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Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans Game Preview

Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Monday, 7 November Where: Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ A gift for Fearney Cairns produced a disciplined masterclass at The Snakepit on Saturday night, holding the high-flying Kings to just 10 points in the opening quarter and 57 for the game. While for coach Aaron Fearne it was a defensive performance for the ages, according to power forward Mark Worthington it was simply a present for their dour play-caller. “We found out before the game it was Fearney’s 250th game as a Taipans – 211 as a coach and 38 as a player to this point – and we thought you know what he’d really like? Defence,” Worthington laughed at the post-game press conference. “So we would be really stingy and only let them get 10 points. You should have seen how excited he was at quarter-time, he was so excited. We’re happy to do that for you.” Yet while all the talk was about the Taipans’ D, Saturday’s victory was the execution of an all-court plan for which Sydney must find answers ahead of Monday night’s rematch at Qudos Bank Arena. “If you say before the game you’re going to hold a team to 64 points you’d say we should be able to manage that and get a win,” Kings coach Andrew Gaze said. “To their credit, they dictated the tempo with their offence and played really good defence.” Poise and patience Sydney’s five-game winning streak had been built around pressure, forcing their opponents into turnovers or rushed shots and punishing them in transition, but on Saturday the Taipans allowed them no such luxury. In the first half, Cairns made the Kings defend for an average of 20 seconds in the half-court before they got the ball back. The Taipans’ patience deflated Sydney’s ability to run the other way and opened up scoring opportunities through their pressure. That was through a combination of disciplined execution and relentless offensive rebounding, with Worthington, Nnanna Egwu and Fuquan Edwin beating their rivals in the physical battle. “I thought Fu set the tone big time just getting on the offensive glass and keeping the ball alive at the start of the game,” Fearne said. “Obviously with Alex (Loughton) out and Travis (Trice) out we had to have contributions from everybody and we had that. I thought guys had their little moments. Nnanna was big time off the bench.” An unsung hero was shooting guard Damon Heuir. Coming off a hot shooting night in Wollongong, the second-year pro was forced to play out of position with Trice sidelined, but thoroughly outplayed NBA veteran Steve Blake in their battle off the bench. “Damo’s in a pretty good spot right now,” Fearne said. “He’s been training well and obviously played fantastic last week, and had to go play the point a lot for us tonight. He was fantastic.” Breaking the shackles The first challenge for the Kings ahead of Monday is to find a way to unsettle Heuir and Co to increase the tempo of the game. The next step is to free the shackles Fearne placed on their shuffle offence, a system he has run himself for many years. “They’ve got all their little dribble hand-offs and back-door cuts and there’s obviously lots of different options they went to and tried to pick us apart,” Fearne said. “But we scouted it pretty hard during the week, we talked about how we wanted to defend certain action and we did that, I thought we took things away and made it really difficult for them to get in a flow and play with some rhythm.” Fearne is well aware that offensive talent like Kevin Lisch, Brad Newley, Jason Cadee, Greg Whittington and Blake are unlikely to shoot a combined 13-of-43 again, however he wants his team to dish up the same medicine and see if the Kings can swallow it. “They’ve got some pretty good players that’ll just make shots and we have to come out and do the same thing,” he said. While the Xs and Os will be important in the rematch, Gaze made a point of calling his team out after they managed just 10 points from turnovers, were beaten on the offensive glass and smashed 34-14 for points in the paint. “I think our energy was down, in the first half on the glass in particular. They lived on the offensive rebounding, for a period there their best offence was a second shot,” he said. “I think in the second half we were able to correct some of those things and do better, but still not where we needed to be.” While Fearne said he expects Monday’s game to be a higher-scoring affair, he makes no apologies if it is another war of attrition. “We’re not necessarily going to blow teams off the court and score, we’ve got to be gritty and grind, be physical and really, really compete,” he said.
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