In a match that was billed as a David vs Goliath encounter, Cairns Taipans upset the defending Champions, the Sydney Kings 93-82 to force a deciding game 3. In what was a feisty encounter with emotions spilling over between both players and coaches several times throughout the match.
The Taipans lead from the start, thanks to their returning superstar Tahjere Mccall who filled up the box scorecard with 20 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals along with RJ Hogg who ended up with 25 pts and 8 rebounds. Sam Waardenburg also grabbed a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double. The Taipans shot superbly, scoring 21pts from the free throw line but it was their defence which was the key to getting this win over the Kings, with Cairns backing in their starting 5, only using 7 players throughout the whole match.
Kings players Derrick Walton Jr (22 points) and Justin Simon (19pts) did all they could to seal a series sweep, but continually found themselves under tough defence from a plucky Cairns side. In a spicy encounter that was full of many spot fires, the Kings finished the game with coach Chase Buford ejected in a crazy last couple of minutes which included Kouat Noi leaving with a blood nose on a play where he was called for a flop.
In a match full of fireworks, the biggest talking point coming out will be the ankle injury of League MVP Xavier Cooks who left the court midway through the second quarter. Cooks rolled his left ankle when he landed awkwardly on DJ Hogg’s foot and will be in a race against time to be fit for their deciding game 3 in Sydney on Sunday.
Taipans coach Adam Forde was delighted with his team after a disappointing game 1 loss. “We got the win so we extend it out to a Game 3 and that was important for us. For us to come out and make the relevant adjustments was massive. Tahj was massive, I mean for him to come out and defy doctor’s orders is just what this team is. They’re gritty, they’re tough and they know what’s on the line. So I’m very happy.”
Kings coach Chase Buford gave credit to Cairns as he attempted to digest the crazy emotion-filled finish to the game. “We’re very disappointed. Credit to Cairns, they kicked our a**. From the opening tip, they played with more juice, they played with a desperation like their season was on the line and we didn’t match it. So that’s super disappointing. I’m proud of the way the group fought back in the second half, I thought we really turned up the defence and guarded them for the first 18 minutes or so of the second half. We gave ourselves chances, we just couldn’t make free-throws or layups to keep the run going. Full credit to Cairns, they just came and punked us today.”
The 3rd and deciding game in this semi-final series will be held at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney on Sunday. With the winner to take on either the New Zealand Breakers or the Tasmanian Jackjumpers, with that series being decided by a game 3 to be played in Auckland, also on Sunday.