Taipans Fall To United Despite Dominant Bigs
A desperate Melbourne United has beaten the CQUniversity Cairns Taipans for the first and only time this NBL season on Thursday night but not without standout showings from the bigs of the finals bound Snakes.
Cairns took on Melbourne at Melbourne Arena on Thursday night to open the final round of the NBL regular season knowing that a fourth win this campaign against United could almost spell the end of the finals hopes of the team that has played in the past two Grand Finals.
And when the Snakes got rolling to start the second half thanks to Cam Oliver on his way to another massive double-double, that looked a distinct possibility, but in the end Melbourne found an extra gear when they needed it most.
With their season on the line, Melbourne finished strongly to end up winning 99-83 having scored the game's last 12 points and to move a step closer towards securing fourth position.
But for Cairns, a finals spot was already secured coming into the last round following last week's win in Adelaide and now following this result, the Snakes are guaranteed of finishing in third position.
Now it's up to the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats to decide top spot to determine who the Taipans face in the semi finals.
Despite the loss, there were some impressive performances from the Taipans and none better than big men Cam Oliver and Nate Jawai. Oliver finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds including hitting 3/6 from deep while Jawai was unstoppable in the block for 16 points on 7/8 shooting in just 12 minutes.
Majok Deng added 11 points and five rebounds, DJ Newbill 11 points and five assists, Scott Machado 10 points, nine assists and six rebounds, Jarrod Kenny eight points, Mirko Djeric three points and three assists, Fabijan Krslovic three points and two boards, and Kouat Noi two points.
Taipans coach Mike Kelly certainly couldn’t fault the effort put forward by his team, but ultimately 21 turnovers of which Melbourne scored 19 points off proved tough to overcome.
"We played hard, it was not always pretty, but we played hard," Kelly said.
"They tried to up the pressure and at times we responded well but we turned the ball over too much in the fourth and they turned those into points. Melbourne United lifted and took advantage scoring on those turnovers."
Mirko Djeric opened the scoring for Cairns with a three-pointer before Cam Oliver warmed into the contest nicely with a couple of strong finishes and then a triple of his own.
Nate Jawai then hit the floor and Melbourne had no answers for him down low as he firstly powered his way to the basket, and finished with finesse with three consecutive buckets.
Melbourne narrowly led 20-18 at quarter-time but the Taipans soon changed that when Fabijan Krslovic opened the second period with a bomb from downtown. Jawai added four more quick points to give Cairns the 25-22 lead and then a three from Jarrod Kenny kept them up two.
Things remained tight heading towards half-time with Cairns again tying up the scores thanks to DJ Newbill's three ball and another dunk from Jawai. Melbourne did go up six but Majok Deng cut that in half at the half-time break thanks to his triple.
The Taipans then continued that momentum to start the second half on fire with a 7-0 run started by Deng and then capped off by five points from Oliver as he continued to have the better of his clash with Melbourne centre Shawn Long.
The Taipans still led by four when Newbill hit a three and then still by two on a Machado bucket, and still by one when Machado hit a pair of free-throws before United assumed the lead when Chris Goulding hit another of his five threes for the night.
But the Taipans stayed in touch thanks to scores late in the quarter from Machado, Kouat Noi, Jawai and Newbill to only trail by one with a quarter to play.
Oliver then scored to open the fourth quarter to give Cairns a one-point edge before consecutive threes for Melbourne to David Barlow and Goulding.
The Snakes continued to fight and were back within three with 3:30 remaining when Kenny drained a three from the corner pocket. But that would be as close as they got with Melbourne finishing the game scoring the last 12 points to crucially add to their percentage.
Cairns will now finish the regular season in third position no matter the result against the Brisbane Bullets at Nissan Arena on Saturday.
NBL ROUND 20
CQUNIVERSITY CAIRNS TAIPANS 83 (Oliver 19, Jawai 16, Deng 10, Newbill 10)
MELBOURNE UNITED 99 (Goulding 23, Trimble 19, Barlow 15)