NBL 2014/15 Round 4: Taipans bite Kings, stay perfect with dominant last quarter

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For a while it looked like the Kings might cause a boilover. Without suspended star Josh Childress, the Kings stepped up at home against the highly fancied Cairns. They were lightning quick on defense and making good decisions on offense. Up 14 points at the half, all they needed to do was hold on.

Their offense disappeared in the third quarter, only managing 13 points, but that was okay, because the defensive effort was still tremendous. They held Cairns to only 16 points, still holding a double-digit lead going into the fourth. Cairns was off their game and Sydney were capitalising. Then the last quarter happened.

A last quarter performance for the ages, the Taipans added to their championship pedigree with a sparkling 31-8 final quarter. They played near perfect basketball; the lopsided square of the final quarter doesn’t even do Cairns justice.

They also proved they can have an off-game, go missing for almost the entirety of it, and win off the back of one strong quarter. That’s huge for their championship credentials.

For Sydney, this is a devastating loss. To play with such courage, missing your star player, on the road against an undefeated Cairns, this was arguably a moral victory for the Kings. Unfortunately, what they really needed was an actual victory. Now sitting at 1 win and 3 losses, Sydney is on the outside looking in. They’ll need to start putting it together soon if this talented squad is to come together and make an impact in the playoffs.

That’s not a worry for Cairns; their playoff ticket is essentially already booked. A perfect 6-0 start to the season is almost a dream, although the raucous home crowd on Saturday night should prove a stark reminder about just how real this season is.

Forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but Cairns were again led by their talented import Scottie Wilbekin, although Sydney was able to curb his impact better than most have thus far. Wilbekin finished with 15 points on 7-13 shooting, though he made his impact when it mattered most. The Kings did a good job running him off the three-point line, with Wilbekin missing his only two attempts.

You can’t win any basketball game alone, and as such captain Cameron Gliddon who notched 13 points and 8 rebounds ably supported Wilbekin. Alex Loughton, who’s been a revelation to start the season, provided his expected output with 12 points and 5 rebounds, although his efficiency was lacking (4-13 from the field, 1-5 from three). Off the bench, veteran Cameron Tragardh was able to have an impact, hitting timely shots on his way to 11 points.

The Kings got a monster game from their less notorious import, Kendrick Perry. Matched up against the likely MVP, Perry used all his competitiveness and explosiveness to try and will his team over the line. Perry managed 17 points (6-10 from the field, 2-5 from down town). Unfortunately, Perry just had too many passengers and not enough players step up with him.

Ben Madgen didn’t have his usual array of jump shots working, struggling for 6 points on 2-9 shooting. Young gun Josh Duinker was able to make a strong impact off the bench, tallying 11 points (4-5 shooting) in only 15 minutes.

Overall, to beat Cairns away from home you need a monster effort; Sydney gave that for three quarters. Clearly, three quarters isn’t going to be enough to beat this incredible Taipans squad. You’re going to have to battle them and play impeccable team basketball for a full forty minutes, and Sydney just weren’t able to manage that.

The Taipans face a tough challenge to their perfect record next week, they’ll face the New Zealand Breakers at home, while the Kings will welcome back Josh Childress in a contest against the lowly Wollongong Hawks.

Cairns Taipans 74 (Wilbekin 15, Gliddon 13, Loughton 12)

Sydney Kings 62 (Perry 17, Duinker 11, Garlepp 9)