 36ers combining to misfire on 85 of the 142 shots they attempted.
And while it was never pretty, neither team was prepared to give an inch, leading to an incident early in the fourth quarter that left United guard Chris Goulding with blurred vision after an errant Anthony Drmic elbow caught the Melbourne star in the head as they both battled for a loose ball.
It will no doubt catch the attention of the league office, as will the late non-call that saw Casper Ware venture into the backcourt to receive an inbounds pass with 4.5 seconds remaining, allowing the United star to elude any Adelaide player looking to foul and stop the clock.
United coach Dean Vickerman acknowledged post-game his team had dodged a bullet with the no-call, at the same time admitting Melbourne needed to improve its decision-making, especially in late-game situations.
Meanwhile, no AJ Ogilvy? No Kevin White? No problem!
In a stunning turnaround, the short-handed Illawarra Hawks bounced back from a disastrous opening round to upend the Cairns Taipans at the Cairns Convention Centre on Sunday.
For the best part of two decades the Snakes have been nigh-on unbeatable in their home openers, winning their past 17.
Indeed, Illawarra hadn't tasted victory in Cairns in its past eight attempts, with 2014 the last time the Hawks headed home with a W.
Hawks breaks Cairns hoodoo
The Illawarra Hawks have downed Cairns in their first win after eight straight losses in Far North Queensland.
To make their prospects even more gloomy, Illawarra headed to far north Queensland without key duo AJ Ogilvy and Kevin White, and were coming off the back of an opening round that featured an epic defeat and an epic thrashing at the hands of Melbourne United and Perth respectively.
And yet none of that mattered a whit to the Hawks, who behind Todd Blanchfield's career-high 32 points, including seven splashes from international waters, pushed hard all game to come out convincing 104-93 winners.
To further illustrate the rarity of the Hawks' win, it was the first time a team had scored 100+ points in a non-overtime game in Cairns since 2009.
With Blanchfield's backcourt running mate Jordair Jett adding 22 points and six assists, and Brian Conklin contributing a well-rounded 21-point, six-rebound, four-assist performance, Illawarra withstood a combined 50 points from Taipans import duo Melo Trimble (28) and DJ Newbill (22).
It was a win of tremendous character, one that not only ensured no team ended Round 2 without having tasted victory, but one that may have even saved the Hawks season before it has even barely begun.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Todd Blanchfield (ILL) - If ever there was a backs-to-the-wall win, the Illawarra Hawks got one with a stirring triumph on the road against Cairns. And the architect was Blanchfield, who detonated a 32-point bomb on the hosts, a career-high performance that was all the more meritorious given the Hawks were without key players AJ Ogilvy and Kevin White.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
G: Todd Blanchfield (ILL) - See above
G: Nathan Sobey (ADL) - Sobey is doing it all for the 36ers right now. The livewire guard averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4 rebounds over a two-game split against Sydney and Melbourne.
G: Bryce Cotton (PER) - The reigning MVP has shown no signs of slowing down in his sophomore campaign, dropping 28 points, 4 assists and three rebounds on the Brisbane Bullets in a comfortable 88-73 win at RAC Arena.
F: Josh Boone (MEL) - Last year Boone was the bedrock of United's successful championship tilt and 2018-19 is looking little different. In a 75-72 arm-wrestle, Boone's 15 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists (including the pass to Dave Barlow's go-ahead triple) and 3 blocked shots were a critical factor against the 36ers.
C: Andrew Bogut (SYD) - It's only Round 2 and somehow it seems apropos to say Sydney finally tasted victory, such has been the level of expectation thrust upon centre Andrew Bogut and his fellow Kings. Bogut enjoyed a solid weekend, averaging 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 blocks over a two-game split as the Kings put New Zealand to the sword in Sydney's highest-ever win over the Breakers, a 101-78 smackdown at Spark Arena.
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO
A seven-game slate for Round 3 has some mouth-watering contests, with perennial contenders Perth hosting reigning champs Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. United then heads home to take on Illawarra next Monday night in a rematch of their pulsating four-overtime epic in Round 1.