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Taipans 'gift' 36ers finals spot in Al's farewell

THE Adelaide 36ers now only need to pinch a win off Melbourne United tomorrow or Perth Wildcats next week to guarantee themselves an NBL Final Four playoffs berth after Cairns today sent Brisbane's season into a tailspin.

Cairns' 79-68 upset at the Orange Grove leaves the Bullets stranded on a 13-14 win-loss record, Adelaide already on 14-12.

Brisbane now not only has to beat New Zealand Breakers in the last round just to reach Adelaide's 14 wins, but even then it would come down to percentage, should the 36ers drop their last two matches and both clubs finish on 14-14 records.

Should the 36ers win tomorrow though against their 2018 championship conqueror Melbourne, they will have seized control of their own fate and guaranteed a third straight trip back to the playoffs and a semi final showdown with whichever outfit wins the regular season championship.

That went up for grabs again last night when Sydney exorcised its Melbourne demons and ended a 10-loss streak to the reigning champs with a comprehensive 97-85 victory in Sydney.

Any one of Sydney, Perth or Melbourne still could claim top spot, the Kings breaking their Melbourne shackles from midway through the second quarter.

A string of United turnovers, forced and unforced, opened the door for Sydney, which used an 11-0 run to be 46-39 ahead at halftime and 73-61 with a period to play.

Jerome Randle paced the Kings, who had six double-digit scorers and played some of their best defence for the season, before Andrew Bogut - at both ends of the floor - put down a United rally which drew them within four points in the last quarter.

For Taipans stalwart and captain Alex Loughton, who last round announced his retirement, effective at season's end, his final home match in Cairns could not have played out any better, the final 79-68 scoreline almost a nod to former coach Aaron Fearne's style.

Loughton started the match, and finished with 11 points at 50 percent, with five rebounds and an assist as Cairns not only blew Brisbane's post-season hopes off into a blizzard, but also scooped this burgeoning intrastate Queensland rivalry 3-1.

Melo Trimble led the Taipans - and the game - with 23 points, Jeremy Kendle scoring 17 in 16 minutes to pace the Bullets' demise.

ROUND 17 (Cont.)
(Randle 21, Kickert 18, Bogut 15, Newley 13, Bowen 12, Lisch 11; Bogut 12 rebs; Randle 6 assts) d MELBOURNE UNITED 85 (Ware 17, Goulding 16, Kennedy 13, Barlow 12; Kennedy 8 rebs; Ware 5 assts) at the Kingdome, Qudos Bank Arena.
CAIRNS TAIPANS 79 (Trimble 23, Loughton 11, Newbill 10; Kenny 7 rebs; Hall 5 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 68 (Kendle 17, Patterson 16; Bairstow 9 rebs; Gibson 5 assts) at the Orange Grove, Cairns Convention Centre.

Feb 9

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