Five factors that will influence Cairns Taipansí finals fate
AUSTRALIAN basketball legend Andrew Gaze last week said the Taipans had as much chance of playing finals ball as Dennis Rodman had of making political progress on his bizarre trip to North Korea.
A fair call, some would say, given the side's inconsistent and frustrating campaign to date.
But as the NBL finals draws near, the Taipans' fate becomes clearer and arguably more rosy. With five games to play, The Cairns Post scrutinises the five factors that will influence their finals fate.
Form The Taipans (9-14) have won their last two and won or lost their last four by exactly three points. Their win against Perth on Friday was the best performance of the season. And it isn't coming down to the efforts of just one man, either. Friday it was Cam Gliddon who starred, the week before it was Alex Loughton and before that it's been Brad Hill, Jamar Wilson and Cam Tragardh.
Rivals Sydney and Wollongong currently occupy third and fourth spot with 11-14 records, two more wins than Cairns have. But they have played two more games, too, and have both had their squads decimated with injury. Sydney (Perth, Wollongong, Townsville) have a tough run home and have lost the series to Cairns. Wollongong (Townsville, Sydney, Adelaide) have it easier and have the split on Cairns, but are without Lance Hurdle, Rhys Martin and Glen Saville for the rest of the season.
Run home New Zealand away this Thursday, followed by Adelaide away two days later could be the decisive factor here. Lose both and they basically need to win all three against Adelaide (home), Perth (away) and Melbourne (home) to be a chance. If they can jag a win in New Zealand on Thursday, or at least topple the 36ers on Saturday, it could set them up to finish strongly in games (except for the visit to Perth) that bookies would favour them to win.
Tigers This shapes as a big one, with the Tigers (10-13) one win ahead of Cairns having played the same amount of games. The Taipans face them in the final round and must win to get the series split (which would see them finish ahead on the ladder if their record was equal). Before that though, Melbourne play New Zealand twice, Townsville at home and Townsville and the Taipans away. By no means a walk in the park. Question is, can the Snakes win one more game than them in that time?
Injuries Dusty Rychart has barely played this season and his return was scuttled at the 11th hour last Friday. Clint Steindl, too, was kept out of the action against Perth thanks to a back niggle. There are other niggles in the team too, with strapping tape becoming a prominent feature every week. But their starting five are (fingers crossed) still in working order and they have been in far worse shape in previous years.
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Up for grabs: The Taipans can still reach the NBL finals. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS