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GAME REPORT

Snakes Back on Winner's List at Bullets' Expense

This Sunshine Stoush at Nissa Arena was the 50th meeting between the Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans. There was no love lost in an affair that saw records broken, five players foul out and a 98-88 upset win for the Snakes. 

In what was the 50th meeting between these two Queensland rivals and it felt like it packed all the action of the first 49 packed into one. The Taipans were running hot from the tip-off en route to a 98-88 win, establishing an early lead that the Brisbane Bullets could never quite peg back. 

Every time the Bullets made a run, the Taipans responded. This was Cairns’ fifth win of the season (alongside 13 losses), which misrepresents how good they can be. 

The Taipans’ Bul Kuol (17 points, 4/4 from the field) made eight three-pointers in his last trip to Nissan Arena, and hit early from beyond the arc to secure an early seven-point lead (9-2) after just 98 seconds of play. 

Two minutes later, Kuol hit his second. The Bullets must have felt a scary sense of deja vu. 

The horror didn’t end there for James Duncan’s Bullets. By quarter-time it was a 20-point margin, which ensured the Taipans enjoyed their biggest ever first lead in the 40-minute NBL era. 

At that stage, it was 32-12 and the Bullets looked punch drunk. With seven of those points coming from Tahjere McCall, who continues to put in every effort for Adam Forde, the offence looked invigorated. 

It was the Taipans’ best first quarter of the season. McCall would finish with a team-high 21 points along with six assists. 

In the second quarter, we saw a different Bullets team, who reeled off an 11-point run right out of the break. 

This was thanks in part to Lamar Patterson and Robert Franks’ growing influence, and Jason Cadee stepping up in the absence of the injured Nathan Sobey. 

After three minutes of the second quarter, Adam Forde called a timeout after the Bullets brought the game back to a nine-point margin (34-25). 

The Taipans steadied when Scott Machado, coming off of the first scoreless game of his NBL career, made his first field-goal of this one after four minutes of the second quarter. 

Working his way back into form, Machado had 14 points and six assists by the main break, and it was a nine-point lead (54-45) for the Taipans. Machado didn’t add another point after the second, but did reach a season-high 11 assists. 

A worrying sign for the Bullets was when Cadee (12 points, two assists) fouled out with nearly six minutes left in the third quarter, who had played a superb game. 

It came barely a minute after Cadee had recorded the 1000th assist of his NBL career, with a pass that led to a Robert Franks three-pointer. 

For the Taipans, Keanu Pinder was a constant presence on the boards, with the livewire University of Arizona product pulling in nine rebounds for the match alongside 10 points. He fouled out early in the fourth quarter. 

Franks was 5/6 from three-pointers, and had a game-high 22 points. The Seattle-born big man showed NBA-calibre shot selection, making 7/11 including 5/6 from beyond the arc. It was his seventh double-double of the season. 

However, Franks lost his cool in fourth and picked up two rapid-fire fouls (a fourth on a failed steal, a fifth on a technical) that removed him from the game. At that point, the Bullets trailed by eight points (82-74) with six minutes to go. 

It was a body blow for a team that had fought so hard all night, and even caught a few reversed calls as the Taipans made some wise calls from the sidelines. 

Adam Forde issued a record four coach’s challenges in this match and won three of them. After the 98-88 win, he was quite to deflect that stat to the achievements of his players. 

Taipans coach Adam Forde was relieved and pleased with the win, and wants his players to enjoy it.

"Full credit to the playing group. These guys a disappointed and we're trying to survive in this high-pressure environment. The more you lose, it heightens disengagements," Forde said.

"The guys came to compete. They come to play hard. Something dries up, we try to lock it down hard in another area. 

"Everyone should be able to sleep comfortably tonight in their own beds knowing we got the win. Every win, no matter who we play right now feels really good. Full credit to Brisbane, they shot the hell out of the ball."

Bullets coach James Duncan was frustrated by the slow start and the 18-turnover count even though he acknowledge the fight from his team.

"Turnovers is one of them. Just give them the ball and you give a team some life at the beginning of the game. Shots they wouldn't normally hit they were hitting and we were giving them lay-ups," Duncan said.

"We played harder. We competed. We defended. We contested. But when you give a team confidence early on, it is just harder. 

"I don't know if it is about match-up or more so it is about the mental side of it. They are a team that is struggling to find wins. Obviously when Perth comes into town or Melbourne comes into town everyone is up and about, so maybe that is something... we just didn't answer the challenge."

The Bullets next travel to Hobart for a Thursday night meeting with the New Zealand Breakers while the Taipans return to the Snake Pit to host South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 16

BRISBANE BULLETS 88 (Franks 22, Drmic 14, Deng 13) 

CAIRNS TAIPANS 98 (McCall 21, Kuol 17, Machado 14)

BOX SCORE 

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