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Underdog Snakes Knockoff Powerhouse Again

The Cairns Taipans have done it yet again.


Just like it was in the good old days, the big dogs come to the Far North and the little guy proves that it's all about the fight in the dog. Time after time.


Friday night's 93-86 victory over Melbourne United at the Cairns Convention Centre was the latest example.


The Snakes strangled the life out of the visitors with a couple of second-half scoring bursts that had the NBL heavyweights weak at the knees -- the same fate that Perth suffered in the same building last week.


This was a Melbourne United team on a six-game winning streak and averaging 105.7 points a game since their loss in Cairns back in Round 4. But they only managed 86 points this time around on 41 per cent shooting from the field.


Cairns is now 2-0 against both reigning NBL grand finalists this season.


Cameron Oliver busted out of his momentary form slump with a powerful game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds as import guards DJ Newbill (19 points) and Scott Machado (18 points, 11 assists) captained the ship.


Taipans coach Mike Kelly said his group is starting to get where they want to go.


"We are starting to come together as a group and we're seeing some good things happen when we play the right way. So we're just going to continue to build on those simple fundamental things and keep this group tight," he said.


On Oliver: "Cam was making a great effort to move and to be ready for passes and be really strong going to the rack."


United, who had their six-game win streak broken, was led by Chris Goulding's 19 points, while Melo Trimble and Shawn Long both dropped 16. Long also had 14 rebounds for yet another double-double.


Despite turning the ball over just six times to Cairns' 14, United was taken out of their rhythm, noted head coach Dean Vickerman.


"A couple of errors from us in a row that allowed [Cairns] to get some opportunities," he said.


"There were two areas in the game tonight that we weren't good enough and that was defending their penetration -- the ability for them to get to the rim -- and our inability to get to the foul line. We've been top two in the league all season in free throw attempts."


Majok Deng burst out of the blocks with Cairns' first nine points while Goulding looked ominous, splashing a couple of quickfire long balls.


It was bucket for bucket until United broke free with a 10-0 run either side of quarter-time.


From there, the Snakes rode the hot hands of Newbill and Oliver who combined for 16 points in the second quarter alone.


Newbill landed a wide open triple on the stroke of half-time as the hosts ran into the main break with a 47-44 advantage -- one they would emphatically build upon.


Like they did the week before, Cairns torpedoed their opposition with a 12-0 run straight out of half-time to gap United 59-46.


Oliver and Newbill continued to roll, and while Goulding threatened, Cairns answered all questions with shot making.


It felt like United was making inroads, but Cairns just kept knocking down and when the dust settled a couple of minutes into the final frame, the hosts held a commanding 74-60 lead.


Goulding hit from deep but Machado hit back immediately.


The roof lifted off with Oliver's alley-oop slam via Kouat Noi, and the dagger came just a minute later on Oliver's top-of-the-key dagger four minutes out from time.


Cairns is back at home next Friday against New Zealand, while United hits the Kingdome in a clash of NBL powerhouses on Sunday afternoon.


NBL ROUND 9


CAIRNS TAIPANS 93 (Oliver 26, Newbill 19, Machado 17)

 

MELBOURNE UNITED 86 (Goulding 19, Long 16, Trimble 16)


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