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GAME REPORT

Hawks Shut Down Taipans in the 'Gong

It might not have been overly pretty but the Illawarra Hawks locked in defensively to clamp down the Cairns Taipans on the way to a 79-54 Friday night win at the WIN Entertainment Centre.

The Snakes had been challenged in no uncertain fashion by coach Adam Forde during the week for the second time recently. They responded well early to close the first term on a 10-2 run to be up four by quarter-time.

However, early in the second quarter and Forde's ire was raised where he delivered a standing timeout. He wasn’t much happier by half-time with his team down four and he called them out for their defensive breakdowns coming out of the break.

It didn’t help with the Taipans managing just nine points in the third quarter as the Hawks closed the period on a 9-2 run to lead by 11. They then scored the first 12 points of the fourth term and held Cairns to just eight and 54 points on the night in the 25-point victory.

Duop Reath finished with 16 points for Illawarra, Antonius Cleveland 15, Xavier Rathan-Mayes nine (seven rebounds, four assists), Tim Coenraad eight and Justinian Jessup eight.

Remarkably the Hawks made one free-throw the entire game from three attempts that all came in the final five minutes.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian was especially happy with the effort at the defensive end to hold Cairns to the lowest ever score against Illawarra.

"It was scrappy and I knew they would come in with a physicality to them. They did a good job of playing a small, long, quick line-up and switching everything, and getting real aggressive full court," Goorjian said.

"It was really hard to run system but we settled down when we got the two guards on the floor and I thought the second half was what we needed on the defensive side of the ball. 

"They were as aggressive and physical as we've played against, and we matched them. That's been an area obviously that's been a huge concern so to win in that form was really big."

It was a rough night for Cairns over the last three quarters with just the 33 points in the last 30 minutes. They shot 30 per cent from the field for the game, 11 per cent with 3/27 from deep and had 17 turnovers.

Majok Deng was the only player in double-figures with 11 points to go with five rebounds and three blocks.

Taipans coach Adam Forde clearly didn’t get the response he was after with Cairns' 54 points the lowest ever a team has scored against the Hawks.

"You know the old saying, you've only got so many bullets in your revolver, and I feel like I've used them all up this season," Forde said. 

"By that I mean about being aggressive and sending the message out with venom. We're learning and this is the thing I've asked with the guys is how much do we retain the information. 

"What I'm asking is can we stay true no matter the situation to what we are trying to lock in as our home base defence and what we value on the possession on offence, and as a shot. I made it obvious that my struggle was that I felt like we lose that vision a little bit. 

"That's what the timeouts were about to realign ourselves, but we played very too fast and that's not our style of play. We're still learning and I have to be conscious of that too that we've changed a lot of things, and guys are learning the particular way I want things done."

Three balls early for Illawarra from Antonius Cleveland, Duop Reath and Tim Coenraad helped the home team to the 15-11 lead, but Scott Machado then helped turn the tide in Cairns' favour.

He completed a three-point play himself and then the full-court press led to a turnover and Bul Kuol bucket, and the Taipans went into quarter-time on top 21-17.

While the Hawks did start the second quarter well leading to a furious Adam Forde timeout, the Taipans were still up four when Mirko Djeric connected from downtown with three minutes to go in the half.

However, from there the Hawks dominated the last three minutes with Xavier Rathan-Mayes taking over scoring five points himself and setting up his teammates to see them up 41-37 at the half despite no free-throw attempts.

It's fair to say the third quarter didn’t reach any great heights with just the combined 25 points, but the Hawks did close it with a 9-2 run including a triple from Harry Froling on the buzzer to lead 57-46.

It then took more than two minutes for either team to score in the fourth but it was Tyler Harvey with a deep two and the Hawks were out to a 13-point lead.

Cleveland then got another steal and breakaway dunk for the Hawks to go up 15. 

Amazingly Illawarra hit the first 12 points of the term and held Cairns scoreless for more than six minutes before cruising to the 25-point win on their home floor.

Both teams back up with another Round 12 game on Sunday with the Hawks hosting the Tasmania JackJumpers and the Taipans remaining on the road to face the Adelaide 36ers.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 12

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 79 (Reath 16, Cleveland 15, Rathan-Mayes 9)

CAIRNS TAIPANS 54 (Deng 11, Zimmerman 8, Machado 7, McCall 7) 

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