R12 Preview: Adelaide 36ers vs Cairns Taipans

When: 1pm (AEDT), Sunday 20 February 2022

Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Fox Sports; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; ESPN (delayed) ; Sky Sports NZ

Who won last time?
Cairns 93 (Deng 23, Zimmerman 18, Pinder 15) d Adelaide 67 (Hannahs 20, Humphries 12, Johnson 12) – Round 3, Cairns Convention Centre

Adelaide didn’t show up in Cairns back in Round 3 and the Taipans put on a show, their frontcourt dominant and Tahj McCall dealing double-figure dimes as the hosts led by 11 at quarter-time, 21 at half-time, 34 at the final break and 40 midway through the final term.

What happened last start?

Since that win the Snakes have lost six of seven games, culminating in a performance in Wollongong on Friday almost as poor as the 36ers in Round 3. After leading 33-31 with two minutes until half-time, Cairns were outscored 48-21 in an embarrassing final 22 minutes.

Adelaide were good for more than 36 minutes in Brisbane, leading by seven with 3:40 to play, before a late meltdown, Sunday Dech’s leaning three-pointer to beat the shot clock their only field goal on the run home as they wasted a second-straight defensive lockdown.

Who’s in form?

No one in orange – When you hold an opponent to 79 points at 46 per cent, 8 triples and only 3 free-throw attempts, you should be right in with a chance to win that game. Cairns did that are were flogged by 25 points in the ‘Gong, going individual when things got tough in the second half to record the most-inept offensive half the NBL has seen since 2013.

Daniel Johnson – DJ has not had the offensive year he’s usually accustomed to, with his jumper wayward and fewer opportunities inside, but he let that impact the rest of his game. Over the first nine outings, Johnson averaged just 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 o-boards, however in the past two games he’s upped that to 13 rebounds and 4 o-boards, with the 36ers pulling in a massive 78 per cent of d-boards and 34 per cent at the offensive end as a result.

Who needs to be?

Cam Bairstow – No one can question the Bear’s intent, his 14ppg, 10.7rpg and 2.3apg in the past six games lifting the Sixers back into competitiveness after blowouts to Illawarra and Melbourne. However, his 5/14 conversion and 0/4 final five minutes against Brisbane – with eight of those misses from within three feet –were costly, he needs to convert to get Ws.

 Adam Forde – Drawing lines in the sand, questioning players’ competitiveness in the media and asking whether some of his team are idiots can work as a motivational tool, but when it doesn’t a coach is left with plenty of work to do. Cairns are a quality outfit when forcing turnovers, but when they're not the half-court offence is dire, and that is on the coach to fix.

Who’s statting up?

 - In the past three games, Adelaide’s defence has allowed just 75.7 points in regulation, giving up only 38 per cent from the field and 7 triples at 23 per cent, while grabbing 72 per cent of available defensive rebounds

 - The 36ers’ offence ranks first in o-boards, second in field-goal percentage, third in free-throw attempts, fourth in three-point percentage. However they are seventh in scoring, due to ranking last in turnovers, three-point takes and three-point makes

 - In wins, Cairns average assists on 54 per cent of their scores, while in losses that shrinks to 46 per cent. Their half-court offence ranks equal last with Sydney and Tasmania at just 0.86 points per possession

 - The Taipans force an average of 18 turnovers a game in wins, compared to 12.1 in losses. Adelaide commit 14 cough-ups per game in wins, compared to 18 in defeat

Who’s matching up?

Mitch McCarron v Scott Machado – If McCarron went to Adelaide to show he could lead a team without a star-studded crew around him, he is falling short. Adelaide led by 10 in Brisbane when Mitch’s lazy handle started a run of five Sixers turnovers, three of them from McCarron, including a horrendous looping pass Lamar Patterson turned into a jam. Mitch must be near perfect at PG for this team to succeed, and he’s far from that right now.

Cairns’ successes have been largely dependent on forcing turnovers, but with Machado back, they’ll be hoping he can soon bring some organisation into their offence. After 15 points in 16 minutes in his return game, the following two have produced 14 points on 3/16 shooting. Friday’s blowout allowed him to rest, however, so maybe we’ll see the Scott of old on Sunday, but he needs ball movement and spacing to allow him to hit picks on the move.

Who’s talking the talk?

Mitch McCarron was remarkable in Melbourne United’s championship run last season, steering the talent-laden ship with calm and selflessness.

But this season he’s moved out of his comfort zone, trading his experienced United crew for an Adelaide side that is mostly raw at Hungry Jack’s NBL level.

He’s also traded a proven international veteran back-up in Shea Ili for the enthusiastic but erratic talent of Tad Dufelmeier, and that’s put plenty of pressure on him to perform.

He's copped plenty of hits, none more so than his nightmare fourth quarter in Brisbane, but he’s not shying away from that, and he’s not listening to outside noise.

“Mistakes by myself as a point guard and mistakes a group not executing what we want to do, and then you put tremendous pressure on your defence to get stops,” he said.

“I know when I play well and I know when I don’t play well, so I don’t really look outside of my circle to find that out. I watch a lot of video, I know after a game when I've made mistakes and what I didn’t do right.

“Then I go within the group, I go to the coaching group and people I trust to have that discussion … I'm disappointed with myself and how I played and I'm the first one to acknowledge that, it’s not like I'm sitting here thinking differently.”

McCarron's had good and bad moments this season, but last time against Cairns, he had 3 points on 1/5 shooting and went a horrendous -36 in 29 minutes, clearly the game’s worst.

The 36ers coughed up 20 turnovers as they were run out of the gym, and Money Making Mitch knows he and the team need to handle the heat a lot better.

“We have to look back and look at what they did well and what we didn’t do well,” he said.

“It’d be silly to expect they're going to come out and do different things, they had great success against us applying pressure and trying to make us not run our offence the way we want to.

“We've prepared for that, we've been working on that all week and Sunday will be a new game.”

The Taipans will be hoping Sunday is a brand new game after their 79-54 shocker in Wollongong, emerging star Bul Kuol lost for answers to explain their performance.

“We've got a great coach, we’re a great group, we’re talented, but talent doesn’t win you games,” he said.

“I think we've got to figure it out because coach has tried everything, yelling at us, challenging us, as a group we've just got to respond better.”

However coach Adam Forde is starting to realise he might have gone too hard, too early with his aggressive approach on a young team, especially given injury’s revolving door has welcomed Scott Machado, Tahj McCall, Nate Jawai, Jordan Ngatai, Mirko Djeric, Jarrod Kenny and Kouat Noi already this season.

“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,” he said.

“I’m not calling anyone an idiot, I want to be clear, what I'm saying is I don’t think we’re listening. It’s evident when we do some simple little exercise, I give out some direction and we mess it up then and there ... I think it’s an added little learning curve.

“For me as well, maybe my delivery needs to be a little clearer, maybe I need to be a little more visual, less verbal, this is what we discover throughout the season.”

As a team that relies on energy and cheap points, the Taipans have especially struggled on the road, 1-4 with an average losing margin of 16, and a full house at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre is going to present another stern test.

“It's another thing when you’re in an away venue and the odds are against you and it’s starting to slip through your fingers, can you stick to the process? Can you stay true to it and not fall into bad habits? We’re learning,” he said.

Forde banked some minutes for returning point guard Scott Machado, knowing how badly his leadership is needed for a half-court offence that was often “unidentifiable” on Friday.

“We played a little bit too fast, we played very too fast, it’s not our style of play. Even to start the half we got stops and then we just turned it over down the other end,” Forde said.

“We've got to be able to provide opportunities for him to be able to create. I think we were driving into lanes that weren’t available, we were unnecessarily clogging up the key ourselves with our positioning.

“Once we get more into a flow and we have our starting point guard playing his style, we can have everybody working around him, we’ll be fine.”


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