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GAME REPORT

Taipans Bring the Energy to Down Breakers

With Scott Machado continuing his resurgence and the Cairns Taipans feeding off the energy of Keanu Pinder, Bul Kuol, Majok Deng and Kouat Noi, they overcame a career-best first half from Ousmane Dieng to beat the New Zealand Breakers 87-77 on Monday night.

The Breakers and Taipans did battle at Hobart's MyState Bank Arena in a rematch from Sunday when the Taipans won a tight one at Cairns Convention Centre, and this was another entertaining affair from the outset.

The Snakes brought the energy from the opening tip to race to an 11-1 start but then New Zealand's Next Star Ousmane Dieng delivered his best first half of his NBL career. 

He put up 13 points in the first quarter and 16 for the half not only shooting and finishing well, but showing his defensive abilities and getting out to run too.

Yanni Wetzell also had a big second half for the Breakers to finish the night with 24 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks, but the Taipans just wouldn’t be denied. 

They closed the third quarter with the last seven points, opened the fourth term with an 8-1 run and that set up the eventual 10-point win.

Machado led the Taipans with 15 points, four assists and three rebounds but there was some spectacular performances from his teammates including Pinder producing 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

Deng also put up 19 points and seven rebounds on 7/11 shooting with Kuol adding 11 points, and Kouat Noi nine to go with a career-best 14 rebounds.

Taipans coach Adam Forde was a happy man with the effort and energy produced to get the win.

"It's been great the way we've come together. The boys are enjoying their basketball which is probably what is most fun, but I'll definitely take the win," Forde said.

"We're still down some bodies as well so there's times where I'll get frustrated if we get outrebounded for a possession or make a poor rotation, and it's a quick sub because we're still quite short staffed. The guys are working hard and I have to tip my hat to them because we could make every excuse.

"We could try to explain why we're losing or why we go through a bad stretch, but the boys respond regardless if I deliver my message with positivity or with a little bit more venom to it. They respond and that's why I love the group just because of what they're capable of doing."

Dieng finished with 18 points, three rebounds and three steals after his hot start for New Zealand on top of the big game from Wetzell. Hugo Besson shook off his slow start for 16 points on 4/7 shooting from downtown while Peyton Siva added 10 points and three assists.

Breakers coach Dan Shamir took this loss harder than most.
"Obviously we've been through a very tough season, probably two seasons, but it might be the first time that I really feel like it can be misery for our last five games. We have to do something to change it so it will be better," Shamir said.

"There are positives and the good thing about the Breakers this year is that even if we're playing the worst game and a guy like Ousmane or Hugo are making progress, it's huge. 

"This is definitely a positive and I think that everybody who watches these games will see that and will enjoy to see the development of a guy like that. 

"But as a group I feel very bad and I hope that the rest of the way we will find the fuel and the professionalism to connect and play, and to defend and play a little bit better just for ourselves."

It was a hot start from the Taipans as they raced to an 11-1 lead. Only a tech foul from Peyton Siva put New Zealand on the board but Cairns were rolling with triples from Scott Machado and Majok Deng, and buckets to Keanu Pinder, Deng and Kouat Noi.

Breakers coach Dan Shamir made a statement by benching Hugo Besson after less than a minute too, but it was the introduction of Ousmane Dieng that turned the tide. He came out in remarkable fashion to score 10 straight points for New Zealand.

He was knocking down threes, hitting jumpers and finishing around the basket showing his full offensive arsenal while also showing his improved defence with quick hands to secure steals and then finish on the break.

He ended up with 13 points and two steals for the quarter but still Cairns were up 23-18 at quarter-time with a late triple to Noi.

Yanni Wetzell then became the focus down low for New Zealand in the second quarter but the Taipans were threatening to open up a handy lead again with the work of Pinder, and then with triples to Bul Kuol and Noi.

A three-point play from Nate Jawai then had Cairns up six before three-pointers for New Zealand from Dieng and Besson had scores all square.

The Snakes ended the half with the last seven points, though, to lead 47-40 at the break.

It was all New Zealand to open the second half with Wetzell dominating inside with seven quick points. Siva knocked down a three too and the Breakers were back level and Adam Forde was anything but happy.

The Snakes ended up responding with the last seven points of the quarter including a prayer of a triple from Machado on the buzzer to see them back up five.

Machado then opened up the fourth quarter with another three. Deng then hit five quick points and Kuol four including a monstrous one-handed dunk over Finn Delany to make it a 12-point ball game.

Seven late points for New Zealand from Besson kept the score respectable before Cairns finished with the 10-point win with a three from Ben Ayre on the buzzer.

The Breakers now head back to Perth to take on the Wildcats on Thursday night at RAC Arena. The Taipans remain in Hobart to take on the Tasmania JackJumpers now on Friday night.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 18

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 77 (Wetzell 24, Dieng 18, Besson 16)

CAIRNS TAIPANS 87 (Deng 19, Pinder 19, Machado 15) 

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