PERTH Wildcats are through to a remarkable 35th consecutive National Basketball League (NBL) finals series after downing cellar dwellers Cairns Taipans on the road by 11 points. In a battle that was perhaps closer than many anticipated, the Taipans refused to go away at Cairns Pop Up Arena, and it was not until the final term when the visitors finally shook them off to win, 89-78. The win ensured they would head to the post-season series, joining Melbourne United as the other team to qualify thus far.
Perth hit the lead in an entertaining high-scoring first term which saw the Wildcats pile on 28 points to 26. The Taipans clawed back to cut the half-time deficit to just one point, and then levelled the scores by the final break after winning those respective quarters 18-17 and 21-20. With the game on a knife’s edge, the Wildcats showed their class and experience to come away with it in the final term, pouring on 24-13 and winning 89-78 in front of more than 1800 fans.
The Wildcats shot more efficiently from the field – but only just – with 46 per cent to 45 per cent, though the three-point record of 44 to 39 per cent was a little more noticeable. The teams were even across the board, though the Snakes – still missing Cameron Oliver for the rest of the season – dominated the rebounds with 42-31, and also the blocks (7-3). Therefore it was no surprise to see the home team take control in both the points in the paint (42-32) and second chance points (13-6). For the Wildcats, they won the assist count (21-16), as well as the steals (8-3), and had far fewer turnovers (6-14) therefore making the Taipans pay from turnovers with 19 points to nine.
Bryce Cotton was unsurprisingly deadly, scoring 24 points in 29 minutes, of which he shot four of five from long-range. Cotton also managed the five assists, three steals and two rebounds in the win, whilst John Mooney stepped up with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, to go with two assists and two steals. Todd Blanchfield (11 points, three rebounds) and Mitch Norton (10 points, three assists) also contributed, whilst Will Magnay was managed through 20 minutes for seven points, two rebounds and two assists. Off the bench, Luke Travers was the standout with nine points and three rebounds.
For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai continues to fill the massive shoes left by Oliver with the veteran shooting 20 points in 23 minutes, whilst also racking up nine rebounds and three blocks in the process. His defensive work married up well with Scott Machado‘s offensive transitional ability of 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Fabijan Krslovic came off the bench for 11 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes, whilst Tad Dufelmeier took his chances with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Majok Deng (six points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks) also worked hard across the court.
Perth Wildcats host Sydney Kings on Thursday night at RAC Arena in a huge encounters, whilst the Cairns Taipans hope to snap their five-game losing streak back at home again taking on Brisbane Bullets before back-to-back games in Melbourne.
Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images