Game Preview: Cairns v Illawarra
Round 7: TAIPANS vs HAWKS
Game Day: Saturday 11 November, tip-off 4:30pm TICKETS
Where: Cairns Convention Centre
Watch: Live on KAYO & ESPN
Game Night Sponsor: Star FM 102.7
Post-Game Party: Reef Hotel Casino (Sports Bar Arena)
The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans have slid down the NBL ladder, after holding second position before their first road double. After two losses they are sitting at seventh place, with seven games played. Most recently, the Taipans lost 78-91 to the Phoenix, a team they had comprehensively defeated in their home opener.
Now, the Taipans have a home game against the Illawarra Hawks, facing their regional counterparts for the second time already this season.
The Taipans touched down in Illawarra for their first game back from their NBLxNBA trip, and despite travel, fatigue and injuries – the contest was close and only just slipped away from them in the dying seconds, thanks to a classic Tyler Harvey three-pointer.
However, Cairns picked themselves up and headed home to defeat the defending champions just two days later. Bul Kuol became this season’s first “Ironman” as he played the full 40 minutes to get an important 97-90 win over the Sydney Kings. Taipans leading scorer Patrick Miller was on track to put together another all-round performance, before he hurt his back in the second quarter.
He was sidelined for the next round, which also became first consecutive losses for Cairns this season in the team’s first road double. The Taipans went down by 10 points in New Zealand, before losing by 13 points to the Phoenix on Sunday.
Miller was out, but Tahjere McCall and Taran Armstrong were back in, with McCall meeting the team in New Zealand and Armstrong finally cleared to play and make his NBL debut following a foot injury.
Taipans Head Coach Adam Forde did not mince his words at training during the week, accepting the Breakers loss but expressing his disappointment at the lack of effort and rebounding count in Melbourne, with South East grabbing 52 boards compared to Cairns’ 38.
“We knew it was going to be shakey, with Tahj meeting us in New Zealand when he hadn’t been with the team for three weeks, Taran coming back on a minutes plan and being thrown in the deep end to run a team without the assistance of Pat because he was out injured,” he explained.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be pretty, but what was disappointing was the lack of fight and effort. We got beaten up on the rebounds – all my bigs were available, there’s no excuse. We got a little bit sloppy in the execution, guys started finding their own shot unnecessarily and taking away from the rest of the team.
“The body language, the complaining to the refs… it was the most frustrating first half I’ve ever had, and it was at the group. And the fact we were only down four? [at half-time in Melbourne] I was left stunned.”
The Taipans entered their first road double-header second on the ladder, but both losses have seen the team already drop to seventh place, with a 3-4 record. Coach Forde anticipated this learning curve with his young group, however admitted the injury bug is starting to bite.
“We’re in a phase of discovery. Or, re-discovery. We’ve got dudes who were out, that are coming back into the line-up, we’ve had guys that have had to play outside of their positions, that have to go back to doing what they do well.
“This was always going to happen. At this stage of the season, obviously with Tahj being away and factoring injuries. But, we didn’t plan on every single point guard being unavailable – so a lot of guys have had to step up.
“The game on Sunday was disappointing on numerous levels. There’s no hiding that regardless of what your role and position is – if you don’t bring the effort, you’re not going to have too many wins.
“But, we’re not getting to full strength and role clarity is being defined. It’s really important what the next couple of weeks look like.”
The Taipans will now host the Hawks for what is just the club’s third home game, with the wounded Hawks facing their own demons this year, with just two wins from eight games played. Ironically, their two victories have come from the Taipans and Phoenix. They sit bottom of the ladder.
This game, Cairns will again be missing Patrick Miller (back) who was dominant in his last match-up against the Hawks, contributing the game-high 24 points plus seven assists and six rebounds. His absence will only be magnified by Bobi Klintman who will be sitting out with a hip complaint, while forward Lachlan Anderson returns to the active roster following back pain.
The Hawks have enjoyed a seven-day break leading into this game, and also welcome Mason Peatling back to their squad after fracturing his cheekbone. Alongside weapon Tyler Harvey, import Gary Clarke has been major for the Hawks, while Sam Froling is in their top three for points, rebounds and assists.