Taipans hand Kings first NBL defeat

The Cairns Taipans have stunned the Sydney Kings with an 83-78 win that snaps the reigning champions’ unbeaten start to the NBL season and gets their own campaign back on track.

After a comprehensive loss to Perth last week, the Taipans tightened their act up at both ends on Friday night to hand coach Adam Forde his first win from four outings against his old side.

Cairns are now 3-1 and well on their way to shedding their reputation as the easybeat of recent seasons.

“We’re not going to start jumping on this hype train that everyone else might,” Forde said.

“We’ve got this team (the Kings) again in two weeks’ time and if we don’t continue to trend in the direction we’re going, they’re going to smoke us by 30.”

For the first time this season, the Kings struggled to find their rhythm in offence and turned the ball over far too frequently.

Sydney were left to rue poor shooting from the free-throw line (four from 10 in the last quarter) with key man Xavier Cooks again struggling from the stripe (two from six for the game).

“We were just awful with the ball tonight,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.

“But despite how bad we played, and despite all of those errors, if we make the free throws we probably win.”

Cooks and Derrick Walton Jr have been two of the NBL’s standout players in the opening weeks but neither were at their electric best, thwarted by the physical Taipan defence.

Another King tipped for a big season, Dejan Vasiljevic (20 points) led the way for the home side.

Coach Forde was tech fouled – he claimed deliberately – for questioning the match officials just after quarter time, but the incident sparked an 18-3 run that helped the visitors snatch back the lead.

“I like to use the tech as a bit of a reset,” he said.

During a timeout later in the quarter, Forde told the referees they were having a “rough night” but that did not stop fouls continuing to be called against Cairns, who gifted the Kings easy chances from the stripe.

But the Taipans had no shortage of their own scorers, even with Tahjere McCall (hip injury) sidelined.

Keanu Pinder (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Shannon Scott (16 points, five assists) stood tallest.

Cooks and Walton exchanged words with Ben Ayre when he fouled the latter late in the third quarter, with the referees running in to separate the sides as tempers frayed.

The Taipans’ passion led them to again reach five fouls in the final quarter, Pinder fouling out of the contest in the final minutes, much to the delight of the Kings home crowd.

But it was the Taipans who had the last laugh, clinching a five-point win with a tenacious team performance on the road.

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