Superstar import Scott Machado’s late withdrawal has not stopped the Cairns Taipans pulingl off a come from behind 91-88 NBL upset win over Adelaide 36ers.
The Taipans trailed by 16 points in the first half and were down 11 early in the second before the injury-hit hosts found another gear without inspirational guard Machado to claim just their second win in 10 games.
Cellar-dwellers Cairns (6-17 record) snapped a two-game winning run by the 36ers (9-14) in a huge blow to the finals chances of the visitors who are now three wins outside the top four.
Adelaide had their chances to send the match into over-time but import Brandon Paul inexplicably passed up an open look in the dying moments.
Instead, Paul passed to Jack McVeigh who missed the clutch three-pointer.
Machado, last season’s NBL MVP, missed his first match for the Taipans when he failed a pre-game fitness test, snapping a run of 53 straight games.
Cairns were quickly written off after Machado, who failed to recover from a cork above his knee suffered in Sunday’s two point loss to Illawarra, joined an injury list that already featured key players Kouat Noi and Majok Deng.
But import Cam Oliver stepped up in Machado’s absence, dropping 25 points, 16 rebounds and a few contenders for dunk of the year.
He had plenty of help with Mojave King adding 14 points and five rebounds while fellow young gun Tad Dufelmeier had 12 points and five assists.
“With the next man up mentality we have with these young guys, that’s a great win,” Oliver said.
“We weren’t sure whether Scott was going to play or not so everyone was ready to step up.”
Jordan Ngatai (15 points, 4-8 from three point range) and big man Nate Jawai (13 points) also impressed for the hosts at Cairns Pop-Up Arena.
For Adelaide, Daniel Johnson led with 26 points along with McVeigh (22) and NBA prospect Josh Giddey (six points, nine rebounds, seven assists).
Adelaide were ahead 26-17 at the first break and 48-45 by halftime before the hosts cut the deficit to 68-66 by the final interval.