Executing as well as they have all season at both ends of the floor, the Kings restricted the Taipans to just 32 points in the opening twenty minutes and looked set to come away with a massive victory after leading by 19 at intermission.
But injuries to Todd Blanchfield (concussion) and Perry Ellis (shoulder) meant the Kings were forced to go deep into their bench to survive a furious comeback by the Taipans, who got back into the game in the third period thanks to Alex Loughton’s 11 points and a couple of timely baskets from Cameron Gliddon.
Down by as much as 24 points at one stage, Cairns cut the lead down to six points in the fourth quarter, but Jerome Randle (16 points, six rebounds, four assists) and Brad Newley (eight points, four assists) hit clutch shots to keep the Taipans at bay.
“When they got six down, Jerome hit a massive shot and we went from six to nine,” Andrew Gaze said afterwards.
“In the context of the game, it was a massive play that he made.”
“And Brad Newley, for all the troubles he was having and couldn’t throw it in the ocean, hit a massive shot.”
“We were able to get it done in the second half because we were able to make some big offensive plays, but that was through their skill and the way in which they played rather than our structure. We’ve got to do a better job putting them in a position where they can score a little easier.”
In the end, it wasn’t pretty, but it was a much-needed win that snapped the team’s five game losing streak and provides some light at the end of the tunnel for what has been a beleaguered unit in the opening couple of months.
“We understand the road ahead of us and the challenge we face,” Andrew Gaze said.
“It’s a difficult one, but it’s one we’re trying to get the guys to embrace and welcome the obstacles that are presented in front of us.”
“I think tonight we did a good job of that.”
But as Andrew also noted, the win came at a cost.
Blanchfield had a nasty head clash with Isaac Humphries in the second quarter that saw him knocked out and prone on the Qudos Bank Arena floor for several minutes and Ellis suffered a knock to his shoulder in the first quarter that he tried valiantly to battle through, but couldn’t take any further part in the game from midway through the third quarter.
Both have been ruled out of the return clash with the Taipans on Saturday night in Cairns.
“Todd is in a bad way,” Coach Gaze said.
“Perry is in a bad way too. He had a shoulder issue, and he tried to push through it, to his credit.”
“He wanted to try it, but he couldn’t go, and we were running the risk of doing more damage.”
With all the hits the Kings have taken this season, injuries to two starters might have sent them over the edge. But Andrew Gaze – whose Melbourne Tigers started the 1997 season with a 3-9 record but went on to win the NBL championship – remains defiant.
“As I said to the guys, you gotta believe. You gotta have that belief and that’s half the thing.”
“No one believes except for what’s in our locker room.”
“I might be a masochist or something, but all these different challenges you face make the journey tougher, but they make the reward better.”
SYDNEY KINGS 81 (Cadee 16, Randle 16, Tyler 15) def. CAIRNS TAIPANS 72 (Gliddon 20, Loughton 19, Egwu 11) at Qudos Bank Arena.
Source: Matt McQuade (SydneyKings.com.au)