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PREVIEW

R15 Preview: Cairns Taipans vs Tasmania JackJumpers

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 11 March, 2022

Where:
Cairns Convention Centre

Broadcast:
ESPN; Kayo; Sky Sports NZ


Who won last time?
Cairns 69
(McCall 20, Noi 17) d Tasmania 62 (Magette 19, Steindl 13) – Round 2, Cairns Convention Centre

In one of the more forgettable games of NBL basketball, the Snakes and JackJumpers combined for 40 turnovers, 21 assists, 35 per cent shooting and just 88 points after quarter-time. Despite that, someone had to win, and it was Cairns thanks to Tahj McCall’s 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and 17 points from Kouat Noi. Josh Magette had 19 for the JJs.


What happened last start?

The Tasmanians have improved a hell of a lot since then, winners of six of their past nine after a similarly dour grind-out win over the Breakers in Launceston. When the JackJumpers are connecting from outside they can run up scores, but on dry nights they are particularly reliant on their defence, which hasn’t been consistent without Will Magnay in the middle.

Cairns have won just one of their past six games and are slipping into a battle with New Zealand for the wooden spoon. They played some quality basketball against the red-hot Kings, however, looking far more organised at the offensive end, and a win over Tasmania would keep them within 4.5 games of the fourth-placed Hawks and with a glimmer of hope.


Who’s in form?

Scott Machado – While still not quite at 100 per cent, Machado cut a much fitter figure at the Q and promptly burned the Kings for 26 points at 50 per cent and eight assists, while getting to the foul line nine times. While there were still some rusty moments where his passes ended up in the crowd, the Taipans’ offence looked much better for having him back.

MiKyle McIntosh – A few weeks ago JJ fans must have been scratching their heads at how McIntosh had been a consistent double-figure scorer in quality European competitions. Now they know. His past three games have produced 19ppg at 65 per cent and 15/20 from the foul line. The burly Canadian is a formidable one-on-one scorer Cairns will struggle to match.



Who needs to be?

Tasmania’s starters – Against New Zealand last week, the JackJumpers won bench scoring 45-6. In contrast, their starting quintet was outscored 56-21, shooting 8/31 from the field and 1/19 from the arc. Tasmania’s starters rank clear last in the NBL with just 50 points per game at 39 per cent, but in their previous five wins had managed 61ppg at 45 per cent.

Stephen Zimmerman – With Magnay still sidelined, the much-improved Zimmerman has the opportunity to dominate the paint. His past four games have delivered 14.3ppg, 11.3rpg and 5.0 o-boards, while shooting 60 per cent inside, up from 49 per cent in his opening 10 games. He dished five dimes in Sydney too, so he is ready to make Tassie pay for clogging the middle.


Who’s statting up?

 - Against New Zealand, MiKyle McIntosh and Jarrad Weeks shot a combined 11/17 at 65 per cent from the field. Their teammates managed just 12/48 at 25 per cent

 - The JackJumpers scored 66 points on 3/27 from outside the arc in that game. In their previous seven they’d averaged 83.6ppg on 13.3 triples at 40 per cent, while in their first nine outings those numbers were 74.9ppg on 7.7 treys at 26 per cent

 - In Sydney, with Machado back to full game time, Cairns scored 88 points with 19 assists and eight turnovers. Prior to that, they were averaging 76.6 points, 16.5 dimes and 16.7 cough-ups

 - Cairns’ current offensive rating of exactly 100 is the lowest since Townsville’s 97.7 and Adelaide’s 99.6 in NBL13. Their offensive rating against the Kings last round was 117


Who’s matching up?

Bul Kuol v Josh Adams – Tahjere McCall and Kuol locked Adams down in Round 2 clash, the JA going 4/18 from the field and 1/10 from deep. It was a breakout performance for Kuol as he built his defensive reputation, going +16 in 15 minutes. He’s nailed 10/17 from the arc in his past three games though, and is now a key floor-spreader in the Taipans’ offence.

Adams is the key scorer for Tasmania, but where he was averaging 16 points from ‘ones and twos’ in JJ wins prior to his long-range outburst against Illawarra, that has slipped to just 6.0ppg in the past three outings – two losses and a lucky win over NZ – as he has become three-point happy again. With McCall out on Friday, the time is right to attack the paint.  


Who’s talking the talk?

Things were far from pretty for the JackJumpers the first time they headed to the Far North.

After a 22-point opening term, they managed just 19 across the next two periods, and couldn’t find anyone to dig them out of that offensive hole as they hopelessly sprayed up 17 three-point attempts across those 20 minutes for only one solitary make.

The story wasn’t much different as they headed to Launceston for the first time last weekend, with the 91 per cent humidity Cairns-like, making quality basketball difficult.

With the JackJumpers shooting 11 per cent from outside with the slippery ball, they needed a hero in the paint and that man was MiKyle.

The bull-strong power forward scored 21 of his team’s 66 points, connecting at 58 per cent on a night where misses where the norm.

McIntosh was the game-winner, but not so long ago there was a high chance he mightn’t have even been in uniform for this game after a season of struggle.

“There’s moments where I thought he’s got to get his stuff together very quickly,” coach Scott Roth admitted.

“We kept working with him, he kept buying into the process, he kept buying into me screaming and yelling at him and not really affecting other than to go and do the work.

“The last few weeks he’s gradually started to put some things together that I was envisaging for him, which is a big strong power guy who can play multiple positions, versatile and can handle the ball for a guy his size.

“He’s hit his stride a few games here and I’m really happy for him.”

 



Both teams combined to score a meagre total of 18 points from the three-point line, while McIntosh put his head down and scored all 21 of his from the paint or free-throw line.

“It was a nice game to have, the team kept trusting and believing in me playing down there,” he said.

“The game plan by coach was get into the paint, get points in the paint, our shot wasn’t falling tonight so we just tried to get into the paint and do all that we could.

“That was the game plan and it worked out well for me.”

McIntosh has scored 51 points from the key or foul line the past three games – 36 per cent of his team’s total from those areas – and has backed up his claim to coach Roth that more minutes would help his team win.

“I struggled at first trying to get into the swing of things and how to play coach’s way, it was a little different for me and different to how I've ever done, so it was an adjustment,” McIntosh said.

“I told him that if he let me have a chance it would pay off for all of us, not only for myself. So it was all on coach to allow me to still play, still be here, so thank you to him.”


Someone else who is playing more minutes is Scott Machado, and his new coach is finally getting to appreciate everything his wizard-like point guard can do.

“Having him back in the line-up and able to play 35 minutes I'm learning a little bit more, the chemistry between a coach and player, so it’s great seeing what he’s capable of,” Adam Forde said.

“As you see it happening on the floor it gives you a chance to go way and think about some creative things you can splice in.

“We put some sets in during the week which was to go towards his strength, which worked, so we want to keep building on that and going back to the well.”

Machado dished eight dimes, four to Stephen Zimmerman, two to Keanu Pinder and two to Majok Deng as he got his frontcourt involved.

That’s exciting for coach Forde, who knows the big Zimm has the potential to dominate the undersized JackJumpers given his quality all-around contributions in recent times.

“I think you see it a little bit more now with defences collapsing in on him,” Forde said.

“He had five assists, he had three of them in the first quarter, he’s getting more and more comfortable with it, and we want to find better ways and more creative ways to find him in the block.”


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