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Cairns open Blitz with win over Perth

The Cairns Taipans are the first side to taste success in the 2015 NBL Blitz, defeating a stagnant Perth Wildcats 68-61 on Wednesday night. The good, the bad and the ugly was on display from both teams in a typically tough Taipans-Wildcats matchup. Explosive Perth import Casey Prather was one of the game's most impressive, netting 20 points with flashy drives to the rim to go with some hard work on the glass (seven rebounds). Crafty Cairns point guard Markel Starks showed his ability to put the ball in the hole with 15 points on 6-11 shooting, with his six turnovers a product of the Taipans' commitment to moving the ball. Meanwhile in a scrappy affair that featured a combined 32 turnovers, Prather blew two dunks while behemoth centre Nathan Jawai was his own worst enemy on one play. Jawai was rejected by the rim on a dunk attempt in the third quarter but managed to salvage the play, grabbing the loose ball and laying it in. After a 22-20 first quarter where both teams lived on the foul line, both sides' defensive dogmas came to the fore in a gritty final three quarters. Setting the tone was Jawai who threw Shaun Bruce's floater back out to the three-point line less than a minute into the second quarter. Offence was few and far between as both teams registered 13 points in the game's lowest scoring period, with Prather and Taipans veteran Mark Worthington propping up their sides with nine points each by the main break. The game continued almost deadlocked throughout the third term as Starks took over for the Snakes and Perth bigman Matt Knight got more involved down low. Starks' battle with Prather continued into the fourth quarter as the former Georgetown Hoya started getting the better of Prather as the Taipans extended the margin to 59-51 with 4:14 remaining. Perth continued to stagnate offensively with six turnovers in the quarter including three in as many possessions just as Cairns made their run midway through the term. "We obviously went in without the starting back-court of our team, so we had to firstly set some different goals for what we were after in the game," Wildcats assistant coach Matt Nielsen said post-game. "This is pre-season and there were some good moments and we are getting better at some of the stuff we are aiming to get better at. "As a baby step for what we were trying to do, I thought we did okay." Back-to-back Cameron Gliddon and Worthington and-1s sealed the deal for Cairns who executed impeccably down the stretch. Despite the encouraging finish to the game, Taipans coach Aaron Fearne says injuries have put his side behind the eight-ball in preparations for the season proper. "I think we are probably a little bit behind (at this stage of pre-season) just because of the bang-ups we've had with injuries and so on. Defensively is a big areas for me that I want to see us (improve). "We have patches of games or we have a game like tonight where we just can't really get a rhythm offensively and we've got to be able to win with our 'D', and that's what our group has got to believe. "We've got to accelerate (preparation) pretty quick over this weekend with another two games. Then we'll get another four or five sessions leading into that first week." Cairns picked up 5.5 points towards their Loggins-Bruton Cup tally while Perth claimed 1.5 in total. Both sides next feature on Friday, with the Wildcats up against New Zealand at 6pm and the Taipans facing Townsville at 8:30pm. Cairns Taipans 68 (Starks 15, Worthington 14, Gliddon 11) Perth Wildcats 61 (Prather 20, Knight 14, Jawai 9) Box Score  
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