Melbourne United hold off Illawarra Hawks in another thriller

Defending NBL champions Melbourne United have held on for a tough 99-93 victory over the Illawarra Hawks on Monday night.

Looking to bounce back from Saturday's double-overtime loss to the Perth Wildcats, United came out firing at Melbourne Arena to lead by 19 points before surviving a gritty Illawarra comeback in the second half.

These two teams featured in a quadruple-overtime classic in their season opener and this meeting looked destined for another memorable finish with United clinging to a 91-88 lead with two minutes remaining.

But point guard Casper Ware gave Melbourne some breathing space with a mid-range jump shot and the home side held their nerve to end the Hawks' two-game winning streak.

Ware sparked United's attack with 11 first-quarter points on his way to a game-high 26, including five three-pointers.

"It's probably one of the first games that we've really established a significant lead like that," United coach Dean Vickerman said.

"There was some good individual talent on our side tonight that made plays when we needed them to make plays."

Veteran David Barlow compiled 17 points to go with seven rebounds with Mitch McCarron adding 14 and import DJ Kennedy 13.

With captain Chris Goulding sidelined after jarring his knee against Perth, United stepped up from the perimeter with 12 three-pointers in the first three quarters.

Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge was left frustrated after another slow start from his squad, labelling their first half as "disgusting".

"I'm sick of starting slow like this then coming home with a wet sail," Beveridge said.

"When you are playing these good teams, you can't win that way."

Forward Brian Conklin led the Hawks with 24 points with Cedric Jackson and AJ Ogilvy each adding 15.

The result lifts United (3-2) into second spot on the NBL ladder after three rounds.

Ware kicked off the night with a pair of three-pointers in United's 10-2 start then added a third from long range to trigger a run of 15 unanswered points, Barlow and McCarron also hitting from distance.

United extended their 13-point advantage in the second quarter with Craig Moller's three-point play pushing the lead out to 42-20.

But the Hawks slowed Melbourne's momentum with David Andersen's late triple reducing the margin to 56-39.

Ogilvy stepped up at the start of the third quarter as the Hawks reeled off nine straight points but the home side launched another long-range assault with seven triples on the way to an 82-72 edge heading into the final quarter.

Rookie Emmett Naar opened the final term with a three-pointer and Tim Coenraad followed suit to leave the Hawks within striking distance before United closed out the result in the final minutes.