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R1 Report: Sydney dominate Cairns to open season

The Sydney Kings dismantled last season’s grand finalists Cairns on Saturday night at Qantas Credit Union Arena, building a 25-point half-time lead and cruising to a statement-making 87-63 victory. Returning Sydney Kings centre Julian Khazzouh was dominant with 22 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two steals, while guard Jason Cadee was also outstanding with seven assists and two steals. Highlighting the win was the fact the Kings played so well without the NBL’s most complete player - former NBA forward Josh Childress. Childress is still recovering from a foot injury and is expected to return some time over the next fortnight. ''Our backs were against the wall with no Childress and the negativity at the Blitz, and I give these guys a lot of credit,'' Sydney head coach Damian Cotter said. ''Getting a win like that will be good for our confidence. ''We knew what we had to do, and the great thing about dealing with adversity is that you get to correct it.'' The Cairns Taipans were missing forward Cam Tragardh, while new import Markel Starks struggled in his second NBL outing, making just one of four shots and finishing with two points, two assists and a turnover in 30 minutes. He was slightly more visible against the Kings, but his final numbers of six points, five rebounds and three turnovers in 29 minutes have left him under pressure to save his job. ''It's early days, but there's no question they [Starks and fellow import Torrey Craig] need to perform, but it's not just those two,'' Fearne said. ''It was just a poor team performance. We didn't match their edge and defensively we were s step behind everything.'' Showing no signs of nerves in the absence of Childress, the Kings stood toe-to-toe with the notoriously physical Taipans in the opening minutes before Khazzouh took over with nine straight points for an 18-10 lead. Cadee made one of two free throws and broke free for a lay-up, stretching the margin to 11 and prompting a frowning Fearne to burn his first time-out. The Taipans looked sluggish, falling behind 29-15 at quarter-time after a red-hot Sydney connected on 11/16 shots. Cotter might’ve been a tad concerned about his side giving up four offensive rebounds, but everything was pointing to a runaway Sydney victory. Cairns struggled to settle into any semblance of offensive fluency, missing shot after shot as the margin swelled to 23 with six minutes remaining in the half. Cotter showed off his underrated bench, receiving key contributions from Rhys Carter, Jeromie Hill and Dion Prewster, but his shining lights were Cadee (12) and Khazzouh (13), as the Kings hit 60 per cent of their shots to set up a commanding 57-32 half-time lead. Sydney grabbed 21 rebounds to the Taipans’ 14 and made 8/17 threes compared to a dismal 1/16 return for the visitors. The Taipans managed to stem the flow slightly in the third quarter but were unable to reduce the deficit. Sydney held a 74-47 lead after three periods, with Cadee boosting his points tally to 17 and Khazzouh up to 20. ''It's going to be a challenge for every player in the league to back up with the way the schedule is,'' Fearne said. The Kings host Townsville next Thursday and Illawarra on Saturday, while Cairns have a week to prepare for a Saturday night home game against the Crocodiles. Sydney Kings 87 (Khazzouh 22, Cadee 19, Thornton 9) Cairns Taipans 63 (Worthington 13, Weigh 12, Gliddon 10) BOX SCORE  
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