Game Preview: Cairns v Sydney
After a hard-fought one-point loss against the Hawks on Thursday night, the CQUniversity Cairns Taipans return home to face the defending champions, the Sydney Kings in a tough home-away double-header. The Taipans host just their second game of the 2023-24 season at the Cairns Convention Centre on Saturday night, with their home opener being a distant memory on October 5 before the club's NBLxNBA trip.
Five rounds in, the Sydney Kings have an impressive 4-2 record for second spot on the ladder, while Cairns have only had four NBL outings for an even split of wins and losses so far. Will this semi-final rematch be another big home win for the Taipans, or will the Kings crown stay strong?
WHEN AND WHERE
Saturday 28 October - Cairns Convention Centre (7:00pm AEST)
HOW TO FOLLOW
Watch: Live on KAYO and ESPN
The Taipans sit fifth on the ladder having only played one game at home from four so far, which was an 87-80 win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix earlier this month.
The Sydney Kings sit second, having played six games. They’ve managed to win two of their three roads games: a 96-81 victory over a lacklustre Hawks outfit and 113-102 against the Bullets.
The Taipans squad will be identical to that who took on the Hawks and will unfortunately be without two key weapons: Taran Armstrong (foot injury) and Tahjere McCall (personal reasons). It is expected both will return for Round 6 next week.
The Kings will be without Jaylin Galloway who has been sidelined for at least three weeks with a shoulder injury sustained against the JackJumpers. However, DJ Hogg will suit up in purple for the first time, after missing four rounds with his own shoulder injury. The 2023 Taipans club MVP sets up a great storyline for his Kings debut, facing his former team on his old stomping grounds.
Expect points to be plentiful with these two sides having the second and third highest point scorers in the league – Patrick Miller (20.75 ppg) and Jaylen Adams (20.33 ppg).
Even if the Kings are the more fancied side in this clash three things can be guaranteed – the Cairns crowd will be loud, the humidity will be high and the likes of Miller, Waardenburg, Kuol and Klintman will be ready to lead the Orange Army and take advantage of home court.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Having signed with the Sydney Kings for the first time in 2021 he helped the Kings to the NBL Championship, and he has now returned to defend the title.
In that championship-winning season, Adams played 21 games averaging 20.1 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. This year in six games so far, he is averaging 20.3 points with a 40% clip from deep, five assists and four rebounds per game.
Even in a 105-95 loss against the Jackjumpers last week, Adams took a double-double of 21 points, ten rebounds plus five assists; and shutting him down will be vital for a Taipans’ victory.
Sam Waardenburg v Kouat Noi
Battle of the forwards! Sam Waardenburg and Kouat Noi have had similar beginnings, both starting their professional basketball careers with Cairns after attending college in the US and both having memorable rookie campaigns.
Former Taipan Noi had a strong rookie season in orange with 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game back in 2019-20 while Waardenburg became the inaugural winner of the Next Generation Award last season for his 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists efforts. He had a standout performance recently against the Toronto Raptors, scoring 15 points, four rebounds and two blocks after missing the Washington opportunity due to illness.
This year, not much separates these two forwards in their respective stat lines, and both have shown they lead their packs and turn the flow of play in favour of their sides.
Expect Waardenburg to step up against the Kings as he demonstrates his growth since the semi-finals, while Noi will look to stand in his way and no doubt make a lot of noise in the process.