NZ Breakers were no match for classy Illawarra Hawks, as they succumbed to an 84-73 Australian NBL defeat at the Franklin Events Centre in south Auckland.
The Hawks were led by talented import guard Tyler Harvey, who finished with a game-high 30 points (5/12 from long-range), eight rebounds, four assists and five steals to improve Illawarra to 18-15 for the season and strengthen their playoff ambitions, while the Breakers drop to 11-22.
The Breakers were playing their fourth straight game on New Zealand soil and moved their home record to 2-2, after victories against Sydney Kings and Adelaide 36ers, while falling to the Kings and now the Hawks.
The home side were paced by the classy Finn Delany, who topscored with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists, ably assisted by import Levi Randolph (13 points, eight rebounds) and Tai Webster, who chipped in with 14 points.
After an edgy beginning to the contest, which saw both sides struggle to shoot the ball, the home side finished the quarter strongly, when Delany and Randolph made two long three-pointers to hand them a 16-11 lead.
The Breakers continued to keep their noses in front and produced some highlight moments, including a William McDowell-White triple and a huge Rasmus Bach dunk, while Colton Iverson toiled under the rim with eight rebounds.
They extended their lead to eight with a Kyrin Galloway long bomb midway through the second stanza, before the Hawks came home hot with two late triples to reduce the deficit to just two points (39-37) at the break.
The key quarter came in the third, when the Breakers got sloppy in possession, conceding six straight turnovers that saw the Hawks open up a 13-point lead.
Delany stood up at the end of the third with a statement dunk, slashing the margin to just six points into the final quarter.
The Auckland side showcased their trademark fighting spirit, as they kept the deficit in check, but they couldn't produce down the stretch and the Hawks held on for a 11-point victory.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir rued a costly third quarter, as they hunted a morale-boosting victory in front of their home fans.
"In terms of the development and flow of the game, it hurt us a lot," he said. "We didn't start the quarter very well and then we lost our focus.
"They made a run, a quick run. They scored in bunches and we weren't able to keep it under control."
The Breakers will look to rebound quickly, when they face Brisbane Bullets at Spark Arena on Sunday.
Illawarra Hawks 84 (Harvey 30, Froling 22, Simon 13) NZ Breakers 73 (Delany 24, T Webster 14, Randolph 13)