The dynamic backcourt of Rotnei Clarke and Marvelle Harris has already proved a winner as the Hawks ran rings around a physical Perth Wildcats side 98-77 on Sunday.
The combined 36 points and four assists from the import backcourt does not jump off the page, but they completely dictated pace and found a way around the ‘Cats physicality to give their side big buckets at crucial times.
Harris (19 points, three assists) and Clarke (17 points) ran the show and got good back-up from snipers Cody Ellis (16) and Oscar Forman (13). Tim Coenraad fill the stat sheet with 7 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
Perth were out of sync for large parts, getting most of their production from Jameel McKay effort plays around the rim. McKay was by far the ‘Cats best with 15 points and 15 boards, backed up by fellow import Jaron Johnson (16 and seven).
Harris, McKay and AJ Ogilvy all got the party started with jams in the first three minutes, but the first quarter was a completely one-sided affair.
Illawarra ran rings around the defending champions. Two threes and a dunk kick-started things for a hungry Hawks side that did not take a single possession off on either end.
The ball was singing through hands no matter who manned the Hawks backcourt and all too often they had the ‘Cats a step slow in rotation. It was a treat of early offence, captured in a picture-perfect four-man hot-potato ball swing from corner to corner and finished with a triple.
Casey Prather continued to show off the upgraded skill set, but struggled making plays with the ball in his hands as Perth turned it over six times in the first quarter and nine in the half.
He was outshone by new Hawk and NBA hopeful Harris, who has proved to be a man completely dedicated to his craft not afraid of the moment. Imports in the Hawks back-court have been quite hit-and-miss over the last few years but coach Rob Beveridge has found a gem in Harris.
He has the optimal tools for a Beveridge-coached team: shooting, ball-handling, versatility, physical defence, unwavering work ethic and a fearless attitude.
Five different Hawks connected on threes in the first quarter alone as they went into the second up 37-19.
Perth’s back-up centre Angus Brandt shouldered the burden down low as the ‘Cats worked at chipping away at the margin. But the resistance was futile so long as the explosive Clarke-Harris duo was on the court.
Perth dominated the entire third term and started to get scoreboard love when Greg Hire came alive for three third-quarter threes, and at one point got the margin back to a single possession.
But for every question they asked, the Hawks answered with distance shooting.
Ellis shot the Hawks out of immediate danger, while Tim Coenraad, Nick Kay and Rhys Martin kept the margin steady for a cruisy victory.
The Hawks took six ABC points from the game, with Perth winning only the third quarter.
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 98 (Marvelle Harris 19, Rotnei Clarke 17, Cody Ellis 16)
PERTH WILDCATS 77 (Jaron Johnson 16, Jameel McKay 15, Casey Prather 12)