Sixers bind together in win over Taipans

With Daniel Johnson and Sunday Dech delivering dominant performances at either end of the floor, the Adelaide 36ers shook off the absence of Isaac Humphries to beat the Cairns Taipans 81-71 at the NBL Cup on Saturday.

It did appear the Sixers had the job ahead of them coming into the contest having lost on Thursday night despite an improved showing against the Illawarra Hawks.

They were adjusting to life without imposing centre Humphries who went down in last Saturday's 44-point horror show against the New Zealand Breakers, but it all came together nicely against a Taipans team that just can't string performances together this season.

The Snakes snapped a three-game losing slide with a strong showing against the Sydney Kings on Thursday with a lot to like, but they couldn’t ever really get rolling on Saturday despite their potential to dominate inside with Cam Oliver and Nate Jawai with Adelaide missing Humphries.

That never eventuated and while it was a tight game most of the way, the 36ers blew it open early in the fourth term starting with a Sunday Dech triple. 

Daniel Johnson then shut the door on the Taipans with seven quick points as the lead got out to double-figures for the first time in the game and the 36ers went on to win by 10.

While Adelaide had plenty of strong contributors, it was Johnson and Dech who were the match-winners.

Having already put up his career-high of 38 points against Cairns last season, Johnson had another night out against the Snakes with 30 points, nine rebounds and two assists on 10/18 shooting from the field and 9/10 from the foul line.

Dech was solid offensively with nine points but his defence on Scott Machado was stifling. He also had five rebounds, two steals and a block while hounding Machado into nine points on 3/9 shooting.

Jack McVeigh came up big again for Adelaide as that makeshift four man with 14 points, three rebounds and two assists while Next Star Josh Giddey was exciting with 10 points, eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks – one of those even under the bucket on Nate Jawai.

Tony Crocker was solid again with nine points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals while Keanu Pinder played a better game too with seven points, two rebounds and two steals.

Sixers coach Conner Henry was especially happy with some specific areas his team did well defensively in.

"First of all we needed to get a win. We don’t have two of our major pieces and had lost three in-a-row so this was a big game for us," Henry said.

"The guys played really hard the last game and in the previous training sessions we really came to work. Tonight's game a couple of things stood out to me specifically our on-ball defence. 

"Our bigs did a really good job in guarding their pick-and-roll and making it difficult for Machado, and we also thought we did a good job of taking away their threes. 

"They are a very good three-point shooting team when they get guys' feet set but we were able to stay close to their shooters for the most part. So those were the two defensive aspects that I was really proud of." 

There wasn’t a lot to crow about for the Taipans but Fabijan Krslovic impressed again with 12 points and five rebounds while Mojave King showed glimpses of what he can do with 11 points on three triples and a big dunk.

But with Cam Oliver, Machado, Mirko Djeric, Kouat Noi and Jawai combining for only 36 points on 14/39 shooting the Snakes were always facing an uphill grind.

Taipans coach Mike Kelly was realistic post match that the Snakes just didn’t have the same flow on offence as they did two nights ago in the win over the Kings.

"We were sluggish on offence and missed some open looks, and they were aggressive with Scott and we were slow to react offensively and just couldn’t get it going there," Kelly said.

"Last game we had Fab and Nate especially stepping up down low and inside. We had some of those touches down there tonight and some attacks on the rim that were good, and then we had other looks for Mojave, Kouat, Mirko and Jordan Ngatai. 

"We depend on those guys to make shots and we didn’t knock them down as a group consistently tonight."

Little separated the two teams up until midway through the fourth quarter. The Taipans made the first break early in the first with a 6-0 run but the 36ers responded scoring 10 of 15 points to take a lead.

But it was on the back of a couple of quick threes from Mojave King that Cairns led 21-19 after one.

King hit another three to start the second quarter as did Jordan Ngatai as the Taipans threatened to pull away, but Daniel Johnson would have none of it. At one stage he had 10 straight Adelaide points and then Jack McVeigh hit a three and they led 41-38 at the half.

Things stayed tight in the third quarter with Adelaide going into the fourth up 59-56.

It was still a three-point ball game when Fabijan Krslovic hit from beyond the arc, but the 36ers took over from there. Johnson took over once more to blow the Sixers' lead out to double-figures and they'd go on to win by 10.

The 36ers now prepare to finish the NBL Cup against the Brisbane Bullets on Thursday and the Perth Wildcats next Sunday. The Taipans close their time in Melbourne against the New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday and the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday.



ADELAIDE 36ERS 81 (Johnson 30, McVeigh 14, Giddey 10) 

CAIRNS TAIPANS 71 (Krslovic 12, King 11, Machado 9)

POINTS AWARDED – Adelaide 36ers 5.5, Cairns Taipans 1.5



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