One of the NBL’s all-time great shooters turned back the clock to lead the Illawarra Hawks to Friday night’s 87-75 win over the Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena.
Veteran forward Oscar Forman erupted for a season-high 24 points in Illawarra’s 10th win of the season, splashing 6/12 three-point bombs in a show-stealing display.
Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy was also instrumental with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Marvelle Harris added 13 points for Illawarra, while Rotnei Clarke finished with 11.
“Tonight, as soon as I checked into the game, I thought, ‘if I see an open shot I’m going to shoot it’,” Forman said after his big night.
“I got yelled at, at half-time, for not shooting an open shot so my mindset for the second half was just keep shooting.”
Bruising American forward Josh Powell led Sydney with a season-high 21, while guards Jason Cadee and Kevin Lisch combined for 26.
The Kings led 67-60 in the fourth quarter before the Hawks suddenly caught fire and powered to victory to remain in second spot.
Sydney had to make do without star forward Brad Newley, who missed the game with a toe injury.
New Kings import Garrett Jackson was solid on debut, finishing with six points and eight rebounds in an active 18 minutes off the bench.
“I don’t think we got the breaks of the game and we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” Kings coach Andrew Gaze said.
“We had a couple of horrendous turnovers and some crucial breakdowns on defence.
“Oscar Forman hadn’t scored for three games and he certainly fixed that up. It’s not like we didn’t talk about him in preparation because he’s hurt us in the past. But he got hot and he got us.”
Lisch was keen to pick up the scoring slack in Newley’s absence, lighting up for seven of his team’s first 13 points.
Harris also had seven points in the first period, as Illawarra worked their way to a 16-13 lead after six minutes.
Newly-signed King Jackson made his debut with just over three minutes left in the quarter and missed his only first-quarter shot.
Big Mike Holyfield gave the Hawks a lift off the bench with three boards and a block, while headliner Forman shrugged off two misfired threes to bang in his third attempt and extend the visitors’ lead to 23-17 at quarter-time.
Illawarra made 50 per cent of their shots and grabbed 11 rebounds to Sydney’s seven.
Powell opened the second period with consecutive buckets, but the Hawks responded with another scoring surge, punctuated by triples from Tim Coenraad and Kevin White.
The Kings kept scrapping and cut an eight-point deficit to three, as Gaze frequently chopped and changed his lineup.
Powell was proving unstoppable down low, racking up 10 points in the quarter and giving Sydney just their second lead of the game at 38-37 with 45 seconds left in the half.
Forman replied with a three and one-of-two free throws to put the Hawks up 41-38 at half-time.
Illawarra connected on 40 per cent of their shots to the Kings’ 38 per cent, but Beveridge would’ve been cursing his team’s sloppy 8/14 return from the foul line.
Harris was the worst offender (4/8 free throws), though he led his side with 11 points.
Forman got the nod to start in the second half and answered the call with a quick-fire eight points.
The margin was 10 when Ogilvy tipped in Clarke’s missed layup, but the Kings dug in again, drawing to within five after baskets by Whittington and Lisch.
Beveridge’s timeout didn’t help, as Sydney stretched the run to 12-0 and regained the lead with two minutes left in the third period.
Clarke’s layup finally broke the drought for Illawarra, but Cadee found Powell for a baseline jumper as time expired and the Kings held a 63-58 lead at three-quarter time.
The Kings led by as many as seven in the final period before the Hawks re-ignited with an 11-0 run.
Clarke nailed two big buckets, while Forman was having a night out, hitting two three-point bombs to put his team up by seven.
They never looked back, grabbing their first win over their New South Wales rivals in four meetings this season.
“We’re 6-5 on the road and that’s great, but we’re having too many lapses and there’s absolutely no question it’s a concern,” Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said.
“We’re still so far off where we need to be and we’re working as a group to get better.”
Sydney are at home against New Zealand on December 30, while the Hawks host Perth the following night.
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 87 (Forman 24, Ogilvy 16, Harris 13)
SYDNEY KINGS 75 (Powell 21, Cadee 15, Lisch 11)