Breakers' ice-cold last quarter seals loss to Hawks, all but ending NBL playoff hopes

Behind Tyler Harvey's masterclass, the Illawarra Hawks snapped a three-game losing skid and kept their NBL finals hopes alive after grinding past the New Zealand Breakers 75-67 at the Silverdome in Launceston.

Colton Iverson of the Breakers drives to the basket during the round 12 NBL match between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the New Zealand Breakers. Source: Getty

Star point guard Harvey (29 points, seven steals) enjoyed a blinding first half on Monday night, single-handedly keeping the fifth-placed Hawks in the contest before restamping his authority in a lopsided fourth quarter.

Thanks to Harvey's brilliance and some stifling team defence, Illawarra completely blanketed NZ 23-4 either side of three-quarter-time to transform a 49-55 deficit into a match-winning 72-59 advantage.

"We started a little slow, then our trapping and rotations got more aggressive," Hawks coach Brian Goorjian said.

"From the first quarter-and-a-half on, I thought our defence got better and better.

"The energy, desperation and fight on that end is something I'm really proud of."

Slick southpaw Harvey opened with a triple inside the first 14 seconds and had 21 of his team's 40 points at half-time but it was a lone vigil against a Breakers outfit which started smoothly.

Despite being without import Levi Randolph, who suffered a hamstring tear while hitting the last-second match-winner against Perth on Saturday, NZ opened up a 23-18 quarter-time cushion.

The Webster brothers, Tai and Corey, combined for 20 first-half points and the Breakers moved ahead 38-31 before Harvey inspired a late burst, tying the scores at 40-all with a typically blistering drive on the half-time bell.

Harvey was kept scoreless in the third as Illawarra fell in a six-point hole, which they dug themselves out of to take a slender 58-57 three-quarter-time lead.

The Breakers, tiring while playing their fifth game in 10 days, went ice-cold in the fourth and missed their first nine shots, while Harvey went to work at both ends and finished the match strongly.

The Hawks (13-14) edged within one win of top-four incumbents South East Melbourne and Sydney (both 14-13).

Captain Tom Abercrombie (14 points), Tai Webster (14) and Will McDowell-White (13) were NZ's best.

"In the first half we did struggle with Tyler Harvey," Breakers coach Dan Shamir said.

"Then we struggled offensively with turnovers, shot-making and maybe a bit of fatigue in the second half."

The loss all but ends the Breakers' NBL playoff hopes as they prepare to return to New Zealand for their first home games in over a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.