By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
The Cairns Taipans couldn’t keep pace with the Perth Wildcats at Perth Arena on Sunday with the home side's relentless pressure setting up a 70-53 win.
After Cairns trailed by just three points at half-time Rhys Carter put on a dominant second-half display, pinching steals from all angles and throwing some incredible passes - none better than his over-the-head no-look assist to Shawn Redhage from a prone position.
Carter finished his all-round performance with 12 points, four steals, three rebounds and three assists.
Four Wildcats players scored in double-figures, Jesse Wagstaff was the biggest contributor with 13, while Redhage added 12 and Kevin Lisch 11, with Perth's bench also making an enormous contribution.
"I was really pee'd off with our starting group for not following the game-plan early on and then as soon as we brought the second group on the court, they just implemented our game-plan," Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge said.
"We thought that if we kept that intensity up that sooner or later they would cough the ball up and miss shots. To be honest I did expect it to go that way."
Cam Tragardh finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for Cairns with Aaron Grabau adding 12 including back-to-back threes in the third quarter, but no other Taipan scored near double-figures.
"We knew they were going to come out personal about the game that happened in Cairns, and I thought we met that challenge pretty well for 20 minutes, but that third quarter was really disappointing," Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said.
"We were soft and not tough enough against a team like that who is going to be relentless and get after you for 40 minutes. We took a backward step and they ran us off the court."
Perth had little to lose or gain by winning, but that didn’t stop them putting on a clinic after Cairns unloaded a 14-0 opening-quarter run to lead 14-4.
Carter and Lisch attacked the basket fiercely as Perth scored the first six points of the second period, the home team threatened to pull away before some slick passing from Cam Gliddon and Jamar Wilson kept Cairns close at the main break.
The Wildcats upped the defensive ante in the third term, with only Grabau's astounding shooting under pressure keeping the visitors in the contest.
But a brilliant Damian Martin feed for a Matt Knight dunk sparked Perth, and Carter unleashed his display at both ends of the court as the margin reached 15 by three-quarter time.
The Taipans simply could not go with the Wildcats the longer the game went, Perth winning their 12th straight home game ahead of Friday's final regular season game against New Zealand.
The loss means Cairns now have to beat Melbourne at home next Friday to remain in the playoff hunt with Wollongong, Sydney, Melbourne and Townsville also still a chance to make the playoffs.
"It should be a fun game next Friday," Fearne said.
Perth Wildcats 70 (Wagstaff 13, Carter 12, Redhage 12)
Cairns Taipans 53 (Tragardh 13, Grabau 12)
Crowd: 10,936 at Perth Arena