Surging Taipans put NBL rivals on notice

Coach Mike Kelly says Cairns are climbing the NBL ladder simply due to his Taipans making shots.
Coach Mike Kelly says Cairns are climbing the NBL ladder simply due to his Taipans making shots.

Cairns has always been one of the warmest cities in the country - now they can lay claim to being the hottest team in the NBL.

One month after sitting last on the table, the Taipans surged into the top four for the first time this season after toppling the Kings 109-98 on Sunday in Sydney.

The big scalp capped off the perfect weekend for coach Mike Kelly, whose reborn side also thumped New Zealand on Friday by 18 points at home.

"It always feels good to win, whether it's here or at home. So it's just a really good weekend for us to win two (from two)," Kelly said.

"Every game is so important and Sydney Kings are really good, so it feels great."

After registering 22 points and seven assists against the Breakers, point guard Scott Merchado backed it up with a near-triple double against the Kings.

The American import added 21 points, nine dimes and seven rebounds, but played sidekick to captain DJ Newbill's game-high 31 points.

Kelly said the biggest difference compared to their horror start to the season - they lost five of their opening six games - was simple.

"Guys have made shots," he said.

"It's going to go up and down. There's going to be ebbs and flows when you have shooters. But guys started making shots and then guys kept making shots.

"That changes the scoreline."

Kings veteran Brad Newley believes the Taipans' mid-season revival is proof the competition isn't the one-horse race many are tipping.

"Look at their results - they were one of the bottom teams three-four weeks ago and now they're right up there," Newley said.

"You just have to look - they've beaten Perth (and) Melbourne, who are the top four sides, and I think that speaks volumes for the balance of this competition.

"You can't take anyone lightly. Not that we did - we have the utmost respect for them - but one through nine, every team is competitive."

Sydney's loss to Cairns came two days after a no-show in Perth, where they were blown out of the water by the Wildcats' 40-point explosion in the second quarter.

In other games from round 10, five Brisbane players reached double figures in their 101-91 win over Illawarra, minus LaMelo Ball, at home.

Perth also made it two-from-two for the round with a 108-98 triumph over South East Melbourne, despite a game-high 31 points from Phoenix captain Mitch Creek.

Melbourne United cemented third spot off the back of a remarkable statline from centre Shawn Long in their 112-90 win over Adelaide.

Long recorded a career-high 34 points to go with 15 rebounds and four blocks, becoming the first player in franchise history to achieve the feat.

The Breakers and Bullets finish the round on Monday night in Auckland.

Australian Associated Press