The Best of the Day preview takes it to the hole with NBL tips for a potential semi-final preview between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United. 

NBL Tips – Illawarra Hawks V Melbourne United

19:30 (AEST), WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong

History: Played 45: United 29 V Hawks 16

Last meeting: April 18, 2021: United 87 d Hawks 76 at John Cain Arena

Final thoughts: The Best of the Day preview breaks down a top-four clash to get Week 19 of the NBL underway. Melbourne United will also close the round on Monday, while for Illawarra Hawks it’s the first of three fixtures in a gruelling six-day period.

Melbourne remain in top spot with a 23-7 record – but Perth Wildcats are only one win adrift. After a sizzling 11-game winning streak, United have dropped two of their last four games.

The title favourites went down 94-83 in Sunday’s derby against SEM Phoenix. Big man Jock Landale continues to shine, averaging 16.1 points and 8 rebounds a night. The back-court pairing of Chris Goulding and Mitch McCarron (who, remarkably, is the only United player to pick up an NBL Player of the Week nod this season) is as reliable as ever.

Illawarra won just two of eight games in April. But they have rallied to a 15-14 record and fourth on the ladder with three straight hard-fought victories over the Breakers (75-67), 36ers (71-66) and the Breakers again (73-71).

Two-time NBL Player of the Week Tyler Harvey has been on a tear, averaging 25.3 points in those three wins.

Melbourne United have won seven of their last eight against Illawarra, including three of four encounters so far this season.

United won 93-88 in Wollongong in February, but the Hawks responded with a 77-69 NBL Cup win in Melbourne. United have recorded a pair of convincing home wins – 75-65 and 87-76 – since then.

Melbourne are $1.34 Best of the Day favourites on the road, in what is just their fourth game outside Victoria since February 10. Illawarra, meanwhile, boast four wins and an overtime loss to the Kings in their last five at WIN Entertainment Centre.

With an extra day’s rest, the Hawks loom as a solid bet against the ladder leaders with a fairly big start.

Tip: Handicap – Hawks +6.5 @ $1.87