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PREVIEW: Sudden Death Monday Night 9.30pm tonight

04 Mar
9 mins read
Hawks vs BNZ Breakers - Play-In Qualifier, NBL24 - winner advances to three-game series against Melbourne United


Monday, March 4 at 9:30pm NZT | WIN Entertainment Centre


Watch: Live on Sky Sport in NZ  - International viewership details
Box scores: Download the free NBL App


Justin Tatum labelled his team’s performance against Tasmania in Wednesday’s Seeding Qualifier as not his side’s “style” and said he “wasn’t pleased in any way” with the performance.

Club co-captain Tyler Harvey has issued a rallying cry to the Hawks faithful and said if there’s one thing he’s learned over this season, it’s that his side always responds to adversity.

Veteran forward Todd Blanchfield is set to play his 400th NBL game in the Play-In Game. The 32-year-old has represented Townsville, Illawarra, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne over his career, and Dan Grida labelled him a “steadying hand” for the Hawks’ young side.

Liam Santamaria said Gary Clark was “nowhere near himself” in Illawarra’s loss and said he didn’t have his usual explosiveness to the basket. Clark had been in a moon boot prior to the game and looked to have suffered an ankle roll during the contest.

New Zealand
Parker Jackson-Cartwright has said he “meant no disrespect’ for his post-game antics against the Kings. Jackson-Cartwright ran to the commentary desk and looked to confront Derek Rucker in regards to his placement of the guard at the seventh position in his top 15 players. Rucker has also since come out and professed his respect for Jackson-Cartwright.

Will McDowell-White started in the Breakers’ win over Sydney, despite reports he was doubtful to play after suffering a shoulder injury in Round 20. Zylan Cheatham also returned to the game after suffering a rolled ankle against the Kings. Mody Maor praised the resilience and mindset of his whole roster following the victory.

Maor said Mantas Rubstavicius should have jumped “20 points” on NBA Draft boards following his physical, aggressive performance against the Kings.

A defeat against the Hawks would mean this clash is Tom Abercrombie’s final game in the NBL following the club captain’s earlier announcement of his impending retirement.

What’s next?
The winners of this game will go on to face the ladder-leading Melbourne United in a best-of-three Playoff Series, while the loser will have time called on their NBL24 campaign.

United registered a regular season sweep of the Hawks across their matchups in rounds five, 19 and 20, however the average margin of victory in those three games was just nine points.

The Breakers were also swept by Melbourne across the regular season, however the one-point loss provided one of the strangest moments of the campaign when Zylan Cheatham tried to call a timeout in play – which is not allowed in the NBL – and the clock ran down.

Their average losing margin to United was less than eight points over the course of the season.


76-92 loss to Tasmania
87-92 loss to Melbourne
108-92 win over Perth

New Zealand
83-76 win over Sydney
70-76 loss to Adelaide
103-87 win over Brisbane


Parker Jackson-Cartwright
You only had to see the immediate aftermath of New Zealand’s Play-In Qualifier win over Sydney to see how much success for the Breakers means t o Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and after using his perceived snubbing in Derek Rucker’s Top 15 as added motivation for his game-winning performance, can he back it up again?

Jackson-Cartwright starred in the do-or-die victory over the Kings with a season-high 34 points with six assists, and even head coach Mody Maor and import forward Zylan Cheatham were joking they needed to find another way to “poke the bear” to draw a similar level of performance against the Hawks.

There have been few – if any – opponents the diminutive guard has struggled against in NBL24, however despite a trio of good individual regular season performances against Illawarra from Jackson-Cartwright, the Hawks won two out of their three meetings with the Breakers.

All three games were decided by fewer than five points though. PJC had 20 points and six assists in the four-point Round 8 loss, and followed that up with 18 points and four steals in just 22 minutes in another four-point loss – this time in Round 17.

Then, when the Breakers won in Round 19, he starred with 31 points and seven assists in what was one of the most dominant individual performances seen in NBL24.

Jackson-Cartwright has loved playing against the Hawks in NBL24 and – as evidenced by his post-game confrontation with Rucker on Wednesday – he loves proving people wrong.

Rucker acknowledged the respect he has for Jackson-Cartwright following that incident, and the guard followed up by saying he intended no disrespect, so there’s no bad blood there.

But can he once again put the Breakers on his back to lead them one step further into the Finals?

“I’d be lying if I said some external factors didn’t motivate me this week going into the game. You hear different things from different people and you don’t take light of it. It lights a fuel in you and I’m no different. I’m a competitor and I hear the talk and I let it motivate me ... it was a build-up of this is a big win, on the road, and we rallied together and I just felt that raw emotion, that’s all.” – Parker Jackson-Cartwright following the win over Sydney.

Todd Blanchfield
In the humdrum of post-season basketball it could be easy to forget the remarkable milestone Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is set to reach in Monday’s clash. The 32-year-old forward is set to chalk up his 400th career NBL appearance to lock in his status as one of the competition’s most reliable players of the 21st century.

Only Jesse Wagstaff, Tom Abercrombie and Chris Goulding have played more NBL games than Blanchfield of any active player, and the Hawk currently sits just outside the top 50 for all-time appearances in the competition.

He might have properly burst onto the scene a decade ago with the Townsville Crocodiles, but Blanchfield’s longevity in what has rapidly been becoming a faster and more physical game is almost unmatched. Out of the 15 seasons he’s contested in the NBL, he’s only played fewer than 25 games in a season three times.

He played eight games as a rookie development player in 2009-2010 with Townsville, 22 games for Melbourne in 2016-17, and 23 games for Perth in 2021-22.

Blanchfield is one of the ultimate teammates in the modern era of the NBL, and he’s one of the consummate professionals around the league.

And although his scoring numbers may be dropping as he continues to age, there are still very few local players you would trust with an open three more than the milestone man.

“He brings everyone together, he’s a real team guy, he’s super unselfish, he’s always joking around and picking on the young guys – he’s great in that space – but he also helps us get wins. He’s a great competitor, he’s still a lights out shooter, he’s great at practice, he’s never hurt, and he’s been a big part of our success this year … he was playing NBL when a lot of us were in primary school, he’s gone through it all and he’s played in some massive games.” – Dan Grida on Todd Blanchfield.


Gary Clark vs Zylan Cheatham
The impending post matchup between Gary Clark and Zylan Cheatham would have been key to this clash regardless of what happened in the Seeding and Play-In qualifiers, however with the key pair both suffering apparent ankle issues in their respective wins, this battle has taken on a whole new dimension.

Clark was still a star in Illawarra’s loss to Tasmania. He finished the clash with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds to almost inspire the Hawks to victory – but outside of the box score, he didn’t look himself.

That trademark aggression and explosiveness seemed to be taken down a notch, and the ten three-point attempts he took were more than any other game this season.

Clark is a more than adept three-point shooter and still connected with four of those ten looks, but he’s such a flamboyant and strong finisher around the rim that it was concerning to see him settle for the outside look – although Tasmania’s stingy interior defence certainly had a role to play in the Hawks’ shot selection.

Cheatham, on the other hand, looked like his game was over when he turned his ankle in the second quarter, but he gritted his teeth and was a crucial element in the Breakers’ win.

He’s experienced more than his share of injuries this season and missed almost two months of action due to a broken foot earlier in the campaign – and it’s worth noting that prior to that injury, he was being discussed as an early-season MVP candidate.

It’s highly likely that had Cheatham not missed so much time early in the season, that this pair would have been competing for the same position in the All-NBL First Team, and the two former NBA bigs have proven to be two of the biggest tide-turners in NBL24.

Cheatham is sometimes utilised at center by Maor, so they may not be matching up on each other for the entirety of the contest, but given Maor seems to like the pure interior rebounding presence Mangok Mathiang can provide, Cheatham’s move to predominantly play power forward will see the pair lock horns – at least for part of the game.

At this stage of the season almost everyone is playing through some kind of injury, and for two players who are so explosive and athletic, an ankle injury could be just about the most impactful and taxing issue either of them could present to the game with.

Who can grit their teeth and push through the pain barrier to help their team continue their season?

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Gary Clark and Zylan Cheatham.


New Zealand has won the fourth quarter in each of its last four games. Could another strong finish put an end to Illawarra’s season?

Gettyimages 2045080964
Mantas Rubstavicius.


Dan Grida – knee (season)

New Zealand
Justinian Jessup – pelvis (TBC)
Anthony Lamb – Achilles (season)



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