NBL21: Kiwi’s star’s buzzer beater leaves Cairns Taipans heartbroken

Cairns Taipans have finally showed a little life again, but a dogged fightback against New Zealand Breakers has ended in heartbreak at the buzzer.

It was a largely forgettable game between two teams stuck at the bottom of the NBL ladder that caught fire in the last 1min16secs.

In a thrilling back and forth, Taipans import Scott Machado (14 points) came up with a ridiculous finish in the lane with two Breakers hanging off him to tie the score at 70.

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Mirko Djeric hit a brilliant three to keep the Taipans in it, but it wasn’t enough. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Breaker Rasmus Bach then hit a straightaway three to take the lead with 6.7 seconds left.

Out of the time-out, athletic Taipans big man Cam Oliver (19) sent Tai Webster’s game-winning lay up away, but the ball landed in ever-reliable Kiwi veteran Tom Abercrombie’s hands and he rose up to splash an incredible fading three as time expired to come away with a 76-73 victory.

It was a shattering result for the Taipans, but one that can be charted back to a horror opening.

A four-quarter effort was what the Taipans desperately needed.

Instead, it was like they didn’t leave the team bus until quarter time, as they scored just 11 points — their worst start to a game in 2021.

Tai Webster provided punch for the Breakers, but struggled with foul trouble. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Without brother Corey Webster, who was laid up with a knee injury, Tai Webster sliced and diced the lacklustre Taipans’ defence to help his side to a 14-point lead. Foul trouble would bite him after halftime and the Taipans set about pegging back the deficit.

It came through the unlikely source of little-used young gun Mojave King.

The teenage wunderkind has had a tough initiation to the NBL, but he looked like he belonged, pouring in nine points in the third to peg the margin back to single digits.

The Taipans looked like a different team after the long break, working for each other and running the ball. But the Breakers found just enough from Abercrombie (20), Webster (16 points) and big man Colton Iverson (15) to hold on.

So what’s wrong with the Taipans?

The answer can be found somewhere in ability, effort and care.

It’s a tough assessment, but the only conclusion you can draw in a game that the 4-10 Snakes simply had to win to keep their season alive.

This was a game of moments that gave an insight into just how monumental the struggle is for the Taipans.

After the game-defining first quarter, Machado found himself stuck with the ball in the lane. Four stagnant Taipans stood around and watched, forcing the Brazilian to kick the ball back out to the three-point line. He then threw his hands up as if to say ‘what are we doing, boys?’.

Then a calamitous moment in the third quarter underlined the doubt that has plagued this team during the NBL Cup.

Djeric stood at the three-point line and the sharpshooter could have made a cup of tea before launching from deep.

Instead, he rose, and fired a bullet pass into the key — that bounced off the back of big man trier Fabian Krslovic’s head and out of bounds.

Mojave King provided plenty of positives for the Taipans. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


Just 18, there were big raps on the Kiwi guard coming into the season. But, as teenage counterpart Josh Giddey dominates in Adelaide, King has rarely seen the floor.

Kids have to learn, but, when you’re 4-11, it’s time to get more minutes into them — especially this one.


After a positive rookie season where there were murmurs of NBA hopes, Noi returned to Cairns with plenty of hype — and more responsibility.

But he has so-far delivered almost a carbon copy of his rookie NBL season — around 11 points and 5 boards a night. But that becomes less impressive, inspirational when you factor in the departure of third import DJ Newbill.

The 23-year-old was 0-7 from the field until his first and only bucket, which did not come until the third quarter.


If the Taipans are homesick, relief is still a long way away.

After they finish their NBL Cup against South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday, their next clash is a trip across the country to Perth to take on the Wildcats in front of an RAC Arena crowd that hasn’t seen a live game for nearly two months. Then they will come home via Sydney. Tough.

Originally published asDid Kiwi’s heartbreaking dagger kill Snakes’ season?

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