An impressive offensive performance has helped Melbourne United to a comfortable 113-89 win over the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL's Australian Open game.
With tennis making way for basketball at Melbourne Arena, United came out firing on Wednesday night as they charged to a 28-point lead after three quarters.
The Hawks fought valiantly in the fourth but the defending champions closed out the win to reclaim top spot on the NBL ladder.
Melbourne led by seven points after one quarter then outscored the Hawks 15-7 at the start of the second term to blow out the margin.
Todd Blanchfield (16 first-half points) kept Illawarra in the contest but a crushing 37-17 third quarter from United put paid to any hope of an upset win for the visitors
"It was definitely one of our best quarters for the year," said Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman after outscoring the Hawks by 20 points in the third term.
"I thought we spaced the ball well, moved the ball well ... there was a good mix of fast-break attack, offensive rebounds and we shot the ball well."
Melbourne join the Sydney Kings with a league-best 13-8 record while Illawarra drop to 10-12 with their playoffs chances hanging by a thread.
United shared the scoring load with seven players finishing in double figures, Casper Ware (25 points), DJ Kennedy and Mitch McCarron (17 each) among the best.
Blanchfield was on target against his former club, leading the Hawks with 22 points, but the visitors struggled to find other avenues to the basket.
"We just came up against a team that was way too good for us," Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge said after the loss.
"They had so many uncontested shots but that was through us breaking down defensively and picking us apart.
"I thought Melbourne was outstanding tonight - simple as that."
Melbourne grabbed the early advantage with Kennedy and McCarron setting the tone as they established a 27-20 opening-quarter lead.
United kept rolling in the second, reserve centre Alex Pledger making an impact at both ends of the floor while Chris Goulding recovered from some early misses to land consecutive triples for a 42-27 lead.
The Hawks rallied after a quick-fire 10 points from Blanchfield but Melbourne went into halftime ahead 58-50.
McCarron and David Barlow kick-started United's third-quarter onslaught from the beyond the arc and the Hawks could do little to stop the home side's momentum, Pledger's late lay-up giving them an unassailable 95-67 advantage with one quarter to play.
United travel to Adelaide on Monday for a crunch match against the Sixers while Illawarra host Cairns on Saturday as they look to keep their top-four hopes alive.