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R18 Report: Taipans scrape home but lose Sixers series

Bitter-sweet does not even begin to describe the Cairns Taipans’ 95-89 home win over the Adelaide 36ers on Friday.

Playing for their post-season lives, it was not all about the result on the night for Cairns so much as the margin; needing at least a 12-point win to take the season series from Adelaide – which has a chance to collide with the Taipans after all 28 games have been played. Somehow, however, the Snakes are still alive in the play-off race; but they need the New Zealand Breakers’ cooperation. It has become the most difficult mathematics problem in basketball history, but if the Taipans win all of their remaining games and Adelaide lose all of theirs, both teams will end on 14 wins. And if New Zealand (currently 13 wins) finishes on 14, the formula becomes ‘whichever team has won the most head-to-heads between those three teams makes the play-offs’ – in which case Cairns would be elevated to fourth on the NBL ladder. The Snakes were paced by Mark Worthington’s 24 points, five rebounds and four assists; getting good backing from captain Cameron Gliddon (19 points, four boards). Just like the home side Adelaide had five players in double digits, led by Adam Gibson’s 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. The veteran guard was a superb floor general, getting Mitch Creek (18 points and eight rebounds) and Anthony Petrie (17 points) in favoured positions to score, while Lucas Walker and Daniel Johnson also posted double digits. “Gibbo did an excellent job tonight, I thought he played really well,” Sixers coach Joey Wright said post-game. “He played a lot of minutes – all but 3.5 minutes. His best game of the year for sure.” It was essentially a finals game for both sides but rather than a slow pace, the tempo was hot early on. Worthington (eight first-quarter points) was the man for Cairns, which shot 60 per cent and forced three steals in an efficient first term. Minus Jerome Randle the visitors’ offence looked shaky at times – coughing up six turnovers on the quarter – but found nice looks under the rim to stay within striking distance. Taking a 10-point lead into the final quarter, Cairns had almost reached the magic number of 12 before going ice cold, scoring just two points in 5:10, as part of a Sixers 10-1 run. Worthington led Cairns with 16 by half time, while on the other end Daniel Johnson (10 first-half points) got scores under the bucket on his way to 10 points. Both side held leads in the third term but neither capitalised before an 11-2 Taipans run late in the term threatened to break the game open. But led by jumping-jack athletes Creek and Walker, Adelaide stemmed the flow before Creek connected from the corner to bury the Taipans’ chances of a series win with 1:22 remaining. The Sixers remain uncertain of Jerome Randle’s return, but Wright hopes to have their star back for Illawarra next Friday; while Cairns’ next game is in New Zealand on Sunday. While aware of the near-impossible task ahead of his side to make the play-offs, Cairns coach Aaron Fearne reflected on Friday as, “a good team win.” “The effort tonight was great, I thought we came out locked in. “We just couldn’t keep them off the free-throw line, they just seemed to keep ticking the scoreboard over from the free-throw line. “We were going for the home run a little too quick.”   CAIRNS TAIPANS 95 (Worthington 24, Gliddon 19, Burston 10, Craig 10, Starks 10) ADELAIDE 36ERS 89 (Gibson 21, Creek 18, Petrie 17) BOX SCORE
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