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Featured News / February 9th, 2017

Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers Game Preview

Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 9 February

Where: Cairns Convention Centre

Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ

Scorers with a point
They’re two similar players at two very different stages of their careers.

Jerome Randle is a pint-sized scoring point guard who the NBA decided, after watching him play Summer League with five teams, they didn’t want.

Not deterred, he’s made a living tormenting defences in the Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey and Lithuania, and now ranks second in scoring and first in assists in the NBL.

Travis Trice is a pint-sized scoring point guard who the NBA decided, after watching him play Summer League for Miami and in pre-season with New York, they didn’t want.

Not deterred, he’s headed to Cairns for his international rookie season and produced the modest but respectable numbers of 14.3ppg and 3.1apg.

When asked if Trice could produce the same level of scoring as the likes of Randle, Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton, Taipans coach Aaron Fearne basically said ‘probably, but it’s not going to help our team’.

“You can give the ball to Casper, Travis, all these talented guards in the league and go run an on-ball every time and say go make a play and they can do that, they’re good enough to do that,” he said.

“But I want our role players to have an impact on the game, and for that to happen you’ve got to move the ball and you’ve got to move each other.

“Your talent is going to find a way to be productive, they’ve got to buy into it as well, they’ve got to be prepared to give the ball up, we move it around and then you manipulate your cut to get the ball back and make the play.”

For Fearne, using Trice’s talent as part of the system is a crucial part of making the Taipans tough to guard.

“We’ve got other guys on the team that can go create and make plays as well, and I love it when our team has five or six guys in double figures because then you’re hard to beat,” he said.

“When you have one guy or two guys that shoot the ball 80 per cent of the time I think you can find ways to beat those teams.

“Travis can be extremely impactful early in the shot clock with his pace, but then can be really, really good at the end of the clock when we’ve moved people around and he can work off an on-ball and he can make plays.”

Awesome foursome
Last season, the 36ers were one of those teams with only two genuine scoring options, but in 2016/17 the emerging duo of Nathan Sobey and Mitch Creek have joined the dynamic duo of Randle and Daniel Johnson to average a combined 65.3ppg and 14.4apg.

The 36ers’ stars have bought in defensively too, and in their match-ups against Cairns the lockdown jobs of Randle and Sobey on Trice and Cam Gliddon have been critical in two double-figure wins.

When Trice scores more than 15 points the Taipans are 6-1, and when he hands out more than three assists they are 7-3. Against Adelaide he is averaging 8ppg and 3apg.

When Gliddon lands more than 15 points his team is 4-1, and when he dishes more than three dimes they are 5-2. His numbers against the 36ers are 8.5ppg and 2apg.

“I thought the work they did on Trice and Gliddon was huge,” coach Joey Wright said after his team’s Round 10 win in Cairns.

“They’re great players and there are not going to be many games where they are not factors and I thought tonight Trice and Gliddon both were a non-factor.

“We were lucky in that respect, but I thought Sobey and Jerome did a great job defensively and our team did a great job of knowing where they’re at, they were a huge focus for us coming into this game.”

In contrast, Randle and Sobey have averaged a combined 32.5ppg and 13apg against the Taipans, whose backcourt duo simply must respond if their team is to prevail when the teams meet in the Far North on Thursday night.

Frontcourt bonanza
Those are just two of several tasty match-ups, Creek’s duel with new import Tony Mitchell sure to set rock the rim.

“Obviously against Adelaide he’s got athleticism which you need against that team,” Fearne said.

“He’s an instinctive scorer, he takes some off-balance, really difficult finishes and he just has the ability to do it, that’s what he does.

“Defensively he can use that length and size and his ability to rebound, there’s no question we need him to produce. Every team needs their key guys to do their job, and his job is to come out and play with athleticism and physicality.”

Mitchell has scored 44 points at 48 per cent in his past three games, while Creek’s past two outings – both losses – have only produced 18 points in total after averaging 15.5ppg in his previous six.

At power forward, this week’s home-away double could be the last times Johnson and Mark Worthington do battle, in what has been an intriguing and long-running match-up ever since their days as teammates in Melbourne when DJ was just a cub.

This season Johnson has proven he’s a grown man, playing the best all-around ball of his career and burning the Taipans for 27 points and nine boards the last time they met.

“He was great offensively, great defensively, and what he did tonight, which is not a forte of his, he was a great leader,” Wright said afterwards.

“What’s important to him now is probably in closer alignment to what we think is important, where when he was a younger player points were important to him and that’s where the buck stopped.

“Right now, all aspects of the game are pretty important to him and when he goes out and does that it helps us big time.”

Making a presence
Johnson will also need to help out Matt Hodgson and Eric Jacobsen in their battle with the behemoth that is Nate Jawai, who destroyed the Wildcats with 22 points and nine rebounds last Sunday.

Rather than wait for the Taipans’ offence to find him, Jawai set bone-crunching picks and then rolled hard to the rim to collect a whopping seven o-boards.

“Any sign of a double team now and that’s how I get myself involved in the game,” Jawai said.

“Aaron has preached to me about it that I’ve got to do rim runs into the offensive rebound, that’s how I’m going to make myself a presence.”

Fearne said the Taipans need everyone “to do what they do and do it well” to overcome the 36ers in back-to-back games this round.

One win will likely put them in a tie-breaker, while two will secure their second playoff berth in three years, but it will be no easy task against the NBL’s pace-setters, who have won four of their past seven games in Cairns.

“We’re going to have to be on the money, they’ve dropped a couple of games and they’re going to want some kind of form going into the playoffs,” Fearne said.

“We’ve got a big task ahead of ourselves, they’ve been the best team in the league for a reason and we’re going to have to be en pointe.”