Illawarra Hawks tame Cairns Taipans, stay in NBL finals race

Illawarra have survived a second-half meltdown to escape with an 82-81 NBL win over Cairns in Canberra.

Leading by 18 points midway through the second quarter at the AIS Arena, the Hawks fell behind by four in the second half before getting out of jail with some clutch plays in the final period - none bigger than Illawarra guard Jordair Jett's block of DJ Newbill's potential game-winner in the dying seconds.

The Hawks claimed their 11th win of the season and kept the pressure on fourth-placed Brisbane (12-10) and fifth-placed Adelaide (12-11) with five games remaining.

Brian Conklin top-scored for Illawarra with 15 points, while Todd Blanchfield and David Andersen chipped in 11 apiece.

American guard Melo Trimble continued his recent hot form with a game-high 24 points for the Taipans.

The round-15 clash was a home game for Illawarra and was the first NBL match to be played in the ACT since 2008 when the Sydney Spirit faced the Adelaide 36ers.

Illawarra charged out of the blocks to an 11-0 lead, keeping the Taipans scoreless for almost four minutes.

Cedric Jackson was the main spark with 10 first-quarter points, as the Hawks took a 34-22 lead into the second period.

Cairns would've been in a deeper hole if not for the dynamic Trimble's 12 points. Illawarra led by as many as 18 in the second quarter, but Trimble added six to his tally, as the Taipans trimmed the deficit to nine at halftime.

An inspired Newbill kept Cairns on the comeback trail with 10 third-quarter points and scores were locked at 66-66 heading into the final quarter.

Cairns forged ahead again but the Hawks fought back to lead by five and held on down the stretch for a heartstopping win.