The big television smooch can be quite seductive in sport but sometimes it must make teams wonder if they should be careful what they wish for.

That must have dawned on the Taylor Corporation Hawks when they succumbed 89-81 to the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch tonight.

It was bad enough to have a microphone dangling on top of the time-out huddles but Hawks coach Zico Coronel found assistant coach Morgan Maskell, his number cruncher, covering his mouth to relay his message to him at halftime before entering the locker-room for his pep talk.

Forget about any trade secrets although the round four National Basketball League (NBL) encounter at Cowles Stadium was billed as an OK Corral-type of showdown between two sides who supposedly adhere to a three-point mantra where hustling guards drop bombs from outside the arc to negate the need for bigs.

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But talking shop wasn't the issue tonight as the Rams started with a hiss and roar to claim three out of four quarters.

A sweat-drenched Hawks captain, Jarrod Kenny, was left lamenting a sluggish start that left them shy on the offensive rebounds and a porous defence that left Coronel venting his spleen. He impressed on the need to tighten those aspects in the second half.

"It's also all the other little things that we're getting beaten to so we don't have that intensity right now and we're not talking to each other enough on the court," Tall Blacks point guard Kenny said.

In the game of numbers, there was little between the two sides although the Rams had a 41 per cent to 30 per cent victory, forcing the Hawks to the charity line for a 90-67 per cent workout.

The Rams also picked more pockets (10-5 steals) but the damning figures emerged from the turnovers conceded — the Hawks gifting 21-11.

Forward Mike Karena and two-match Hawks centre Angus Brandt shared the match-high 23 points. Fellow Australian import Cameron Gliddon and Christchurch home-boy Ethan Rusbatch added 19 and 22 points each to their teams' totals, respectively.

Swingman Rusbatch only managed three from nine three-point attempts but a 100 per cent offerings (7-7) from the free-throw line.

The game started with both sides, now on a three-win, two-loss record, predictably trading shots and were locked 17-17 before the hosts pulled away to finish the first quarter 24-17 in the lead.

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When play resumed in the second quarter, the Rams showed intensity, putting up the shutters within 30 seconds as the Hawks tripped to concede possession on a shot-clock violation.

They maintained that fervour to open a 10-point gulf at the hooter, 43-33 (22-19).

However, it was Rams coach Mick Downer's turn to read the riot act to his red army as the visitors closed the gap to 46-44 early in the third quarter: "It's just painful watching you guys in a coma".

Downer impressed the need for the Rams to roll in deep and for the guards to take more ownership but the Hawks punched out 23-19 from that 10-minute shift to narrow the deficit to 62-56.

That gave the Hawks the momentum in the final quarter as they wrested the lead from the hosts for the first time, 66-65, momentarily before losing it with a shade more than seven minutes left on the clock.

An illegal screening call on US import EJ Singler and a steal from Rams guard Tony Tolovae, making his first start this season, saw the Rams nudge ahead to 71-68.

Gliddon sprinkled salt in the wound with a three-point bomb and the Hawks didn't help their cause in losing possession from the ensuing passage of play with a speculator cross from the bottom of the attacking D to trail 82-73 with 3:27 left on the clock.

Canterbury Rams forward Mike Karena (left) was outstanding at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight, leaving Hawks skipper Jarrod Kenny lamenting a slow start. Photo/Photopsort
Canterbury Rams forward Mike Karena (left) was outstanding at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight, leaving Hawks skipper Jarrod Kenny lamenting a slow start. Photo/Photopsort

Coronel called a timeout, revealing the visitors were playing good for 16 seconds and then switching off.

"Hey, we have to be very good right here," he said, scribbling furiously on his sketch board amid the din.

The Hawks responded admirably to stifle the Rams into a shot-clock violation but it was the latter who went up 86-75, leaving Coronel to drive home the importance of "differentials" with 1:49 minutes to go.

With the Hawks trailing 87-81 and 37 seconds remaining, the coach called for a "blackout" but it was man-of-the-match Karena who would have caught the eye of tall Blacks coach Paul Henare.

The forward slunk into the driving lane for an in-your-face dunk that left the Hawks totally stranded.

Tolovae scored 16 points for the Rams and Singler 15 for the Hawks. Kenny scored 10 points.

Rusbatch said in employing the three-point plan in the fast lanes it was imperative for the Hawks to have landed the first punch rather than relying on counter-punching.

"That's what we're doing but we couldn't quite manage to do it tonight," he said, after finding little love from the rim from outside the arc tonight before reverting to a two-point plan for more returns.

Brandt, who claimed a double-double with 17 rebounds, revealed it was his last match and fellow Aussie big man Daniel Kickert would return from a back injury for the Hawks when they host Taranaki Mountainairs in Napier on Saturday next week.