United Dominate Second Half for Big Win in Cairns

The Cairns Taipans put up their best fight in the first half but Melbourne United blew them away with their variety of weapons in the second on the way to a big 92-63 win in Far North Queensland on Sunday.

Despite having lost their general Scott Machado to injury during Friday's loss in Hobart to the Tasmania JackJumpers, the Taipans were able to stick with the league-leading United for most of the first half.

However, Melbourne put their foot down in the second half on Sunday afternoon at Cairns Convention Centre to retain their spot on top of the NBL standings at 18-7 having now won their past three matches with three to go over the last two weeks.

Melbourne went on a tear with 25 of 29 points during the third quarter to blow the game wide open on the way to the eventual 29-point win.

Chris Goulding had 13 points to half-time and finished with 20 for the game to go with two assists on 5/8 shooting from deep.

Jo Lual-Acuil warmed into the game nicely to top-score with 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks on 8/13 shooting while Jack White was energetic for 10 points and six boards. Ariel Hukporti was handy too with eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.

United coach Dean Vickerman was rightfully happy with the win in what was his team's fourth game in nine days.

"I thought we made some runs in the first half but Cairns were too good and continued to counter those runs and kept making the game really close," Vickerman said.

"But we've kind of built this team on depth and we thought that over time somewhere in the second half we might be able to create a run that was going to be too much for them. 

"It came fairly early in the third quarter where I thought our activity on defence was fantastic and we found a couple of plays that were really effective for us.

"We kept going back to it and were able to stretch the margin out and overall it was good to get a lot of people some solid minutes, and get through this tough little stretch with a lot of travel."

Tahjere McCall battled away for the Snakes with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals with Keanu Pinder continuing his outstanding finish to the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Taipans coach Adam Forde wants to see his team pull together better now over the last four games starting away to Perth and Melbourne.

"There's a lot of guys who should know better and unfortunately we just didn’t play very well. We didn’t play very good," Forde said.

"I think there's a lot going on and there's guys right now that are thinking about themselves when it comes to salary and their expectation of what they're entitled to, and deserving of. That plays into a lot of guys. It does start to weigh on you.

"You can have that from one or two guys, but we had everybody have a bad game tonight. There's something to take from that whether it is the outside noise or whether it is whatever they're being told individually. 

"We have a job to do and we didn’t represent the jersey and didn’t give it the respect that it deserved tonight. That's how that game played out."

Majok Deng and Chris Goulding harked back to that Grand Final series of 2018 by trading threes to open the game but the Snakes were bringing the energy firstly inside from Keanu Pinder and then Nate Jawai. Melbourne eventually worked on top closing the first term on a 9-4 run to lead 26-20.

It was tough going to start the second term for Melbourne with Cairns managing to score seven straight points before a four-point play got the visitors back on track.

Goulding went into half-time with the 13 points on 4/5 shooting from deep, but it continued to be the work inside from Pinder and Jawai that kept the Taipans in touch to limit Melbourne's lead to 43-38 at the half-time break.

While the game was in the balance still at half-time, that didn’t remain the case for long with United coming out in dominant to start the second half. Melbourne turned up the heat defensively of which Cairns had no answer and then United took full advantage.

Melbourne went on a run of scoring 10 straight points capped off with another Goulding triple as the lead grew to 15. United then went on another run of 13 consecutive points this time capped by a three from Mason Peatling.

That saw the lead grow to 26 and it was still 23 by three quarter-time. Ben Ayre gave the Taipans some bright moments in the fourth quarter knocking down another three and scoring another two points, but Melbourne was not in the mood to take their foot off the gas.

Lual-Acuil took Jawai up high and was able to score a couple more buckets and Melbourne's lead grew out to as much as 32 points before they won the game by 29 to retain top spot.

The Taipans are on the road in Round 20 to play the Perth Wildcats on Saturday and then Melbourne United again in Melbourne on Monday before finishing with two home games to the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets.

Melbourne returns home to host the Bullets on Saturday.


CAIRNS TAIPANS 63 (McCall 15, Pinder 13, Ayre 7)

MELBOURNE UNITED 92 (Lual-Acuil 23, Goulding 20, White 10) 



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