16/04/2024

The Cairns Taipans had their best scoring quarter in the 40-minute era on Monday night. (Photo: NBL)

72 points in two quarters and five players scoring over 15 points saw the Cairns Taipans open their NBL23 campaign in record style.

The 39-point third quarter was the franchise’s highest scoring term in the 40-minute era of the competition. Last year’s ninth placed finishers could hardly miss a shot against the Tasmania JackJumpers, away from home.

After going 2/12 from three in the first half, the Taipans would go 10/17 in the second half, scoring 27 of their third quarter points from three.

Going into the final term with a 20-point lead, the damage was well and truly done.

From beyond the arc, Majok Deng (4/6), D.J. Hogg (3/7), Bul Kuol (3/6) and Shannon Scott (2/4) all had a day out, hitting their shots expertly to set up victory.

On offence, the Taipans were constantly setting ball screens for their shooters, and were big on the offensive boards when they missed, finishing with nine overall.

It was an equal team effort on defence, with seven steals between the starting five, giving them the best chance to score on the fast break.

The Taipans started hot in the first term after Keanu Pinder set the tone with a big dunk, but gave up their lead heading into the second half.

Speaking post-game, coach Adam Forde was incredibly pleased with the effort his players showed in the third to get the game back on their own terms.

“We momentarily gave up that lead right before the half with… the three-point play… it’s important we play through the siren in that instance,” he said.

“They get a three and they’re up two and we walk into the changeroom at half time, and it’s like ‘hey fellas, the first quarter was a little bit of nerves, and we’re a little bit behind’, in the sense of we haven’t had as many pre-season games as everybody else and we didn’t have everybody available.”

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The Taipans entered the game with only 10 players named in the squad, with Lat Mayen and Jonah Antonio unavailable due to ankle issues.

With the cards against them, the coach was proud of what they were able to achieve.

“Naturally that first quarter was going to be the reality. This team’s built on shooting. What was cool was we were really in touch through defensive effort,” Forde continued.

“The checks and balances, they always balance out. Did I anticipate 39 points in the third quarter? Absolutely not. But I knew Bul was going to get going, I knew D.J. was going to get going, Shannon was going to get going.

“We’re still building an identity. This is really important. We had our ups and downs and we weathered the storm.”

It was a sign of a major step forward for Cairns, as the worst offensive team across NBL22. The franchise averaged 79 points a game.

Even more impressive was that the Taipans did it against last season’s best defensive side. The JackJumpers made it all the way to the grand final series off the back of hard-nosed defence which saw them average 79 points against.

While there were still players who were strong defensively, with Jack McVeigh managing five steals and Fabijan Krslovic five rebounds, it was a far cry from last season.

Forde is putting plenty of trust into his leaders, with a very young squad taking the floor this season.

29-year-old American import guard Shannon Scott has already shown that he will be an important part in pulling the group together.

Making his NBL debut on Monday, he brings years of experience from college, G-League, and Europe into a side which is reaping the rewards already.

“Fordey puts so much trust into us, allowing us to play the way we play,” Scott said.

“That third quarter shows what we’ve been working on each and every day at practice. Obviously the media can’t see what we’re doing every day… but we know what we’re capable of.

“When we’re struggling, we know where we’ve been before. We did a great job of [staying composed].”

The Taipans will look to continue their hot start to the season on Saturday, October 8 against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, while the JackJumpers will search for their first win of NBL22 against the New Zealand Breakers on Friday.

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