Hawks smash Kings in big NBL Cup victory

Illawarra have ended any hopes the Sydney Kings held of winning the NBL Cup after a comprehensive 89-69 victory over their intrastate rivals.

The Hawks returned to form by smashing their NSW foes in the second half of Thursday's clash at John Cain Arena and consolidating their position in the NBL's top four.

The Kings needed a victory in order to remain in contention for the NBL Cup but last season's grand finalists imploded after halftime, the Hawks blowing them off the court with a 25-8 third-quarter charge.

Second-year forward Sam Froling dominated down low to finish with a season-high 20 points, while Tyler Harvey (17) and Justinian Jessup (15) each landed three triples.

The Hawks followed coach Brian Goorjian's halftime instructions to the letter, pressuring Sydney's perimeter shooters and preventing undisciplined fouls to break the game open.

"We talked a lot at halftime about (Sydney) being the best third-quarter team in the competition - they come out at the start of the third quarter and really get after it," Goorjian said.

"The guys got a few stops early and got excited about the defence, you could see it - that's what turned the game around."

Import forward Jarell Martin made his return after missing six games due to a knee injury but that was the only bright spot on a sour night for the Kings, Dejan Vasiljevic (12) the only player to reach double figures.

Sydney coach Adam Forde was disappointed with the outcome but focused on trying to move forward as the Kings dropped to 6-8 for the season.

"In a 36-game season ... there's a small percentage of games where everything goes against you and everything goes for them," Forde said.

"I'm not downplaying how good Illawarra was but we were missing layups, we missed 11 foul shots ... Illawarra is hitting everything and we're human, it's disheartening."

Martin marked his return to action with Sydney's opening two baskets but Illawarra made their move as Jessup nailed a triple to cap a 17-7 start.

The Kings looked to their leading scorers for inspiration, Vasiljevic and Casper Ware each delivering from long range to ensure the teams closed the first quarter tied at 24-24.

The Hawks showed flashes of their deadly transition game in the second period but a nice cameo from reserve forward Thomas Vodanovic helped Sydney restrict the Illawarra lead to 45-44 by halftime.

But Harvey opened the third quarter with a three-pointer and the Hawks took control of the contest to surge ahead 70-52, the defence holding the Kings to three made field goals for the term.

Illawarra finished the job early in the final quarter when Justin Simon fired in seven quick points to hand his side a 25-point lead.