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GAME REPORT

Kings Overpower Taipans in Second Half for Crucial Win

The Sydney Kings have bounced back from having their streak ended to take a step closer to second position in the NBL dominating after half-time to beat the Cairns Taipans 87-77 on Thursday night.

The Taipans hosted the Kings at Cairns Convention Centre to open the last round of #NBL22 and with both teams missing key players, it was all about who was going to step up.

Tahjere McCall did plenty of that in the first half with 12 points and eight rebounds for a Cairns team still minus Stephen Zimmerman and Scott Machado, and they were up 41-35 late in the opening half. 

However, with Xavier Cooks shaking off foul trouble and Ian Clark enjoying his increased role in the absence of Jarell Martin and Jaylen Adams, Sydney closed the first half with eight of the last 10 points. 

They then opened up the third quarter scoring the first 13 points so after being down six, they went on a 21-2 run either side of half-time to blow the game wide open on the way to the 10-point win.

It was a bounce back win for the Kings after their 13-game winning run ended at the hands of the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday at Qudos Bank Arena. 

The victory keeps them in second spot at 19-8 and what happens with the Illawarra Hawks in Perth on Friday will determine just how important Sunday's home game for them against their NSW rivals will be.

Xavier Cooks might have had three fouls by early in the second term to limit him to under 24 minutes, but he was superb for Sydney with 18 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and three assists.

Ian Clark also delivered 21 points with DJ Vasiljevic contributing 15 points and four rebounds, and Makur Maker 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Kings coach Chase Buford was happy with the way his team dug deep to blow the game open to start the third quarter and felt it all started at the defensive end.

"We just wanted to come out after half-time and be better defensively," Buford said.

"We had a few breakdowns that gave them some easy looks and I thought our offence really put our defence on the back foot because we were playing off some bad shots and some turnovers too much in the first half. 

"We just kind of locked in, got some stops and X did a terrific job contesting at the rim even though he knew he was in foul trouble. That helped us get some easy buckets in the by being able to play off our stops."

Tahjere McCall tried to spark the Taipans at every opportunity with 22 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals with Bul Kuol adding 16 points, Majok Deng 13 and Keanu Pinder 12 to go with 14 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and two assists.

Taipans coach Adam Forde was frustrated that his team's third quarter woes from all season again came back to haunt them.

"It's been on-going all season and we addressed it at half-time," Forde said. 

"I don’t mind that we left points on the free-throw line, that happens, but even just before half-time we could have had a double-figure lead and instead whether it's a lapse in concentration or missed communication, but we went in with a tied game. 

"We tried to fix it at half-time but they continued on that momentum and went on an 18-0 run that overlaps two quarters. It's frustrating."

Tahjere McCall was aggressive early for the Snakes to open the game's scoring but it was Xavier Cooks and Ian Clark doing the early damage up the other end for the Kings in the absence of Jaylen Adams and Jarell Martin.

McCall, though, hit five quick points for the Snakes and they were up 12-8 before Sydney responded with the next six points, and went into quarter-time up 18-17 despite neither team really getting any rhythm.

The Kings shot 33 per cent from the field and 0/7 from deep with the Snakes going at 27 per cent while hitting 2/11 from downtown.

Cooks took himself to eight points to start the second quarter but then picked up a third foul and sat most of the rest of the half. McCall was aggressive up the other end with five straight points and then Mirko Djeric hit from deep to put the home team back on top.

The Snakes then built some momentum heading towards half-time with a 7-3 run but it was all locked up at the half at 43-43 thanks to Clark's triple from Sydney to give him 14 points going into the interval.

If the game was on the line at half-time, it didn’t stay that way for long with the Kings blowing it wide open in the opening five minutes of the second half.

Sydney kept Cairns scoreless for more than five minutes while putting up 13 points themselves in that period with Matur Maker outstanding with seven of those points and an impressive block up the other end.

Cooks and Clark kept rolling too with DJ Vasiljevic draining a three until Cairns eventually showed some life with triples to Kuol and McCall. They were the Snakes' only six points of the term, though, with Sydney hitting the last six to be up 62-49.

The Taipans did breathe some life back into the game with three consecutive threes early in the fourth. The last two came courtesy of Majok Deng to bring the home team within six points, but the Kings had the answers.

Three jumpers to Vasiljevic and another to Shaun Bruce steadied Sydney back out to a double-figure lead on the way to the 10-point win.

The Taipans will now finish their season also on their home floor on Saturday against the Brisbane Bullets while the Kings return home to host the Hawks on Sunday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 21

CAIRNS TAIPANS 77 (McCall 22, Kuol 16, Deng 13)

SYDNEY KINGS 87 (Clark 21, Cooks 18, Vasiljevic 15) 

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