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PREVIEW

R16 Preview: Brisbane Bullets vs Cairns Taipans

When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 20 March 2022

Where: Nissan Arena, Brisbane

Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; Sky Sport NZ

 

Who won last time?

Cairns 73 (Machado 17, Kuol 14, McCall 12) d Brisbane 69 (Cadee 15, Patterson 12, Sobey 11) - Round 13, Cairns Convention Centre

To say both teams needed the win to open Round 13 in the Sunshine Stoush would be quite the understatement. Cairns had lost four straight and seven of the past eight, and Brisbane two in-a-row and six of the past seven. It was the Taipans, though, who came out of the blocks firing racing to an 8-0 lead and then still being up 32-19 after the opening quarter.

The Bullets eventually closed the gap to two points late in the piece. But ultimately a Scott Machado three-point bomb with 25 seconds remaining was the dagger and the Taipans won despite just 41 points after quarter-time.

Machado appeared to be moving much better and was more assured with the ball in hand to finish with 17 points and seven assists for the Snakes. Bul Kuol went 4/6 from downtown for 14 points while Tahjere McCall had 12 points and five assists, Stephen Zimmerman nine points and 13 rebounds, and Mirko Djeric nine points on 3/6 from deep.

While Lamar Patterson finished with 12 points and Robert Franks 10 for Brisbane, they were scoreless in the first quarter and had a combined six points to half-time. Nathan Sobey returned but was only allowed to play 13 minutes for 11 points while Jason Cadee top-scored with 15 to go with eight dimes.

 

What happened last start?

Brisbane hasn't played now since hosting the Perth Wildcats last Saturday where they did a lot right against the second placed team in the league, but a poor third quarter proved costly in the eventual 12-point defeat.

That means that staying in playoff contention is decidedly unlikely for the Bullets at 7-12 but there were some encouraging signs as they continue to adjust to life without Nathan Sobey. Robert Franks put up another 21 points and eight rebounds, Lamar Patterson is showing he's more than just a scorer and had 16 points and eight assists, and Jason Cadee is leading from the front with another five assists.

Deng Deng is giving good energy, Isaiah Moss and Tom Digbeu are starting to settle into roles, and the Bullets do appear to be figuring things out and now they would have had eight days to prepare to take on the struggling Taipans.

The Snakes come into this game on a five-game losing streak following Friday night's 83-57 defeat in Adelaide at the hands of the 36ers. They actually started the game reasonably well but ended up scoring a paltry 18 points the entire second half to be outscored by 21.

There were some positives, but not many. Keanu Pinder has been the Cairns' brightest light this season and he battled hard again on Friday with another 15 points and 14 points while Nate Jawai also tried to create an inside threat in the absence of Stephen Zimmerman.

Scott Machado went scoreless for the first time in his 78-game NBL career and it wasn’t the night the Taipans were hoping for against a team they had beaten by 26 points themselves earlier in the season. They now find themselves arriving in Brisbane on the bottom of the standings.

 

Who’s in form?

Robert Franks – He is proving quite the signing for the Bullets this season. Whether playing the four or five spot, he's coming up big time averaging 17.3 points and 7.9 rebounds a game while shooting 46 per cent from the floor and 39 per cent from downtown. He had another 21 points and eight rebounds last week against Perth, had 23 and 10 the previous game against New Zealand and over the previous four matches he's putting up 21.8 points and 8.0 boards. He just needs to keep doing what he's doing for the Bullets and you can't be asking for much more from him.

Keanu Pinder – The transition from a flashy yet inconsistent talent last season in Adelaide to someone who provides great energy, takes full advantage of his athleticism and at both ends of the floor can be a real difference maker has been remarkable with Keanu this season. He is standing out for his energy, heart and hustle on this struggling Snakes team. He's fresh off the best game of his NBL career on Friday night with 15 points and 14 rebounds in a 26-point loss to Brisbane. He is playing at the energy level the Taipans need, he just needs more teammates along for the ride now.

 

Who needs to be?

Lamar Patterson – Lamarvellous is having a pretty good season with the Bullets. He's putting up 17.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game while shooting 45 per cent from the field and 32 per cent from three. He's also become more of a facilitator in recent times averaging 7.0 assists a game over the past four matches. If he can continue to get that balance right from being a flat out scorer to setting up his teammates, and rebounding then he can be a match-winner without necessarily needing to put up 30 for the Bullets to win.

Scott Machado – To say that Machado looks frustrated at his own game and the situation the Taipans are in for a second straight season now would be a great understatement. He is coming off he first scoreless game of his NBL career on Friday night, but he's still got all the tools in the bank to be a match-winner. He just needs to focus on running the Snakes like he can and the rest will flow. If he can set things up for his teammates, his own scoring game will flow from there. If he can also keep his emotions in check and be providing more of a positive energy, he can still lead the Taipans to a W.

 

Who’s statting up?

 - The Taipans might have won just four games this season but two of those have come against the Bullets, including their last meeting. Overall, Brisbane has won 26 of the 49 clashes in history against Cairns
 
 - The Snakes have won just one of eight road games this season and have lost all four times when playing their second matches in a double-header for a weekend

 - The Bullets and Taipans are the only two teams in the league averaging more than 14 turnovers a game, Brisbane averaging 15.4 and Cairns 15.6

 - Bullets captain and point guard Jason Cadee needs two more assists to rack up 1000 in his 330-game NBL career. Already with 998 to his name, he has more than any other current player, 150 ahead of Mitch Norton

 

Who’s matching up?

Jason Cadee v Scott Machado – The point guards set the tone for both these teams and how they go will go a long way to determining who comes out with the Sunday afternoon victory in Brisbane. It's also about getting the balance right between being a scoring threat and shooting to setting up teammates and running the offence. JC has done a terrific job especially in the absence of running the team in the absence of Nathan Sobey, showing outstanding leadership and getting the balance right between shooting, passing and playmaking. The Maestro hasn’t quite found his groove since returning from a heel injury with Cairns. But we know what he's capable of and there'd be no better time than to rediscover his best all-round game.

 

Who’s talking the talk?

Brisbane coach James Duncan reflected on last Saturday's loss at home to Perth and liked what his team did for more than half the game. They just need to do it for longer and he hopes that happens on Sunday against the Snakes.

"We need to get healthy bodies and obviously we were pretty banged up, but we are doing good things. That first half was pretty good, I would have to say but our emphasis on the scout in the second half dropped off," Duncan said. 

"I'm not sure if that was because we were tired or not, but we just need to be better heading into Cairns. We need to lock in on what the game plan is and do a better job of executing that game plan for 40 minutes. We did that for 20 or 25 minutes, but you can't do that against teams in this league if you want to have success."

As for the plans for the eight days from last Saturday's loss to Perth to this game on Sunday with Cairns, Duncan's focus was on getting his group healthy and then focusing on plotting a way to victory.

"Getting healthier is a good thing so if we can use the eight days to get healthy that's an advantage for us. We're going to continue to build on these good habits we've been building these last few weeks," Duncan said. 

"We outrebounded them, we had 19 assists, we kept our turnovers down 12 so there were lots of good things to take out of it. Obviously we didn’t walk out of here with the W but we need to focus on these positive forwards, take them into Cairns with us and continue to move forward."

Impressive Bullets big man Robert Franks knew that for the eight days in between games, the team had to get themselves right physically and mentally to prepare for this Taipans test.

"We just have to compete in practice, go watch film and everybody needs to get on the same page," Franks said.

"It's towards the end of the year and we're now in must-win situations and we know that. It's all about just gathering each other, getting back on the same page and just going out and playing at a high level."

Taipans coach Adam Forde was as disappointed as he has been after Friday's 26-point loss in Adelaide to the 36ers, but he's learning how important it is to show your character by dealing with disappointment.

On the back of that, he is looking forward to seeing how the Snakes now respond with a short turnaround in Brisbane on Sunday.

"My brother, he hits me up all the time with things about staying positive and the lessons you learn from this. There are lessons, right, and it's only a loss if you don't learn anything from it and we're doing a lot of learning this year," Forde said.

"A lot of it is about how you handle disappointment because it really tests your character so how we handle this disappointment with the other things we feel we've let ourselves down on, and this is just another one of those.

"I think every game definitely since we got out of that COVID break we've been trying to atone for our previous game so this will probably be no different. There'll be guys that are disappointed so we have to reflect on that, and try to grow from it.

"But it gets harder each week and we're not trying to sugar coat it, there's guys who aren’t happy with the fact that we scored 18 points in a half. It's a quick turnaround and we'll see what happened."

After Friday's loss in Adelaide, Taipans star Tahjere McCall didn’t want any criticism to come onto coach Forde because he believes it's all up to the players to turn things around.

"Honestly coach has done everything possible for us to be better and just looking at it, everybody didn’t play good so it's hard to do anything when no one really played good basketball, besides maybe Keanu," McCall said. 

"We just have to be better because coach has done so much to try to put us in positions to make the game easier and we're just not doing it right now. We're just not doing it."

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