• Adelaide ties up their home record this season at 4-4 and 7-8 overall to confirm fifth place on the ladder
• Cairns lose 13th straight game equalling the franchise single season record from 2000 – their first season in the NBL
• Majok Deng scored a new season-high 17 points for Adelaide
• Nathan Jawai scored a new season-high 18 points for Cairns
• Adelaide have won consecutive games for just the third time this season – yet to win three in-a-row
The Adelaide 36ers have put themselves right back in the playoff hunt after handing the Cairns Taipans a 13th straight defeat in a tight 87-82 contest on Saturday at Titanium Security Arena.
It wasn’t without a whip of the Snakes’ tail as a Nate Jawai tip-in with 20.5 seconds remaining pulled the visitors within two points.
Majok Deng was then unable to nail the coffin shut at the free-throw line, leaving the door ajar with a tantalising three-point margin.
The stage was set, but Melo Trimble misread his team’s playbook and missed a two-point runner instead of setting up a three-point attempt.
Despite Mike Kelly’s strange timeout to try and ‘ice’ the shooter at the foul line, the damage was done and Cairns fell to their 13th straight loss even with a vastly improved showing.
Adelaide captain Daniel Johnson was the difference in the contest, with an especially stellar second quarter. Doing it on both ends the big man ripped his team back into the game with nine points and a number of big blocks.
He finished the game with 22 points, five rebounds and two blocks – including a massive one early on former teammate Lucas Walker.
Jacob Wiley couldn’t reproduce his lofty 30-point standard against the Taipans, but Majok Deng filled the void well in his stead with 17 points including going 3/5 from deep.
Sixers coach Joey Wright might have been overly happy with the performance but was with the win.
“We obviously want to play the best basketball we can play and we didn’t play the best basketball that we can, but we got the win,” Wright said.
“Some nights you are going to lose by 20 playing just like that so we are happy with the win and we are going to go and see why we’re not doing the things we’re trying to do. But there were some positives in there for sure and we have to focus on those positives and focus on the other stuff.”
Demitrius Conger also had an improved 15 points while Wiley was still solid with 10 opints, nine rebounds and three assists shooting an efficient 5/9.
Trimble top-scored for Cairns with 18 points and six assists but he’ll have plenty of time to ponder his decision on the last possession.
Nate Jawai was an imposing force. He might have only played 23 minutes off the bench but had a season-best 18 points to go with nine rebounds. He only had seven shots too but made six of them.
Last time these teams met the Taipans took the early ascendancy with a fantastic first quarter. Again the visitors started well on a 9-2 run behind DJ Newbill (15 points, four assists, three steals) and Devon Hall (11 points, five assists, four rebounds).
Taipans coach Mike Kelly couldn’t fault his team’s energy or effort, but it was costly mistakes that meant they go into Christmas on a 13-game losing run.
“From our perspective, against a team that always plays with great energy, I thought we brought great energy from the start and gave ourselves opportunities to gain a lead, and to keep it,” Kelly said.
“But we shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers, missed box outs and they go hard, and got themselves back in the game with their energy.
“In the end for us there were mistakes that we can’t make if we want to be a good team in this league. We fought through all those mistakes and couldn’t get it done in the end.”
Ramone Moore committed an unsportsmanlike foul, as Adelaide looked sloppy. Nate Jawai wound back the clock and helped Hall lead all comers with some stellar scoring in the post.
The home side were donuts from three-point territory, whilst Cairns made 4/9 from deep leading them to a 26-21 advantage at quarter-time.
Johnson had something to say about his team’s subpar start with six points in a row to start the second for the Sixers. His outburst spurred Adelaide on a 10-4 run.
But Cairns held their nerve from the three-point range behind Jarrod Kenny. Kenny had some push and shove with Anthony Drmic as both players got unsportsmanlike fouls.
Despite the lack of love between the teams, the score was tight with Adelaide leading 45-42 at half-time.
Rob Loe was the first of Cairns’ big men in foul trouble, getting his third early in the third quarter. His exit changed the dynamic of the game and gave room for Jawai and captain Alex Loughton to work in tandem.
Adelaide continued to search for the right mix of players to compliment Johnson. They found some success with Deng who was the second Adelaide player to double-figures.
The game was a scrappy and low-scoring affair with Adelaide holding a slim 62-58 lead at three quarter-time.
Adelaide hit the road to face Melbourne United on Boxing Day, whilst Cairns hosts Perth on New Year’s Eve.
NBL ROUND 10
ADELAIDE 36ERS 87 (Johnson 22, Deng 17, Conger 15)
CAIRNS TAIPANS 82 (Trimble 18, Jawai 18, Newbill 15)