Tag: mojave king

Bullets fire in first half to win by nine points over Taipans on the road

BRISBANE Bullets have remained in contention for playoffs after securing a vital win over the cellar dwelling Cairns Taipans on the road last night. The Bullets won their twelfth game of the season to move to 12-14 in the win-loss column, two wins away from fourth, but also having played two less games. The Taipans seem all but set for a wooden spoon, sinking to their third straight loss and a 7-21 recored, this time going down to the Bullets by nine points, 87-96.

The Bullets were firing on all cylinders early, bursting out of the blocks to put up 30 points to 25 in the opening term, and then 27 to 20 in the second quarter to lead by 12 points at half-time. The visitors were looking in control, and the home fans needed to see some fightback, which they did in the second half. Cairns stepped up to stem the bleeding in the third quarter with both sides scoring 21 points apiece, while winning the last term 21-18, in a gallant fightback, but not enough to overrun the Bullets.

The Bullets topped the Taipans in most statistical areas, winning the rebounds (49-41), assists (19-17), blocks (6-3) and points from turnovers (11-6), having one less turnover and actually losing the steal count (6-2). The Taipans shot at a higher clip from the field (45 to 44 per cent), and dominated in the paint with 54 points to 40, as well as capitalising on second chance points (18-15). In the end the Bullets proved too strong though, making the most of their higher volume chances.

Nathan Sobey had an outstanding game for the winners, leading the way with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Jason Cadee came off the bench to score 21 points in 28 minutes. Anthony Drmic (14 points, three rebounds) and Lamar Patterson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) both hit double-figure points, while the trio of Matt Hodgson (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Harry Froling (six points, four rebounds) and Tyrell Harrison (six points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists) all contributed in a really even team effort.

For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai led the scoring with 20 points, as well as five rebounds, using his experience to full advantage in the five spot. Mojave King (13 points, seven rebounds) stepped up as Scott Machado (eight points at 33 per cent efficiency) had an off shooting night, though had the seven assists and two rebounds. Majok Deng (18 points, nine rebounds and five assists) was the most influential on the court coming off the bench for 28 minutes of action, while Venky Jois hit 12 points and two rebounds in the loss.

The Bullets take on Sydney Kings at Nissan Arena on Thursday, before hosting a second game – against the Perth Wildcats – on Saturday. The Taipans have back-to-back matches in Round 18 as well, with a road trip to John Cain Arena on Friday to face the South East Melbourne Phoenix, before hosting Perth Wildcats at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Monday night.

Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Adelaide return to full strength and claim dominant win over Taipans

ADELAIDE 36ers got the job done against Cairns Taipans in convincing fashion to keep them within touching distance of the NBL21 top four, 92-76. It was a well-rounded performance from the 36ers who had a number of contributors across the board, and with their side returning to full strength they are in ominous form heading into the backend of the season.

The win puts them in good stead for the rest of the season as they sit on a 12-16 ratio as the combinations between their key players really start to solidify. Big wins against some of the higher-ranked sides such as Illawarra and Perth will fill them with plenty of confidence but they will need to replicate that form on the road if they want to be taken seriously.

It was one-way traffic in the opening term as Adelaide pounced on every opportunity that came their way and stopped Cairns in their tracks thanks to their defensive nous and pressure. Going on a 10-point to one run, the momentum well and truly lay with the 36ers who managed to find their way to the basket with ease. Brandon Paul got busy early and was a driving force for the 36ers as they skipped out to an 18-point lead while limiting the Taipans to a mere nine points in the first quarter of play.

After a scintillating start to the game it took a while for Adelaide to rediscover their scoring momentum with their first points of the second quarter not nailed until the seven-minute mark. But once they got going the influence of Paul and Daniel Johnson was profound as the duo caused all sorts of trouble on the scoreboard. Establishing a 23-point lead with a tick under five minutes to play in the first half, Cairns rallied and the tide started to turn as they discovered their mojo. Playing with more conviction across the court and a renewed sense fight thanks to Majok Deng, the Taipans were able to cull the margin down to 16 points at the main break.

With the Taipans hitting back in the second and actually winning the quarter, the 36ers flexed their muscles in the third thanks to rookie Josh Giddey. After a quiet opening half, Giddey imposed himself on the action hitting a triple and converting a couple of layups. It did not stop there as he also laid a handy block on Venky Jois as his sides lead bypassed the 20-point buffer once more. Overall the scoring dried up in the quarter with 13 and 11 points respectively but it was the 36ers that remained in the lead.

The momentum lay with Cairns in the final term as they nailed 29 points to 23. Deng was a consistent presence for the Taipans using his scoring prowess to add some respectability to the scoreline while the workrate from Scott Machado also started to come to the fore. Despite the Taipans rallying, Adelaide withstood the pressure as Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker plied their trade.

It was an even spread for the 36ers as they collected an important win but it was Paul that led the charge with his double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds while also amassing five assists and three steals. Although Giddey did not live up to the hopes and dreams of fans given he did not record his third triple-double he still managed to have an influence in the win with 15 points and six assists. Johnson and Crocker both managed 15 points apiece, with Johnson imposing himself off the boards to finish with 10 rebounds.

Coming back from a 16-game layoff due to injury, Deng came out with a point to prove for the Taipans sinking 16 points and creating six rebounds. Jordan Ngatai made a name for himself in this clash to be the only other player to manage double-figures thanks to his 12 points at 66 per cent from the field. Tad Dufelmeier got busy in the loss with nine points, four rebounds and three assists as eight proved to be the magic number for Mojave King, Machado, Jois and Nate Jawai with the quartet all knocking back eight points apiece. King also managed six rebounds while Jois collected nine rebounds.

Picture credit: AAP via ESPN

Taipans stun 36ers with come-from-behind win

AN inspired and gutsy effort from Cairns Taipans saw them overrun Adelaide 36ers last night to snap a three-game losing streak and steal a narrow three-point victory (91-88). It was a topsy-turvy encounter with the 36ers holding the lead for majority of the game but Cairns working gallantly to change their fortunes.

Both sides were riddled with injuries heading into the clash with a number of key figures sidelined such as Scott Machado for the Taipans and Tony Crocker out for the 36ers. Crocker joined Isaac Humphries on the sideline but that did not seem to faze Adelaide who got off to a hot start, shooting the ball with confidence and relative accuracy to skip out to an early lead. Although scores were level at nine points apiece midway through the term, Adelaide kicked it up a gear to create some much needed separation thanks to the services of Daniel Johnson who well and truly had his radar on. Adelaide capitalised on their opponents inaccuracy as they put down 26 points to 17.

Holding a nine-point margin at the first change the 36ers looked to extend their margin and edge one step closer to a much needed win. Spearheaded by Jack McVeigh the 36ers continued their merry way, with not only the scoreboard increasing but so too McVeigh’s tally with the guard racking up 12 points before half time. However the brakes were quickly put on as the Taipans came out refreshed and raring to go. Hunting down the 16-point lead, Cairns toiled exceptionally hard to quell the offensive play of Adelaide and apply pressure of their own largely due to Cameron Oliver who was proving to be a menace off the boards. Sinking eight points straight the home side ate into the deficit and continued to build momentum with the likes of Mojave King also finding his feet and the basket.

It was a two-point ball-game at half time, with the Taipans sensing a chance to strike and push ahead of their opponents. The intensity lifted a notch with neither side willing to relinquish the ball or the lead as Adelaide put in the hard yards to extend their margin. but Cairns proved to be up to the fight, combatting everything that was thrown at them and rising to the occasion. Producing 21 points to 20, the Snakes managed to dwindle the margin to a mere point at the final change setting up an action packed final stanza.

Having held onto the lead for majority of the game, the 36ers simply ran out of legs in the last quarter while the Taipans found a way to win. Digging deep and heavily undermanned, Cairns showed nothing but grit and determination in the last quarter to not only hold on but to overcome a deficit. It was a frantic finish to the game with the Taipans establishing a seven point lead with a tick under a minute left to play, but the lead disappearing before their eyes as the clock ticked down. Huge plays from Sunday Dech and McVeigh’s ability to convert from the foul line saw Adelaide get back within just one with 13 seconds left and while Josh Giddey had a chance to level things his shot was off, gifting the Taipans a hard fought win.

It was a heart in your mouth finish to the game with a number of key cogs stepping up to the plate and leading the way for their respective sides given the calibre of missing players. Oliver had a game to remember for Cairns producing a scintillating 25 points and 17 rebounds with 16 of them defensive while Jordan Ngatai made his presence felt thanks to his 15 points. King upped the ante this match recording 14 points, five rebounds and one block as teammate Jarrod Kenny got busy on the assist front with seven to his name. Both Nate Jawai and Tad Dufelmeier produced strong performances with 13 points for Jawai and 12 points and eight rebounds for Dufelmeier.

Johnson was once again the go-to man for the 36ers racking up 22 points and four rebounds in his 34 minutes on court. McVeigh had a break out game producing an impressive 22 points at 52 per cent from the field while also racking up four rebounds, all of which were defensive. Brandon Paul was the only other player to reach double-digits thanks to his 18 points as he also collected six rebounds and two assists. Giddey fell short of a double amassing eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Dech registered seven points and seven rebounds.

Cairns secure win back at home, end five-game losing streak over 36ers

WITHOUT both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng, the Cairns Taipans ran out 79-65 victors over the Adelaide 36ers back at home yesterday in the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, snapping a five-game losing skid in the process as Mike Kelly and his squad look to fight their way off the bottom of the NBL standings.

Adelaide found early success from the three-point line hitting three of their first four attempts from deep, as Cairns looked relatively sluggish to start in front of the home crowd. Following a 10-point run and 57 per cent shooting from the field, the Taipans would fight back to take the 24-18 quarter-time lead. Led by Mirko Djeric, who had eight points in the first 10 minutes, and Mojave King (six points), Adelaide’s early benching of key big-man Daniel Johnson gave Cairns the opportunity to strike with a strong four-minute stretch in the first.

For Cairns, it took until the second quarter commenced that their stars Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver started to make an impact, which as a result saw a more free-flowing brand of basketball being played by the rest of the roster. Momentum kept increasing through the second term for the home side, as the Taipans limited Adelaide’s secondary unit and overall scoring ability, keeping the 36ers to just 16 points before half time.

The Taipans’ good form in the initial two quarters was capped off by Jarrod Kenny hitting a ridiculous shot from half-court which sent the hosts into the main break with a comfortable 46-34 lead. Cairns were impressive from behind the arc with nine triples compared to Adelaide’s five, but the Taipans were not doing themselves any favours having turned the ball over 11 times before the third stanza. However, having a plus-10 on the boards (21-11) certainly offset some of their self-harm due to poor ball security.

Showing promising signs in the third, Adelaide strung together numerous good plays to cut into their deficit before Cairns found some more rhythm. Djeric and Jordan Ngatai combined for two big plays at the midway point of the third quarter to abruptly halt the 36ers’ progress. But “DJ” was not going to concede defeat so easily, inspiring a comeback effort shortly before the final break bringing his points total up to 19, as well as motivating Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker to some productive efforts at a critical stage in the contest. Adelaide finished the third on a 7-0 run and only trailed 50-58 credit to a 16-12 period.

Once again, Cairns neutralised Adelaide’s efforts to get back into the game after hitting three consecutive shots to put their lead back above 10 points two minutes into the concluding 10-minute stretch.

An important three-pointer and contact-layup from Sunday Dech signalled another possible fightback attempt as Adelaide whittled their deficit to a little as nine points. Nevertheless, Machado and Oliver put the final nails in the coffin over the last couple of minutes to win on home turf by 14 points after 10 straight appearances away from home.

Oliver finished the night with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds adding yet another double-double to his impressive NBL21 collection. His running mate in Machado had himself a solid night out too in the “Snagpit” with 17 points and six assists, while Djeric was consistent with 13 points off of 55 per cent shooting.

Despite Johnson finishing with the game-high in scoring (21 points and six rebounds), little impact on the scoreboard was made elsewhere with McVeigh the next highest contributor adding 15 points and a pair of rebounds. Dech was the only other playerr to amass more than 10 points, concluding his efforts with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Notably, Brandon Paul was again quiet with just six points to his name.

A true challenge awaits the Taipans in Round 12, with Cairns set to face Melbourne United this upcoming Friday down in Victoria. On the other hand, Adelaide has the Illawarra Hawks waiting in the wings with the Sixers to host the contest back in South Australia the following night.

Phoenix hold on despite Cairns’ last quarter fightback

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix continued their hot run of form with a four-point victory over Cairns Taipans last night (85-81). Ryan Broekhoff made his much awaited debut for the Phoenix with the star NBA player leaving no stone unturned. It was a spirited effort from both sides with the Taipans pressing every second of the game as the match went down to the wire thanks to Cairns’ dominant final term.

The opening term of play was controlled by the Phoenix with Broekhoff making his impact immediately felt with a triple. The rest of the side followed suit with his intensity and overall combative nature to keep the scoreboard ticking and open up a six-point lead at the first change. The second term was much of the same with Cairns unable to find an answer for both Broekhoff and Mitch Creek with the latter scoring 16 points before half-time. Establishing an 11 point lead at half-time, it is fair to say that South East Melbourne well and truly had control of the match, playing with conviction and surety to keep the Taipans at bay.

Sensing a potential blowout, the Cairns Taipans rallied in the third term to get back within striking distance of their opponents. Scott Machado landed the first blow of the second half sinking a three pointer to set the tone for the rest of the game. The Taipans managed to outscore the Phoenix by a point in the third term (19-18) to reduce the three quarter time deficit to nine points. With it all to play in the final quarter of basketball the Taipans had a change of pace taking it up to the Phoenix in every way possible and not letting them play with their signature style and flow down the court.

With the screws tightening the pressure really started to build on the Phoenix as the North-Queensland side had their tails up and were not about to surrender. Machado and Cameron Oliver got busy in dying moments of the game to claw their side back into the contest. Down by a mere two points with only a minute to play both sides efforts intensified as they looked for that game winning play. having been in a similar position only days earlier the Taipans were fighting relentlessly to try and steal the win but it was Cam Gliddon that ripped that dream out of their grasps hitting a timely free throw to walk out victorious.

There were plenty of contributors across the board for the Phoenix, but it was the in-form Creek that stole the show with 21 points, two steals and three assists. In his debut appearance Broekhoff made an impact producing seven points, while Gliddon also chimed in with a handy 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Kyle Adnam continued his recent run of hot form posting 12 points as did Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore in what was an all-round solid team effort from the Phoenix.

The power duo of Machado and Oliver once again did all the work for Cairns amassing 24 and 22 points respectively. Oliver also featured heavily in the rebounds column with seven as Machado managed five. Fabijan Krslovic kept the scoreboard ticking over thanks to his seven points while his efforts off the boards did not go unnoticed with eight – an even split between offensive and defensive. Mojave King finished with seven points for the game as did Nate Jawai.

Abercrombie stars with buzzer-beating triple

A BUZZER-beating triple from Tom Abercrombie gifted New Zealand Breakers the victory over Cairns Taipans in what was a heart-stopping encounter (76-73). Both sides were level in the final seconds of the game before Abercrombie stepped up to the plate and delivered one of the most emphatic wins of the season.

Flying out of the blocks in the opening term, the Breakers had a real pep in their step controlling the tempo of the game and most importantly dictating the terms of the game on a scoreboard. Establishing a handy 13-point lead off the bat in the first quarter the Breakers were humming as the Taipans searched for answers to quell the fast starting New Zealand side, a feat they have become quickly known for over the past couple of outings. The second quarter followed a similar suit with the Breakers extending the lead albeit by one point, thanks to some increased offensive pressure on behalf of Cairns to put up 21 points as opposed to their mere 13 in the first term.

Sensing a potential blowout with the buffer getting out to as much as 19 points despite the Breakers only using limited rotations given the number of injures and missing players,  the Taipans hit back in the second half. The North-Queensland based side, steadily started to turn the tables on their opponents and force them to work in overdrive with Mojave King taking the reins and dropping nine points in that quarter alone to spark a fightback. His influence was enough to spark his side into action as Cairns wasted no time chipping into their 14 point deficit and set up an enthralling final 15 minutes of basketball.

With everything to play for in the final term, it was a battle of passion and pride on the line as both sides have struggled for form all season. Holding the lead, New Zealand were not keen on giving it up, but were well and truly put through their paces thanks to an inspired Cairns outfit who were determined to clinch victory. With tiring bodies out on the court for the Breakers, the Taipans saw their chance and took it with both hands, as their three-point shooting came to life off the back of Scott Machado and Mirko Djeric making it a one point ball game.

Drawing level with a mere 40 seconds on the clock the ball lingered around the Breakers end and looked like the game was going to head into overtime. A missed shot from Tai Webster almost solidified this belief until Abercrombie did the unthinkable to secure the win. As if in slow motion the captain picked up the offensive rebound, tracked back to beyond the arc, twisted inside out and slammed home the match winning triple on the buzzer to clinch victory.

“It was obviously an awesome feeling, anytime that you can hit a game winner, not exactly how we drew up the last play. “I wasn’t paying attention in timeout and just had to make up for my mistake on that last play and try and pop it in,” Abercrombie said post-match.

“But I was lucky it kind of just floated towards me and I was able to catch it and let it fly. “I was a little bit worried I didn’t get it off in time but I got swamped pretty quick and didn’t have a chance to look up and check.”

Missing the likes of Rob Loe, Lamar Patterson and the late withdrawal of Corey Webster the Breakers dug deep to withstand the constant barrage from the Taipans and prevail in a thriller. It was arguably one of Abercrombie’s games of the season with the captain not only producing the winning shot but walking away with 20 points at 53 per cent, three rebounds and a block. Tai Webster proved to be a menace knocking back 16 points along with five rebounds and five assists but was costly with ball in hand coughing it up five times. Colton Iverson impressed with his double-double thanks to his 15 points and 11 rebound outing while both Finn Delany and Rasmus Dech recorded nine points apiece in the narrow win.

The reliable duo of Cameron Oliver and Machado were up to their usual tricks with the pair leading the way for the Taipans securing 19 and 14 points respectively. Oliver was slightly more accurate from the field sitting at 45 per cent and also amassed eight rebounds, in what was another strong showing for the forward while Machado got busy with ball in hand collecting six dimes and five rebounds. King plied his trade walking away with 12 points and five rebounds as Djeric finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.

Johnson scorches Cairns for 30, 36ers knock over Snakes by 10

CAIRNS’ unremarkable season continued to roll along after their 71-81 loss against the Adelaide 36ers in Saturday’s NBL Cup matchup. Although the win for Adelaide has now signified a possible spark in the 36ers’ locker room, as they now sit one victory away from a .500 win-loss record and a possible top four position on the ladder.

Two threes at the tail-end of the first quarter by Mojave King handed the Taipans the two-point lead after 10 minutes. But, with both sides evenly balanced in the early stages of the contest, each side needed to find urgent solutions if they were going to assume control of the game going into the second half.

As King started to find his stroke from deep nailing his third triple, Mirko Djeric was also proving to be effective on the offensive end alongside Fabijan Krslovic. For Adelaide, the only performance worth mentioning in the opening two quarters was the one shown by Daniel Johnson, who had himself 16 points and seven rebounds throughout 16 and a half minutes of play heading into the main break.

The half-time score line would sit at 41-38 with Adelaide holding the slight lead, despite shooting less efficiently than their opponents. However, the 36ers’ 22 points in the paint and 17 rebounds were proving to be the team’s keys to success at the midway stage.

Yesterday’s stalemate continued further with both teams splitting the third quarter down the middle, as each side scored 18 points in the period. But, reassuringly for Cairns both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver started to put their name up on the scoreboard.

Nevertheless, Jack McVeigh would join Johnson in the double-digit club helping Adelaide get some important momentum towards the end of the game. Following Sunday Dech’s three with just under eight minutes left, the 36ers had themselves a commanding eight-point lead.

Adelaide’s fourth quarter dominance was further displayed, holding the Taipans to a measly 15 points in the final 10-minute span. As a result, Conner Henry’s men were able to walk away with a much-needed win by 10 points.

The 36ers maintained a high standard of shooting across all four quarters finishing with a success rate of 44 per cent from the field and making their free throws count when the opportunities were there, going 16 of 18 from the charity strike. Disappointingly for Cairns, it was taking care of the rock that proved to be their biggest downfall of the afternoon. The Taipans would turn the ball over 14 times, whereas the 36ers limited their turnovers to a less severe 11.

It was once again Johnson that was able to provide the majority of Adelaide’s points, accumulating an impressive 30 points and nine rebounds, adding yet another game to his ever-growing list of memorable appearances. McVeigh would finish with a solid 14 points and three rebounds, while Josh Giddey concluded his day with 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Nine out of 11 individuals scored for the Taipans, but with Krslovic leading Cairns in scoring with 12 points, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Mike Kelly and his roster. Perhaps the main headline, however, was the neutralisation by Adelaide in containing All-NBL First Team selectees Machado and Oliver. With the two stars combining for just 17 points, it summed up the Taipans night, as they failed to generate any substantial offence during the game.

Cairns opens up Round Nine on Wednesday when they take on the New Zealand Breakers, who are fresh off a narrow defeat to Melbourne United. But on the flip side, perhaps Adelaide can make a return to their early season form when they meet with the Brisbane Bullets a day later with a chance to record their eighth win of the campaign.

Do Cairns have the instruments to turn their season around, again?

AFTER starting the 2019/20 season with an abhorrent record of two wins and six losses, the Cairns Taipans went on to win 14 of their next 20 games to secure the third seed in the standings and earn a finals appearance – a season after finishing with the wooden spoon honours of the NBL.

Today, the Taipans sit with a lowly record of three wins and seven losses and are slotted in eighth position as a result. But the question that needs to be asked is, “does Cairns have the ability to repeat the feat they did last season?”.

To best gauge how the rest of the 2020/21 campaign will pan out and how Cairns will fare, we will firstly look at the results the Taipans have obtained to this point and then secondly, look at the upcoming fixtures leading up to Round 10 which has not yet been released by the NBL.

Given the strictness of COVID-19 regulations at the time of mid-January, Cairns were lucky enough to enjoy their first five games of the season at their temporary home, the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, and their first nine games in Queensland. After their one-point win over the Sydney Kings, Mike Kelly and his side had cause for excitement.

The excitement, however, would end abruptly two days later after a 16-point loss to the new-look Illawarra Hawks and it marked the start of a six-game losing skid. Losses would come at the hands of more than half of the other NBL sides, including the Hawks, the Kings who they edged out in their first contest, Melbourne United, Brisbane Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers.

But with these numerous losses, there has been a number of indicators that perhaps fans have not seen the better side of the Taipans yet. The common factors that are easily visible with each of Cairns’ three victories always tend to be their ball movement. For example, in their Round 4 win against the Breakers, Cairns out-assisted New Zealand 18 to 12 in their 84-71 triumph. Against the Hawks in Round 6, the same trend could be seen again here with the Taipans winning out in the assists category 19 to 17.

Another prominent factor in the three wins for Cairns is their accuracy and quantity of success from behind the three-point line on these nights. In their first and third wins against the Kings and the Hawks, the Taipans went 13 of 32 (40 per cent) and 18 of 35 (51 per cent) from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the north Queensland side only found the triple on 31 per cent of their attempts but won the quantity of threes category with 10 triples to four over the Breakers.

While these two factors are nice to dissect, it is well known that if the Taipans are to find late season success, they will need to emerge dominant in more facets of the game in a competitive league like the NBL. But now we look at the contributions of individuals who have provided positive numbers, and a few who have perhaps a little more to give in the next 14 rounds.

It is no shock that Scott Machado, last season’s league-MVP runner-up, is leading the team on the frontlines. The 30-year-old who is now playing in his second season, also leads the squad in points per game (18.1) as well as the competition in assists (9.5). But despite being the NBL’s best distributor of the rock, Cairns has shown itself to be one of the league’s most shallow teams in terms of depth, with only one bench player averaging over four points per game (Jordan Ngatai – 4.4 ppg).

Similarly to NBL20, Machado’s partner in crime remains 203cm-tall forward Cameron Oliver. Averaging a titanic 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, Oliver is well on his way to a double-double season for two consecutive years, while also ranking third in the NBL for blocks with 1.8 per outing and will be by Machado’s side for the rest of the season producing at a high level. A good supporting cast amongst the starting five has been somewhat instrumental for coach Kelly, but without DJ Newbill as a consistently reliable force on the floor like he was last season, the job of filling his void has been a difficult one to say the least.

Continuing his impressive rise in the three/four spot over his time in the NBL, Kouat Noi is once again impressing the Australian basketball community averaging 13 points, 4.9 rebounds and half a block, including a dominant 27-point and five-rebound performance on Monday night against Melbourne. Furthermore, the play of Majok Deng (11 points and 4.8 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (11.3 points and three rebounds) has been nothing to sneer at with the two making considerable contributions leading up to today. Unfortunately, though, there has been no news as of yet if Deng will be making his return on Friday against the Perth Wildcats, after exiting Monday’s game in the first quarter with an apparent knee-injury. A huge loss to the side if the injury is substantial.

To summarise, either the Taipans core needs to produce even more or the likes of Ngatai, Fabijan Krslovic, Jarrod Kenny and especially Mojave King (Next Star) need to step up. These are the two routes that Kelly faces and can encourage to his roster. At the end of the day, making that a reality will fall on the players collectively, as not only will the rest of the season remain just as difficult, but most of the remaining matchups will occur in an away environment.

The possible road to redemption will begin within the next three rounds of action in the NBL Cup, firstly in Round 7. Cairns will hope to entertain the defending champions on Friday before taking on cross-state rivals, the Brisbane Bullets, Sunday afternoon. Round 8 will see Cairns meet the Kings in their first game of March, preceding their next grudge match with the Adelaide 36ers. Their remaining games in Melbourne will conclude in Round 9 against the Breakers who they have beaten previously and the South East Melbourne Phoenix on March 12. Any game past here are yet to be announced.

It was the convincing rout of the second-seeded Hawks and an almost perfect performance against the frontrunning United, which resulted in a fourth-quarter defeat in Round 6, that has perhaps suggested a pivotal point in the Cairns season to date. If the Taipans can topple the Wildcats this week at John Cain Arena, many north-Queenslanders should not write off this team’s season quite yet.

If it can happen once, why can it not happen again?

Sydney reverse Round 1 result to become Kings in Cairns

SYDNEY Kings have balanced the ledger in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season, bouncing back from a heartbreaking one-point loss to Cairns Taipans on the road, by points an eight-point win over Cairns Taipans on the road. In another tight game between the teams, Sydney looked to have the game under control after a strong second term, before Cairns hit back in the third. Luckily for the visitors, they were able to steady and get the win, 99-91.

It was neck-and-neck from the start with the Kings marginally ahead at quarter time courtesy of a 23-22 first term. They built on that lead in the second term, piling on 23-15 to head out to a nine-point advantage by half-time. The Taipans had to find something special in the second half, and they did that in the third term. Showing off what they were capable of, Cairns scored a whopping 34 points to 26 in a massive high-scoring term, just three points less than their entire first half.

By the final break, the deficit was back to just one point in the Kings’ favour. The fourth term had a few ebbs and flows, but despite getting it to one-point difference again during the final term, the Taipans could not grab the lead back since midway through the first term, and whilst always been a chance, the Kings claimed the victory by eight points.

Sydney dominated the rebounds with a plus-12 in that category (49-37), as well winning the steals (7-4) and being impeccable from the line (92 per cent free-throw accuracy). By comparison, while Cairns had a higher field goal percentage (60 per cent to 50 per cent), the Taipans could not get enough looks, having 13 less than their opponents, and also two less free-throws, though the home team only managed five of 11 anyway. Cairns did have more assists (20-18) and points from turnovers (14-6), but could only manage three points from fast break opportunities.

Import Jarrell Martin had a massive impact in the win compared to game one, with the Sydney Kings’ forward winning Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the night. Martin collected a double-double thanks to 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one steal, dominating on the inside. Casper Ware still did his usual thing, sharing the points in an equal team-high 22m as well as two rebounds and three steals, crucially hitting four of seven three-point attempts.

Brad Newley came of the bench for a vital 17 points and five rebounds, while Dejan Vasiljevic is enjoying the starting minutes with 13 points, two rebounds, and one each of an assist, steal and block. Craig Moller (four points, five rebounds and four assists) and Shaun Bruce (seven points, two rebounds and four assists) both played their role in the starting team, while Jordan Hunter (eight points, six rebounds) came off the bench to back up at the five spot.

Despite the loss, there was still no stopping Cameron Oliver who racked up yet another double-double. Shooting at 54.5 per cent from the field – 10 of 14 from two-point range – Oliver amassed 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. Scott Machado marginally missed out on a double-double himself after 14 points and nine assists, while Kouat Noi (13 points, five rebounds), Mojave King (12 points, four rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (10 points, two rebounds) all knocked up double-figure points. Jarrod Kenny coming off the bench only had the two points, but used his playmaking skills to great effect, picking up five assists to go with his three rebounds, but also picked up five fouls.

Cairns Taipans will host a fourth straight game tomorrow when they welcome title favourites Melbourne United to town, while Sydney Kings will travel to Nissan Arena on Tuesday where they will be welcomed by Brisbane Bullets.

Picture credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

NBL21 Round 2 preview: Rematches galore, while Breakers and Wildcats enter the fray

ROUND 2 of the National Basketball League (NBL) tips off tonight, with several games rematches of Round 1 contests throughout the week. With one game on every night, basketball fans will be treated to some high-class matches, and it all begins back in Adelaide with the 36ers and Phoenix locking horns.

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Wednesday, January 20 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Tipping off Round 2 of action is a sense of déjà vu with Adelaide 36ers and South East Melbourne Phoenix going head-to-head at Adelaide Entertainment Centre tonight. Just four days earlier, the 36ers took care of business in the game of Round 1, managing to overcome the Phoenix 116-108 in double overtime. Daniel Johnson won Player of the Match honours thanks to 33 points at a deadly 78 per cent from the field, but it was Next Star young gun Josh Giddey who caught all the attention on his way to a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in just his second game of NBL.

Luckily for the Phoenix, Giddey is unavailable for their rematch, and coach Simon Mitchell described his team’s performance as a “rough one” because the Phoenix “looked a little rusty, particularly at the offensive end”. He will no doubt be searching for a response from his side, though one could hardly fault captain Mitch Creek who put up 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, whilst the import duo of Yannick Wetzell (24 points, 11 rebounds and three steals) and Keifer Sykes (18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) both made sensational debuts.

The sense post-game was that Adelaide’s mid-range shooting was sublime, with 64 per cent from two-point range, compared to the Phoenix’s 48 per cent. Protecting the perimeter well, the Phoenix only conceded three triples, whilst nailing eight themselves, though Cameron Gliddon‘s three of 13 showed the former Brisbane Bullet guard could find his range better in this match. The depth of the 36ers was also much better on the night, with Isaac Humphries (14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks) having an underrated role off the bench.

Many would argue without Giddey in the first game, the Phoenix would have won, and therefore are the tip in this game. In saying that, Adelaide improved well from game one to game two, and now coming into game three – with no travel involved in between – it will be fascinating to see what Conner Henry‘s side can produce tonight.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks
Thursday, January 21 @ 7.30pm
Nissan Arena

By the time you scroll to the second game of the round, you could be forgiven thinking that you had accidentally clicked on the Round 1 fixture. Not only do the 36ers and Phoenix battle for the second time in less than a week at the same venue, but Brisbane Bullets and The Hawks do as well. These two sides took to the court last Saturday, with Brian Goorjian making his return to the league, and managing to gel a team that was vastly unfamiliar with each other, and getting early points on the board. Never mind it was on the road, the 90-84 win was a statement to the rest of the competition.

In that match, it was a real team effort, as import Justin Simon came off the bench for 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a starring role on debut. He was one of four Hawks to hit double-figure points, with Sam Froling (19 points, four rebounds) – getting one up on his brother Harry (10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) in the match – Emmett Naar (17 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tyler Harvey (16 points, three rebounds) all sharing the points around.

The rebound and assist counts were identical, showing just how even these teams were during the six-point victory, but it was just some crucial moments for The Hawks that got them the win. The Bullets can take plenty out of the performance, having lost a number of key talents over the off-season, thought still had a number of double-digit shooters. Nathan Sobey predictably led the way with 19 points, while Victor Law (17 points, nine rebounds) and Jason Cadee (12 points, five rebounds) both came in and had a say on proceedings.

In the end there had to be a winner, and The Hawks emerged victorious. It will be interesting to see what the teams took from that game to bring into this match, with free throw shooting not a highlight for the Bullets – just 57 per cent – whilst The Hawks will want to continue their heavy rotations, as they recorded 39 points off the bench compared to 24. The Hawks will be favourites in this game, but Brisbane will be hungry to turn the tables on them.

Adelaide 36ers vs. New Zealand Breakers
Friday, January 22 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Adelaide 36ers have had quite a busy start to the 2021 NBL season, and are piling on a heap of early games thanks to South Australia’s controlled COVID-19 pandemic situation. The 36ers will enter Friday night’s game playing their fourth match of the season. Their opponents New Zealand Breakers? They will be entering the court for the first time. It has been a long way for the Breakers who will have a point to prove after missing out on finals last season, but have gained of the league’s best players – and lost another – in what will no doubt provide some tactical changes for the coaching staff.

Having not played a game, the Breakers will have had plenty of time to study up on the 36ers and have enough data to take into the match ready to limit their opposition’s offensive rhythm. Daniel Johnson is a key player for the 36ers, though with ex-Bullet Lamar Patterson making his way to the Breakers, New Zealand has the answer and would not be afraid to go head-to-head in that potential heavy-scoring battle. The other key player to watch for the Breakers is import Colton Iverson who arrives as a starting five, and provide depth to the position alongside Rob Loe.

Isaac Humphries has been a key player for the 36ers coming off the bench, and teaming up Keanu Pinder, they will have their hands full. Without Giddey at the three spot, experienced Tom Abercrombie will look to run the floor and guide the team, working with the younger Finn Delany. Whilst only development players, one can only hope the likes of Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson can get some minutes as up-and-coming young stars with long-range shooting and highlight-reel worthy potential.

At the start of the season, New Zealand would have been declared heavy favourites for this game, though with what we have seen from Adelaide, it appears the game will be a lot closer, particularly in South Australia. The Breakers should still win and bank their first points, but how much will the extended break impact on the side compared to the match-fit (but perhaps tiring) 36ers outfit?

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, January 23 @ 8pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

If you have not had a sense of déjà vu yet, then this might tip you over the edge, with a rematch of the one-point Round 1 thriller between Cairns Taipans and Sydney Kings taking place at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Saturday night. In their opening round encounter, the Taipans won 87-86, with some late long-range misses from the Kings seeing them fall short in heartbreaking style. Last year’s grand finalists showed enough to suggest they will be better for the run, but the Taipans were switched on, and after a slow opening term, hit their straps.

Cameron OIiver showed he had not missed a beat over the off-season, collecting a double-double in his first game back, putting up 12 points and 11 rebounds, as well as denying the opposition time and time again with six blocks. He and his partner-in-crime, Scott Machado (17 points, seven rebounds) caused all sorts of headaches for a Sydney Kings outfit that relied a lot on Casper Ware (18 points, three assists). Mojave King made his much-anticipated debut, and while it was not quite what many had expected the young gun to produce, he still had 14 minutes and put up seven points and grabbed three rebounds in that time.

His limited minutes were mostly due to the fact the Taipans had no passengers in the starting five. Aside from the two superstars of the competition, Mirko Djeric (15 points, four rebounds and two assists), Kouat Noi (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, six rebounds) all played their part. Compare that to Sydney, who outside of Ware’s 18 points, had an additional 23 points from their starters. The positive was the likes of Dejan Vasiljevic (15 points, four rebounds) who had a real impact off the bench, as did Brad Newley (14 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Jarell Martin (11 points, eight rebounds).

If the Kings are going to turn the tables on the Taipans, their starters will need to produce more, with the talented Didi Louzada registering just seven points, and then Craig Moller (four) and Shaun Bruce (three) in about 20 minutes of action each. Cairns was nowhere near the standard in the second game against The Hawks, and they will also be seething from the defeat, so expect the Taipans to come out hard. Both teams will be seeking their own redemption in a way, which makes for an entertaining contest.

Perth Wildcats vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, January 24, 5pm
RAC Arena

There would be few things hungrier than a reigning premier many have written off, having the longest break to prepare and prove the critics wrong. Back-to-back premiers and the greatest team of the past decade, Perth Wildcats prepare to mount their assault on NBL21 with a different looking side to the one that brought the team so much success in recent times. The Wildcats have lost a couple of crucial cogs such as Terrico White, Nick Kay, Damian Martin and Miles Plumlee who made up four of the starting five.

Luckily Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton remains, but effectively he will be running with a different looking starting five. Todd Blanchfield has come into the side, with John Mooney coming in as the second import alongside Cotton to replace Plumlee at the five spot. Blanchfield departed Illawarra to slot into the three role left by White, while Mitch Norton is expected to fill the shoes of Martin, who he would have shadowed not only on the court but in practice learning all the tricks of the trade. In short, we do not know what to expect from the Wildcats this season, but with Trevor Gleeson at the helm, anything is possible.

Their opponents in the Sunday evening encounter are South East Melbourne Phoenix, who will finally get to leave Adelaide after back-to-back games against the 36ers. Having lost their Round 1 encounter, the Phoenix will be hoping to head into this game with momentum and confidence after reversing the result from their Wednesday night rematch. It is no surprise that without his experienced teammates, Cotton would be the name not only bolded on the Phoenix’s whiteboard, but underlined and circled to drive home the point.

He must be stopped at all costs, and while Mitch Creek can match him in scoring prowess, it will likely be Cameron Gliddon given the job to match him at the two spot. Given Gliddon struggled with his range in game one, he could easily focus defensively to nullify Cotton, whilst Creek and the likes to Yannick Wetzell and Kyle Adnam took care of the scoring. It is a tough match to pick a winner with so many unknowns about the Wildcats, but at home they are always tough to knock over, and the Phoenix will be wanting to have a better week this week to come away with two wins.

Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United
Monday, January 25, 7.30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

The final game of the round is the fourth at Cairns Pop Up Arena, as the Taipans take on Melbourne United. This will be the Taipans’ biggest challenge thus far, having split their Round 1 games with a one-point thrilling win over the Kings before a disappointing 16-point loss to The Hawks. The Taipans will have a second crack at the Kings a couple of days earlier, so could be 3-1 by the end of Monday night’s game. However in saying that, United seem the team to beat, and quite literally destroyed Adelaide 36ers in a 24-point beatdown on the NBL’s opening night.

Forget the fact it was on the road and after a tentative first half, United clicked into gear. Coach Dean Vickerman said they had to sort out their defensive mindset after the first term, and they did that to then take control and run out the game in dominant fashion. Scoring double the opposition (52-26), they completely took the 36ers out of the game. What impressed the most was the fact that star recruit Scotty Hopson only picked up four points and four assists and largely had limited impact on the contest.

Instead, it was Chris Goulding (16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Jo Lual-Acuil (16 ponts, 12 rebounds and two steals) who did the bulk of the damage, while recruits Jock Landale (10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks) and Yudai Baba (10 points, three rebounds) slotted in seamlessly. Shea Ili earned Player of the Match honours with his deadly shooting display of 13 points, three rebounds and two steals, shooting at 71 per cent from inside the arc and nailing all three free-throws.

Landale will have a big task up against Cameron Oliver in the battle of the two best fives in the competition, while Mitch McCarron will have his hands full trying to limit Scott Machado’s influence. If United play like they did on night one, they will win, but it will be a question of whether or not the second half United comes out, or the first half United. The Taipans have had similar inconsistencies from game to game, but the depth of both sides – and the ability to share the ball around to hit jumpers – makes it a fascinating contest and what some believe to be a potential grand final preview.

Picture credit: Getty Images