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R4 Preview: New Zealand v Cairns

Just three rounds into the NBL season and it’s a concern for both of last year’s Grand Finalists. Both the New Zealand Breakers and Cairns Taipans have a negative record and will drop off the pace if they lose this one. Both teams have an identical two home wins and three road losses and both have even given away the exact same number of points (82.4). Just over seven months ago these clubs fought for the Championship and today they will scrap to stay in touch with the top four. Cairns have lost their past two games to Adelaide and Melbourne although they were competitive in both. If the Taipans drop this match it will be the first time since November last year they suffered three straight losses. Last year the Taipans were the only team to beat the Breakers twice in Auckland in the regular season and in Grand Final game two had the scores level with 1.2 seconds left before Ekene Ibekwe made history, so travelling should not be a problem for the Queenslanders. It is clear that a major part of the Cairns decline has been a result of their poor shooting percentages. Currently they are struggling from long range with results that are being compared to some of the lowest historically. Changes last week to the starting five, which they have strictly avoided in recent times, may suggest a lack of confidence in their chemistry. One major advantage Cairns have is that they are a very experienced group with a lot of talent and they will click sooner rather than later. Names like Mark Worthington, Alex Loughton and Cameron Tragardh have all been around long enough to know that they are not far off their best and they just need a quality win against a quality opponent. The Breakers just might be that opponent. Injuries to key players and Corey Webster’s NBA adventure have interrupted New Zealand’s start. Traditionally the Breakers have been better finishers than starters in a season so the concern is not so much on the wins and losses but the manner in which they have come. Turnovers have been killing the defending champs. In the last three games they have twice set a new club record for turnovers with 27 from their last game against the Kings. The return of Corey Webster gave the home team a boost last week with 22 points and he now has had an extra seven days to find his feet back in Auckland. When these teams met at the Blitz, it was the most entertaining match of the tournament with Cairns needing overtime to beat New Zealand 105-100. It’s hard to see this game being anything but another nail-biter. BY THE NUMBERS

HEAD-TO-HEAD: 48 games played Breakers won 25 Taipans won 23

At New Zealand: 25 games played Breakers won 15 Taipans won 10

At Vector Arena: 4 games played Breakers won 2 Taipans won 2

FAST FACTS

HOT HANDS - Corey Webster had 22 points against the Kings last week which was his best ever against Sydney. He has scored above 17 points in a game 14 times in his career but never against the Taipans or the Hawks. His best score against both has been 16 – as it was against the Kings before last week. In the last Grand Final win, Webster was well held by Cairns scoring just 8 and 11.

NEW LEADING MAN - In the past five games for the Breakers so far, they have had a different leading scorer every time. Cedric (14), Bartlett (19), Charles J (20), Abercrombie (23) and Webster (22) led the team in order of games.

LOW TIDE - Taipans have played eight straight games going back to last year without having a player score 20 points. If Cairns lose this it will be three straight losses which they only did once last year. If they do go down to the Breakers they would have lost six of their past eight games going back to last year.

 

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