Taipans send semi series to decider
MOMENTUM is a dangerous thing in sports and heading back across the Nullarbor this week, the Taipans have all of it in their NBL semi-finals series.
After their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Perth Wildcats on Friday night, Cairns showed no signs of a hangover from that as they ran it down the defending champions throat from the early exchanges.
In one of their more complete performances for the season, the Snakes levelled the series 1-1 with an 85-74 victory and now head back to the West with all the ascendancy.
There were question marks about how Cairns, in their first finals series as a group, would respond from such a devastating loss on Friday night but Mike Kelly's squad was locked in and focused.
The hosts would extend out to a 20-point advantage in the third stanza but the Wildcats would peg it back to just 10 at the final change.
A Clint Steindl triple would make it seven with four minutes to play but from then on, the hosts did enough to hold off Perth.
It was just one of those night's for the Snakes, tough shots to close out shot clocks fell and the visitors missed a number of lay-ups they would usually complete with their eyes closed.
Cameron Oliver was a beast for the Taipans and made Perth's Miles Plumlee near-on unplayable at times.
The Snakes' fans MVP gave it to Plumlee under the bucket and when he stepped outside, made him pay even more.
Oliver was one of the better rebounders in the NBL in the regular season but he has taken it to another level once the finals have rolled around.
The all-NBL second team member had a double-double by halftime and would only add to it from there on, finishing with 22 points and 19 rebounds - which were both team high's for Cairns.
Oliver has been the most consistent player in the series so far as we now head towards a decider.
"We stayed composed. We didn't hang our heads after our first loss," Oliver said post-game on the court.
"Of course it's not over for the series. We have to go back to Perth and get it done.
"It's definitely a home away from home. I love this city."
The first term was electric for the side in orange, their offence flowed, they gave Perth little opportunities to get into their own sets as they fed from the big crowd.
There was always going to be a sizeable attendance for the first finals game in FNQ in three years but they were engaged from the opening tip and were loud throughout.
Scott Machado's second long bomb in as many minutes would make Cairns' lead as much as 15 midway through the second quarter.
After he put on an all-time show on Friday night, league MVP Bryce Cotton was well held in Game 2, not scoring in the first half and just generally lacking his usual influence.
Turn overs have been a constant issue of late for the Snakes but they held on to the ball on Sunday in a more controlled performance.
The semi-final series now heads towards a third and deciding game on Thursday night in Perth.