Cairns hand Kings second-straight NBL loss

DJ Newbill's game-high 31 points have led Cairns to a 109-98 NBL upset over ladder-leading Sydney.
DJ Newbill's game-high 31 points have led Cairns to a 109-98 NBL upset over ladder-leading Sydney.

A Casper Ware-inspired fourth-quarter comeback wasn't enough to prevent Sydney suffering consecutive NBL defeats for the first time this season.

Two days after being hammered in Perth, the ladder-leading Kings fell 109-98 to a reborn Cairns outfit who leapt into the top four.

American DJ Newbill led the Taipans with a game-high 31 points, while Scott Merchado (21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) flirted with a triple-double.

Cairns kept the Kings in check for most of Sunday evening, and surged to a 17-point lead on a Majok Deng trey early in the final period.

However, Ware ignited the Qudos Bank Arena crowd with a sizzling 21 points in the term to cut the deficit to five with two minutes to go.

But a clutch triple from Merchado, as well as some composed free-throw shooting, gave the resurgent Taipans their fifth win in six games.

Ware finished with 23 points and seven assists, and his 21 in the fourth quarter equalled the record for the highest individual score in a quarter in league history.

Cairns coach Mike Kelly paid tribute to his team's resilience, which had yielded little results during their early-season struggles.

"It's one thing this group has done really well. We haven't always played great, but we've always continued to play," Kelly said.

"We've gotten down to numerous teams by double digits and continued to fight and get back in the game, whether we win or lose.

"It was good to do it from the front this week."

Only 48 hours after their big loss to the Wildcats, the Kings' struggles continued when they conceded 30 points in the opening quarter.

Sydney had their issues on the offensive end as well, with Ware and returning veteran Kevin Lisch, who finished with 0-6 shooting, held scoreless for the half.

Ware finally grabbed his first points early in the third, but their biggest problem was stopping a Taipans offence on their way to their biggest score of the season.

Newbill, in particular, had the Kings' defence in fits, scoring 13 points in the term to give Cairns an 11-point lead at the final break.

Their cushion ballooned to 17 when the visitors opened the fourth with consecutive treys, before Ware's historic explosion.

Held to just two points over the opening 36 minutes, the American point guard scored nine straight to spark the 8638 crowd.

However, the Taipans held on to claim their maiden victory at Sydney Olympic Park in 11 attempts, as well as their first this season against a top-three team.

Kings coach Will Weaver suggested they were simply outdone by the Taipans' hot shooting, which included an impressive 14-26 from long range.

"It's a good shooting night for Cairns and we're certainly not going to overreact to that part," Weaver said.

"What we are going to continue to talk about is how do we keep people from scoring 100. That hasn't been us up to this point."

Australian Associated Press