After scoring just 63 points in a win against Wollongong last week, the Cairns Taipans have again struggled offensively, this time falling to the Perth Wildcats 54-65 while shooting just 30.6%.
Cairns lacked a spark all night, with Scottie Wilbeken (9 points on 3-11 shooting) held superbly by Damian Martin while Torrey Craig suffered foul trouble throughout the night which kept him scoreless.
The match was perfectly suited to Perth’s style- a grinding display of shutdown defence that rarely garnered any enthusiasm from the 12,000+ crowd. The Wildcats’ full court press forced Cairns into a bevy of turnovers while their interior defence often denied the visitors even a look at the basket before the shot clock expired.
In a game that seldom produced highlights, Perth finally brought the home crowd out of their seats shortly after the half-time break. Following a Cam Gliddon make, Shawn Redhage perfectly executed a full length outlet pass to a streaking Matt Knight, who scored an uncontested lay-up. The sequence perfectly summed up Cairns’ night as they could do nothing to disrupt Perth from their game plan.
The warning signs were blaring for the Taipans early as they recorded 9 turnovers by quarter-time. Perth also had their struggles, starting the game on 1-7 shooting but aside from Alex Loughton, who scored Cairns’ first 7 points, the visitors looked shell-shocked.
Scoreless at quarter-time, Wilbeken brought himself into the game with two three pointers in the second term but just as he found some momentum, Martin snuffed it out. He nailed two triples of his own as Perth maintained their advantage into half-time.
Despite leading for a majority of the game, the Wildcats own low score meant they never had the match sewn up. Cairns kept in touch throughout the third term, reducing an 11 point margin to 8 by the final break as Gliddon began to find his range.
However, a 9-2 run to start the fourth period ended any chance of a miracle comeback as Knight and Greg Hire thrashed the Taipans inside. They helped Perth to score 7 of their 11 made second half baskets inside the paint, giving the Wildcats a 26-14 advantage under the rim.
Jermaine Beal scored a game high 17 points, shooting 6-6 from the free throw line while Knight added 12 and 6 rebounds. Martin was the star though, completely shutting down Wilbeken while collecting 11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals of his own.
Loughton (16 points, 7 boards) was the only player to find some offensive freedom for Cairns as he played in front of his home town crowd. Gliddon (11 points) was the only other player to reach double figures but his night was marred by 4 turnovers as the Taipans’ 18 errors led to 14 points for the Wildcats.
Perth look to have sealed a 29th straight finals appearance with this win, sitting four games ahead of fifth placed Melbourne although they have played two more games. A 9 day break will serve them well before they visit New Zealand on February 15. For Cairns, the loss has dropped them out of top spot and they do not have long to regroup and re-find their offensive mojo as they head to Sydney on Sunday.
Perth Wildcats 65 (Beal 17, Knight 12, Martin 11)
Cairns Taipans 54 (Loughton 16, Gliddon 11, Wilbeken 9)
@ Perth Arena