Terrific Taipans blow away Phoenix
CAIRNS Taipans have finished the year with a bang in front of a sold-out Cairns Convention Centre crowd, beating South East Melbourne 92-84 to start the new decade in the NBL's top four.
Scott Machado's hot start put the Taipans on the front foot early before Cameron Oliver burst to life in an outstanding third quarter of the New Year's Eve showdown.
By the third break, Oliver had a double-double and the Taipans were well on the way to victory.
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Machado would finish with 29 points while Oliver dropped 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Both hit four from deep, and combined for a huge alley-oop in the dying seconds to send Taipans fans home happy.
Taipans coach Mike Kelly was a happy man come full-time and when asked who he considered to be the team's MVP on the night he wouldn't pick between the two.
It's what separates this Taipans unit to the roster that won just six games last season with each member of the side working towards a common goal of success.
"I love the way these guys play and I love that when you asked that question I heard some mumbling under their breath because they don't want to be the man, they want to be a great teammate, and that's how it is throughout the locker room," Kelly said.
John Roberson, the man who broke Taipans' hearts just two weeks ago, finished with 19 points, while Ben Madgen, Mitch Creek (both 16pts) and Dane Pinaeu (10pts, 9 rebounds) were among the visitors' best.
Cairns led by as much as seven points in the first quarter but the Phoenix fought back courtesy of long-range specialist Roberson and seven Taipans fouls, including an unsportsmanlike against centre Nate Jawai.
Machado's 16-point opening term, which equalled Melbourne United's Shawn Long's effort as the best first quarter return, ensured the Taipans held a 26-22 lead at the first break.
But the Snakes couldn't buy a board.
By half-time the Taipans had only 11 rebounds as a team - all at the defensive end - while the Phoenix had 29, 15 offensively.
That dominance, combined with the home side's attacking structure falling apart and the Phoenix finding baskets seemingly at will, allowed the Phoenix to build a six-point advantage at the half.
The third quarter was more of a three-point shoot-out, with the first seven buckets of the term coming from long range.
Mirko Djeric had three from long range, his first buckets of the night, while Oliver made his presence felt with some big plays at either end of the floor.
He scored 15 points (including three from long range), pulled off a massive block which led to a Cairns score, and finished the term with his double-double as the Snakes took a seven-point lead into the final term.
They went tit-for-tat in the final term, but the Taipans held on for a victory which keeps them in the top four for at least the near future.
The Taipans will their home court again on Friday when they host the Brisbane Bullets, with the Phoenix to host New Zealand Breakers on Sunday.