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R3 Preview: Melbourne v Cairns

Can the Cairns Taipans be the second Queensland team to end an unbeaten run? Melbourne United are standing alone at the top of the table with Townsville's defeat of the Perth Wildcats last night. In their debut year in 2015, Melbourne were not able to win more than three games in a row but already have more than that just three rounds into the new season. Last year it was the Taipans that set the pace early with six straight wins and they remained on top of the ladder throughout the whole season and made it through to the Grand Final. Can they be the first to end the United streak? Cairns have one ace up their sleeve. Last year's United MVP Mark Worthington is an emotional player by nature and this return to Hisense Arena is certain to have the blood boiling. Even though he comes off the bench, Wortho is second on the team in minutes played, behind captain Cameron Gliddon, and will make his presence felt all over the court. The Taipans coaching staff may secretly love this challenge with Melbourne’s settled line up because they have faced some unpredictability so far. In their first game against the Hawks it was the addition of Jarrad Weeks that surprised them and then they were smashed by the return of Julian Khazzouh and the Kings. In Adelaide on Thursday, they had to try and stop Jerome Randle sight unseen. Melbourne so far have been the most settled of any in the NBL this year. Daniel Kickert led the League in three-point shooting last year and is stroking it at a greater rate this time around. In his last two outings, the power forward hit a career best six triples against Adelaide and followed up with four in the first half against Townsville that combined for 10 makes of his last 14 attempts. Last year he only shot 60 per cent from long range against the Taipans (6-from-10). Kickert is also coming off consecutive 20-point games for the first time in his NBL career. Starting Melbourne centre Majok Majok has grabbed more rebounds than anyone else in the competition which is outstanding for a guy that is only averaging 19 minutes per game. Majok has picked up twice as many rebounds as points (46 – 22). You get the feeling that someone from the Taipans will have to give them 20-points tonight, something no player has done yet so far in their past seven games played going back to last year. That man could well be Cameron Gliddon who is in career best form at 14.5 points per game and has led the team twice in scoring including a career-best 19 against the Hawks. Last night produced two upsets by the away team and Cairns will be hoping for the same result in their historic 500th NBL game. BY THE NUMBERS

Head-to-head: 4 games played. Melbourne United: 1 win. Cairns Taipans: 3 wins.

In Melbourne: 2 games played Melbourne United: 1 win. Cairns Taipans: 1 win.

2014/15 at Melbourne: Round 1) Cairns 89 def Melbourne 61 at Hisense Arena Round 6) Melbourne 91 def Cairns 76 at Margaret Court Arena

FAST FACTS

HIGH STANDARD - Last year, Cairns played at Hisense Arena in week one after a win at Adelaide and won by 28 which remains the biggest road win by the Taipans in their 17 season history.

All four games played between these teams last year were decided by 15 points or above with Cairns winning three of the four matches.

THE BIG 500 - This is the 500th NBL game for the Cairns Taipans. They played their first ever game at Rod Laver Arena  on October 2, 1999 but lost to the Melbourne Tigers 71 – 98.

Cairns lost their first season NBL games before beating Sydney and ended up 2 wins and 26 losses in their first season. They have won 217 games and lost 282 to this point.

Aaron Fearne has been their longest serving coach at 182 games (93 wins, 89 losses)

Most games played for Cairns Taipans in their 499-game history 407 – Aaron Grabau 223 – Anthony Stewart 183 – Gary Boodnikoff 155 – Kane Oakley 146 – Alex Loughton

Most points scored by a Cairns Taipans player in the NBL 51 – Martin Cattalini vs Brisbane Nov 2006 43 – Aaron Trahair vs Townsville Feb 2001

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