Hungry Jack's NBL
Jawai finds spark to lift Taipans over Kings
Former Australian Boomer Nathan Jawai has turned back the clock a decade to lift the Cairns Taipans to a much-needed win 96-92 over the Sydney Kings in Week 3 of the NBL Cup.
The boy from Bamaga has easily his best game of the season as he was a beast down low that the Kings could not counter, picking up 22 points, six rebounds and three assists.
His dominance gave star import Scott Machado all the room he needed to carve out 24 points, three rebounds and four assists while Fabijan Krslovic had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Mirko Djeric and Cam Oliver both chimed in with 12 important points each as Cairns rebounded from a horror week last round where they were belted by over 20 points in both matches.
Cairns coach Mike Kelly was full of praise for Jawai who was at the centre of the win.
"Nate was clutch for us. I love the kind of spirit he came out to play with it and it translated to getting buckets - a good combination," Kelly said.
"He's always a great target and when we got rolling our guys felt great about it. We tried to run simple stuff that ended up with looks for Nate and he made hay.
"He has been rounding into form and tonight he was really big and we wouldn't have won without his great contribution ... it was his time to shine tonight."
The Kings came out firing - star Casper Ware (28 points, four rebounds, four assists) especially - and led by nine points in the first quarter but the Taipans never gave up on the contest.
DJ Vasiljevic did his Rookie of the Year chances no harm with another huge haul of 32 points including a perfect 5/5 from long range but Jordan Hunter (11 points, six rebounds) was the only other player to hit double figures.
Sydney Kings coach Adam Forde said the longer they play undermanned without key players like Martin and Xavier Cooks, the harder they are becoming to cover.
"We just looked flat, tired. For the most part in the second half, it was pretty telling where our deficiencies lie," Forde said.
"Personnel, X (Cooks) is still our No.1 rebounder but the reality is that we won't have X for a while. It is not about who we don't have in the line-up, it is about who we do have in the line and collectively we have got to do a better job.
"It is about where our faults lie and that is something we need to improve and work on ... we need to be better."
Ware continued his hot run of form with a brace of triples as the Sydney Kings quickly took the ascendency in the match with a 16-8 lead. When Vasiljevic splashed a three the Taipans had a lot of work to do.
A triple and then a huge dunk from Oliver from underneath the rim helped Cairns stay within reach and an unsportsmanlike foul from veteran Brad Newley gifted the Taipans further points in the dying seconds of the quarter.
Despite dominating for most of the first term, the Kings only took a slender 28-26 lead into the first break.
After a slow-ish start to the first quarter by his standards, Machado fired out of the blocks in the second quarter and suddenly Cairns was out by five after earlier trailing by as many as nine points.
Krslovic was one rebound short of a double-double as he flexed his influence at both ends of the court and all of a sudden it was Sydney struggling to stay in touch.
Big Jawai was turning back the clock with a dominant performance in the paint and every Taipan was chipping in as Cairns cruised to a 51-41 half-time lead. The Kings needed to find a spark in the changerooms and they came out firing with a 6-0 run to haul themselves back into the contest.
Vasiljevic and Ware continued their rampage while an unsportsmanlike foul put veteran Daniel Kickert on the foul line and all of a sudden the Kings only trailed by three points.
Then back-to-back baskets to Didi Louzada put the Kings' noses in front for a brief moment but some huge plays at the end of the quarter from Jawai and Ngatai meant the Taipans held a 74-67 lead at the final change.
It wasn't long before the Kings were surging again and agitated coach Mike Kelly didn't make life easier by surrendering a tech foul from the bench. Machado was not going to give up that easily though with huge plays on the defensive and offensive ends that stole the lead back with just two minutes left to play.
Mirko Djeric then pushed that advantage with a triple late in the shot clock and when Vasiljevic effected a steal in the dying seconds the Taipans had a match-winning buffer.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 8
NBL CUP WEEK 3
CAIRNS TAIPANS 96 (Machado 24, Jawai 22, Krslovic 15)
SYDNEY KINGS 92 (Vasiljevic 32, Ware 28, Hunter 11)
POINTS AWARDED – Cairns Taipans 4, Sydney Kings 3