Sydney defeats Cairns 89-84

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The Sydney Kings took care of business beating the Cairns Taipans 89-84 on Saturday at Qudos Bank Arena to give themselves a chance of ending the regular season in second position.

Sydney had to beat the dangerous Taipans on their home floor on Saturday in their last game of the regular season to be any chance of finishing second to earn the home court advantage in the semi finals.

That job was made more of a challenge when superstar point guard Jerome Randle didn’t suit still sore from Sunday’s overtime loss in Perth to the Wildcats.

Then the Taipans didn’t hand them anything and despite claiming the wooden spoon for #NBL19, they were coming off a road win in Melbourne two days earlier so deserved to be full of confidence with the added motivation of farewelling captain Alex Loughton.

It was close the entire way with no more than 10 points separating the two sides the whole game, but Sydney were on top most of the afternoon and did enough to hold on for the five-point victory.

The win means the Kings finish the regular season with an 18-10 record and they will remain in second position unless Melbourne beats Perth on Sunday at Melbourne Arena.

Unless United hammers the Wildcats, it looks destined that Sydney and Melbourne will be meeting in the semi finals – with who has home court advantage just to be decided.

The 18-10 finish is the best for Sydney since going 27-3 in the 2007/08 before losing the Grand Final to the Melbourne Tigers. It’s just a second playoff appearance for the Kings since returning to the NBL in 2010/11.

While the Kings were without Randle, they had plenty of other veteran stars ready to stand up and no one was better than captain Kevin Lisch. Not only did he score 18 points and have five assists and three rebounds, but his defensive performance on Melo Trimble was instrumental in the win.

Andrew Bogut also had a significant impact with 12 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five blocked shots. He became the first King since AJ Ogilvy in 2014 to lead the league in both rebounding and blocked shots, and his 77 rejections were the second most ever for the Kings.

Brad Newley top-scored with 19 points and six rebounds with Kyle Adnam starting in place of Randle and having 13 points.

All 10 Kings that took to the floor scored as they shot 48 per cent from the field and outrebounded Cairns 41-36 to please coach Andrew Gaze.

“Without Jerome there we had to make some adjustments. It gave some opportunities to some of our guys and I thought they stepped up and did really, really well,” Gaze said.

“As I’ve been telling you guys through the course of the season, we have a lot of guys who can play at this level.

“We’ve been injury-free for the vast majority of the season, touch wood, so they haven’t had the opportunities that you’d normally expect, so it’s to their credit that they stay with it, guys like Deng Deng and Tom (Wilson). All these guys can play at this level, and they demonstrated that tonight.”

Cairns might have finished in last place, but it was a season with many more positives under rookie coach Mike Kelly than that suggests and Saturday was another performance with plenty to like despite the result.

While Trimble did top-score, it wasn’t quite enough for him to move ahead of Perth’s Bryce Cotton in the race for the scoring title. He had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists with Lisch a big reason why he shot just 5/20 from the field and 1/9 from three.

In the 311th and last game of his NBL career, Loughton delivered a season-high 17 points and four rebounds for Cairns while hitting 5/7 from three-point range.

He received some kinds words from Kings coach Gaze too.

“What a career. Fantastic contribution to the game, the way in which he goes about the game at both ends of the floor and plays with great spirit and tremendous passion,” Gaze said.

“He’s an unbelievable spokesman for the game and has had a fantastic career. I hope he’s not lost to the game because he’s a smart guy and I couldn’t be more impressed with him.”

Jarrod Kenny added 13 points and four rebounds for the Snakes, Rob Loe 13 points and seven rebounds, and DJ Newbill 12 points.

Coach Kelly spoke of his pride in his team’s effort, particularly over the past month.

“It’s funny, because I’ve been just thinking basketball, but when we got in the locker room I did get a bit emotional. These guys kept playing hard over the season and it’s been nice over the last couple of weeks to play well and get a couple of wins.” Kelly said.

“We had chances throughout the whole season and we didn’t finish games. But I think we took steps in the right direction to fix that and we’re going to try and continue to carry that through next year.”

It was Sydney’s historic first Indigenous Game with both teams wearing Aboriginal themed jerseys with a celebration of Indigenous culture featured on the afternoon.

The Kings will now get ready for their finals campaign to begin in a fortnight while the Snakes begin preparations for 2019/20 as Loughton farewells the league as one of their greatest ever players.


SYDNEY KINGS 89 (Newley 19, Lisch 18, Adnam 13)

CAIRNS TAIPANS 84 (Trimble 21, Loughton 17, Kenny 13, Loe 13)


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