The Hawks basketballers must feel like workers who have secured a lucrative stint elswhere but must now see out their notice in terms of their current employment contract.

It's fair to say the results of the games tonight or tomorrow are neither here nor there although should the Taylor Corporation Hawks stumble fans must reserve the right to question their mindset going into the the Sal's Pizza National Basketball League Final Four next weekend.

As it turned out the Zico Coronel-caoched visitors beat the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams 85-76 at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, in the penultimate match of their regular season. They host Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs in a 7pm tip-off in the double header in Napier tomorrow.

Like it or not, the players' minds will be on how to tackle 2018 premiership winners and defending champions Cigna Wellington Saints when they play them in the first semifinal at TSB Bank Arena in the capital city in the 5pm tip-off the following Saturday before the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks and Mike Pero Nelson Giants decide who will be in the 5pm final a day later.

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The Hawks led the Rams 26-13 in the first quarter, 24-19 (50-32) in the second, and shared the points 17-17 (67-49) in the third before easing the foot off the Rams' throat in the final spell, 18-27.

Like the previous games after making the playoffs, it's hard to decipher much from a team who did the job in the first half and then played with the Rams as a bored moggy would with a spent mouse.

Not surprisingly, Hawks Aussie import Angus Brandt scored 14 points and collected 17 rebounds. It's hard to keep track of how many double-doubles the Boomer has claimed on his NBL debut.

The game-high 23 points honour went to "homeboy" Ethan Rusbatch. Hyrum Harris scored 11 points while skipper Jarrod Kenny and swingman Dion Prewster scored 10 each, with the Tall Black point guard making eight assists.

Predictably everyone got game time in double-digit minutes bar Mitchell Newton and Nick Fee.

For the hosts, Michael Karena (20pts), Winston Shepard III (17pts, 9 reb), captain Tony Tolovae (15pts) and Julian Williams-Washburn (13pts) contributed to a cause that couldn't have been any easier for the fifth-placed Mark Dickel-coached side which had gifted the playoff berth to the Hawks after a loss a round ago.


"In the second half they [Rams] threw caution to the wind and they were going to get a hiding irrespective so they just started gambling in playing a risky style," said Coronel, adding that was difficult to counter because it was a short-term strategy to claw their way back in the final spell.

While he took heart from his men's first-half performance he said the Hawks could be better.

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"They were chasing from that point on so the pleasing thing is we made it so definitive early."

Rams forward Mike Karena runs the Hawks gauntlet of Mitchell Newton (left), Ethan Rusbatch and Dion Rewster at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight. Photo / Photosport
Rams forward Mike Karena runs the Hawks gauntlet of Mitchell Newton (left), Ethan Rusbatch and Dion Rewster at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight. Photo / Photosport

Coronel said the Rams' basic brand of basketball had tested the Hawks' fundamentals of containing the ball, talking and helping built in the pre-season that enabled them to hold oppositions to minimal points.

"They are very individual in their offence and they play a pressure-oriented kind of defence ... which challenges your basics."

Taranaki, he said, employed a contrasting game to the Rams with "magnificent coach" Trent Adam using different strategies and the shot clock more.

Coronel said the Hawks weren't entertaining any thoughts on the Saints until the final buzzer against the Airs at the PG Arena tomorrow night.