By Murray Wenzel, Pagemasters
The Cairns Taipans have scored a crucial victory over the Adelaide 36ers in a tense and thrilling encounter at the Cairns Convention Centre.
The Taipans prevailed 76-73 in a game they were always in control of but could never seal until the cool heads of Jamar Wilson, Aaron Grabau and Cam Gliddon came to the fore.
It took Adelaide to hit the lead inside the final four minutes - through a pair of Scott Christopherson (16 points) free throws - for Cairns to really fire up.
The fire came from the reliable source of Grabau (16 points), whose three was followed shortly after by a Gliddon triple to bring the crowd to fever pitch.
They soon pushed the lead to eight points, but as had been the case all night, Adelaide responded.
Buckets to Adam Gibson (10 points, 3 assists) and Jason Cadee got it back to a one-basket game.
Gliddon (11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) popped up again for a crucial steal though, and a final Grabau three gave them breathing space as Adelaide played the foul game in the closing stages to no avail.
"It was a bit of a funny game, hard to get any rhythm. But it's probably a good thing to have close games at this time of year," Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said.
"In the playoffs you need to execute and I think we executed down the stretch pretty well. It was good to walk out of it."
Grabau felt relieved to come out on top.
"We didn't have a great game and still came away with a win. How many three-point losses have we had?" he said.
"It was good to win one, but I'd rather a blow-out win."
Anthony Petrie (19 points) was busy for Adelaide in the first half, finishing it with a clear game-high 14 points.
His work around the rim was cancelling out the Taipans' 50 per cent shooting and meant they never strayed too far from the lead.
Grabau continued his fine shooting this season, nailing triples at regular intervals, but silly errors were a constant theme for the hosts just as they were about to break clear.
The 36ers trailed by four at half-time before turning their defence up a gear in the third quarter to suffocate the Taipans.
Wilson got a case of the wobbles, missing a string of close-range shots, before Cam Tragardh got the jitters too, but their team's defence maintained their half-time advantage.
But while they made some mistakes the Taipans also made big plays throughout to keep Adelaide at bay, none bigger than the back-to-back triples in the final term that effectively sealed the deal.
Gibson, who fouled out in the final stages, said in the end that's all it boiled down to.
"Just one basket, making a few shots, a bad turnover. That's all it is, it's small but it'll take a team effort to overcome it," he said.
"Yeah it definitely sucks. I would have loved to have been out there for the last couple of minutes."
Cairns Taipans 76 (Wilson 19, Grabau 16, Gliddon 11)
Adelaide 36ers 73 (Petrie 19, Christopherson 16, Gibson 10)
Crowd: 4013 at Cairns Convention Centre