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R11 Preview | Cairns Taipans v Perth Wildcats

Cairns Taipans v Perth Wildcats When: 7.50pm (AEDT), Monday 31 December Where: Cairns Convention Centre Broadcast: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ   The last time Perth 94 (Cotton 21, Kay 15, White 15) d Cairns 72 (Newbill 17, Jawai 13, Kenny 12), RAC Arena, Round 8 In their second meeting of the season, the Wildcats jumped the visiting Taipans early, racing out to an 18-7 start. By quarter time they were in control, up 31-17 and maintained that margin at half time also. The second half wasn’t much different as the Wildcats blew the gap out to 22 points midway through the third quarter. And while the Taipans pegged back some of that by three quarter time and got to within 10 points in the fourth, the Wildcats were never really challenged and eventually blew the margin out again, ensuring no repeat of their previous meeting that went to overtime. The home side cruised to a 22-point win, improving their record to 11-2, while Cairns dropped their tenth straight to fall to 1-10. The now As it turns out, that was the last time the Wildcats won a game and coming off a very disappointing road loss to the Hawks in Round 10, they’ve now dropped five of their last six games. The Cats looked to be in control up by 15 points early in the second quarter and still ahead by 12 points at halftime, but a 15-3 Hawks run to start the third period saw the game tied midway through that quarter. After edging in front, the Hawks trailed by just two points at the final change and then proceeded to hold Perth to a paltry 9 points in the fourth, while adding 15 themselves. 81-77 the final margin in favour of Illawarra. Nick Kay failed to score in double figures for the first time sine Round 3 and just the second time all season. The Taipans can’t get to the New Year fast enough. Despite being competitive most weeks, and again in their last game against Adelaide, Cairns has not been able to break through for a win since their season opener in Brisbane. Once again, the Taipans were in the game in the fourth quarter, trailing by just two points with just over two minutes to go, and after a Jawai lay up made it a two point deficit again with 12 seconds remaining, they were forced to foul. With 10 seconds left, the Snakes had the ball down by 3 points, but could not get a three point attempt off; Trimble trying for a 2-point floater that missed before Anthony Drmic sealed it for good with two more free throws. Nate Jawai had a season-high 18 points with 9 rebounds in the loss; Cairns’ thirteenth straight. The match-ups Damian Martin v Melo Trimble – In another episode of the best defensive point guard in the league versus possibly the best offensive point guard, it will be interesting to see how Trimble responds. When these two teams met in Round 6, Trimble was just three assists shy of a triple double, but that was before Martin had returned from injury. The last time they met, Martin played a key role in slowly the dynamic import down, holding him to just 8 points on 2-9 shooting. Trimble comes into this game averaging 18.3 points and 6.7 assists over his past three contests, and will once again shoulder a big load for the Taipans. Martin, who has now played six games post-injury, returned to the starting lineup in Round 10 and continues to struggle offensively. He’s shooting just 35.5% from the field since his return, bringing his season average down to 39.6%. Martin has made just 1 of his last 13 three-point attempts, but interestingly he has hit a very solid 67% (6-9) on corner threes this season per spatialjam.com. However Martin’s impact is made on the other end where he is once again top 5 in the league in steals and has averaged two per game since resuming his place in the starting five. If Martin can again slow Trimble and knock down a few shots to keep the Cats’ scoreboard ticking over, it will go a long way to getting his team back in the winners’ column. Terrico White v Devon Hall – White has been hot and cold this season, but in the two games Bryce Cotton missed with a thumb injury, White averaged 19ppg, 3 made three-pointers and 21.5 field goal attempts. Cotton will miss this game with hamstring tightness, meaning White will once again be a focal point of the Perth offence. In games where White has made at least 3 triples, the Wildcats have a 4 and 1 record. However, in games where White has 15 or more field goal attempts, Perth is just 3 and 4. They will need to find a more balanced attack to ensure they can end the year with a win. Hall’s slow start to the season has been well-documented, but he’s now averaging 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds at a solid 44.7% from the field over his past 8 games. In fact, his season high of 18 points came against Perth. Unfortunately his improved play hasn’t translated to the win column just yet, but the first year pro out of Virginia is starting to show the all-around skill set that saw him drafted in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He will need to be at his best on both ends of the floor if he is to help his team ring in the New Year with a smile. <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en">Excuse me Andrew, may I have that please?<br><br>Just <a href="https://twitter.com/damianmartin53?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@damianmartin53</a> things™?<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SYDatPER?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SYDatPER</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBL19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBL19</a> <a href="https://t.co/dLspeBUOlF">pic.twitter.com/dLspeBUOlF</a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="https://twitter.com/NBL/status/1073546927755554816?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 14, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>   The stats Cairns have lost their past two games on New Year’s Eve and have a 6-4 record at home in their last ten NYE fixtures. That’s not going to instil any extra confidence in this team heading into this one, especially when they’ve lost their past three games against the Wildcats. Cairns is capable of putting Perth somewhat out of their comfort zone, as the Taipans rank third in terms of pace at 80.4, while Perth has the second lowest pace at 76.3. In fact, that was on display in Round 6 when the Taipans took Perth to overtime, before losing narrowly. Unfortunately, the Taipans haven’t consistently translated that into made baskets as they are the only team yet to top 100 points in a game this season and rank dead last for points per game at 83.1. However, over the past month, the Taipans rank second in the league in steals and third in the league in free-throw attempts at 22.5 per game, so if they can continue to put Perth under pressure and convert those steals into transition opportunities or get to the line, it will give them a good chance. Perth remains the best offensive rebounding team in the league in NBL19 with 11.4 o-rebs per game, gobbling up 31.1% of available offensive boards per realgm.com, a trait that always puts pressure on their opponents. And despite their reputation as a defensive focused team, they have the best offensive rating in the league (after Brisbane’s loss on Saturday) and also average the second fewest turnovers in the league. The Wildcats however, have historically struggled in Cairns and the Taipans have held Perth to the second lowest eFG% of all the teams they’ve faced.   The story The biggest news heading into this game is the absence of Bryce Cotton. He failed to board the flight due to hamstring tightness and will miss his third game of the season with injury. The Wildcats are 1-1 without the reigning MVP this season but hopefully this is nothing serious. “It’s always tough to answer right now but I feel there’s a very good chance it’s just for this game,” Wildcats Assistant Matt Nielsen said yesterday. “We’ll give him a bit of time. A lot of the time it is about how you feel when you wake up in the morning and we had a 3.45am wake up call. “We weren’t in a position to see how he felt when he woke up. We’ll know more in a couple of days.” Losing the league’s leading scorer is never a good thing, especially when you’re going up against the second leading scorer in Trimble, so Perth will need to find other ways to generate their points. One such player who is sure to be part of that plan is Nick Kay. The first-year Wildcat who is a front-runner for an All-NBL spot this season, had probably his worst game of the season last round when Perth lost to Illawarra. Kay, who was averaging 16ppg and 8.75rpg was held to just 9 points and 4 rebounds in that one, so he will be looking to turn that around before 2018 ends. Of course the whole team will be looking to turn things around having now lost five of their past six games after winning ten of their first eleven. “Probably frustrated more than concerned,” was the feeling from Damian Martin after their latest loss. “I know there’s the ability there, and we’ve shown it in four of the past five losses to have double-digit leads against quality opposition, but the concerning part or the frustrating part is then that when they make a run at us, we can’t build that ten, twelve, fourteen point lead and get to that twenty point lead. “So, it’s frustrating knowing what we’re capable of but then not producing it on the court consistently for 40 minutes. The league’s too strong collectively to let teams get a sniff, particularly on their home court.” The Cairns Taipans have been trying to find a winning formula for over two months now. Thirteen straight losses is not something anyone predicted, no matter what you felt their finals chances were heading into this season. For first year coach Mike Kelly, he is impressed with his team’s resilience through all the losses and said as much post-game after the latest loss in Adelaide. “I think there’s been one game, New Zealand, where we broke,” Kelly admitted. “This group has shown crazy toughness through some losses and some bad basketball, and then showed resilience to come back and put ourselves in a position to tie it there in the last twenty seconds. “It can break your back, but it didn’t with this group. That’s the thing I’m proud of but damn; the things we did to ourselves.” Kelly though is hopeful that the talent and resilience of his team will eventually pay off. “I think we have good players and I think these guys have stuck together through these losses, so we’re going to keep doing that until we get a breakthrough. “I think we have a chance to win games because they’re sticking together.” There are some who are beginning to question whether Kelly is using his players in the right way. The team’s offence has been centred around Trimble all season, and while he’s put up some eye-popping numbers – leading the league in assists and ranking second in scoring – it hasn’t been a recipe for success. Nate Jawai, who spent much of last season hobbled by a foot injury and has been getting back to 100% even as this season has progressed, is an impact player. The big man, who was recently recalled to the Boomers team, always has been. And not just for his size and strength, but for his skill-set. Jawai’s passing ability out of the post is one of the best you’ll see for a traditional five man and that, along with his low-post scoring ability have not been featured consistently. Last week, Jawai had his best offensive game since February 2017 and frequently made decisive moves to score, crash the o-boards or get to the free throw line. He is extremely tough to stop when he’s engaged like that. And of course, his size puts pressure on opposing bigs as even Andrew Bogut found in Round 10. “It is a tough one against Nate, he is so physical, he has a very big body,” Bogut said last week. “At times he throws guys, even like myself, around like rag dolls. “I am usually hurting after the game, he puts the pressure on you.” If Jawai can continue to put pressure on Angus Brandt and Tom Jervis by being aggressive against single coverage and forcing them to double team him, it will open things up a lot for his teammates. That can then hopefully help to alleviate any sense of urgency to create shots and cut down on their turnovers which have plagued them when they can’t quite close out games. Cairns will also need to be ready to face some zone defence from Perth; something they didn’t handle that well at times against Adelaide. However, once they made some adjustments, they were better at attacking the gaps and will need to do the same against Perth. There’s no doubt that both teams will be desperate to close out this year with a win. The Taipans would love to reward the loyal Orange Army with a reason to celebrate the New Year, while also just trying to prove to themselves that they can close out a game. “We need to get better at the things that are going to help us win – the discipline things,” added Kelly last week. “We’re trying to do that every day and the guys are bringing that energy and effort to give themselves a chance, but we have to be more disciplined.” Perth is trying to reclaim their winning ways and stay in touch with top spot on the Hungry Jack’s NBL19 Ladder, after failing to maintain leads. They’ll see if they can do so without their best player tonight. “We’ve been in a winning position, we just can’t put teams away,” said Trevor Gleeson after their latest loss. “It’s disappointing and it’s a problem that we’ve got to fix.” That kind of desperation is sure to produce a fiery and exciting contest. And as the last game on the 2018 calendar, it’s one you won’t want to miss.    
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