Taipans drop ball in New Zealand
The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans have fallen short 81-91 against the Breakers on Friday night at Wolfbrook Arena, for the club’s first game ever played in Christchurch. Cairns entered the game second place on the NBL ladder, while New Zealand have now registered just two wins for their season – both against the Taipans.
As like every game so far in their 2023-24 campaign, the Taipans were undermanned and without their full roster. Early MVP candidate and Taipans leading scorer Patrick Miller was ruled out with the back injury he sustained against the Sydney Kings, while forward Lachlan Anderson also unavailable with back soreness.
Back in the line-up was Tahjere McCall in his return from America and Taran Armstrong, who finally made his NBL debut following his pre-season foot injury. The promising Tasmanian officially began his pro career in the starting line-up, putting up four points, three rebounds and an assist in the first half.
Armstrong led from the front and found his feet as Bobi Klintman went to work in the first term, finding his opportunities to demonstrate his versatility for seven points, and a Taipans 23-21 lead. The Breakers locked down on defence after the first break and managed quieten Klintman, but not Bul Kuol as he continued his fine form for 12 points, a board, an assist and an important block to help keep Cairns in front at the main break.
However, it was déjà vu all over again as the Breakers’ pressure downhill managed to stifle Cairns’ offence and they struggled to gain any momentum. With a Christchurch crowd of almost 5000 behind them, Breakers Anthony Lamb and Izayah Le’afa managed to break the game open in the third as they desperately tried to break their four-game losing streak.
Lamb hit three consecutive three-pointers for an 11-point Breakers lead, which was matched by Izayah Le’afa who had three triples of his own in the same term.
The Breakers held control for the rest of the game but Cairns stayed in touch, with Klintman registering 11 points, five rebounds and two steals in under 19 minutes before he found himself in foul trouble, as Lat Mayen hit big shots when it mattered for his contribution of 18 points and seven rebounds.
Taipans Head Coach Adam Forde acknowledged that they found themselves in a similar situation from their last New Zealand visit.
“It was pretty much the same as the first round. We just struggled defensively, the one-on-one, the dribble penetration. The more we sagged in to help on the drive, the more they punished us with the driving kick,” he said.
“They got a good run in the third and we just struggled to get a bit of momentum back. We brought it back to an honourable nine or ten points, but we could just never really get on a run ourselves.”
Mayen and Kuol led the Taipans with 18 points each, as Sam Waardenburg and Sam Mennenga were important with eight points apiece. Klintman ended up with 17 points and six rebounds while all eyes were on Armstrong who finished with a respectable seven points, three rebounds and one assist on his minute restriction.
“It was a bit of a double loss, in the sense that if it was a blowout – I could put my bench on and rest these guys for our second game. But even at the three-minute mark, I felt like we had the potential to hit a couple of foul shots, get a couple of stops and who knows?
“But in the end, I had some guys play some high minutes and I didn’t even get a chance to rest them at the tail end of it," said Forde.
The Taipans’ first road double of the season continues on Sunday in Melbourne, when they face the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena, 1:00pm