36ers down Hawks to end NBL losing streak

The Adelaide 36ers have survived a massive third-quarter scare to steamroll the Illawarra Hawks 84-72 and break their five-match losing streak.

Back at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre after 46 days of struggle on the road, the Sixers saw their 14-point halftime lead disintegrate amid a furious five-minute Hawks surge before regrouping in style.

Captain Daniel Johnson (26 points, 15 rebounds) spearheaded the early assault and the fightback, supported by Josh Giddey (13 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists), who enjoyed a fruitful return from an ankle injury.

"We had a lot better energy except for that third (term)," Adelaide coach Conner Henry said.

"Our defence was a lot tighter, we communicated better and we rebounded the ball, which has been our big issue throughout the year."

Import Justinian Jessup (17 points) overcame a scoreless opening term and an ankle scare to keep the visitors in the contest, while Emmett Naar (16 points) found his range for the Hawks, who dropped out of the top four for the first time this season.

Adelaide turned a handy 21-17 quarter-time edge into a formidable 46-32 halftime advantage, largely thanks to Giddey's playmaking and Johnson's rebounding and a purple patch from maligned forward Keanu Pinder, who followed a neat tip-jam with an acrobatic swat of Sam Froling.

The Hawks came out from the break breathing fire, pinching the lead with a 20-3 momentum-swinging explosion.

Adelaide snapped out of their funk and recaptured the lead, 59-56 at three-quarter-time.

Sunday Dech, Giddey, Brandon Paul and bench sparkplug Jack McVeigh fired from the perimeter in the final stanza, which Adelaide dominated 25-16.

Coach Brian Goorjian admitted his undermanned Hawks, without injured star duo Tyler Harvey and Cam Bairstow, ran out of gas.

"We did a really good job in that second half but with four minutes to go in that third quarter the group was gassed and worn out," Goorjian said.

"In the fourth quarter they had fresh bodies; we didn't.

"It's going to be a tough time until we get those two (Harvey and Bairstow) back.

"We've just got to keep our head up and keep throwing punches."