DrinkWise game preview - Round 19: Perth Wildcats v Cairns Taipans
In front of what’s shaping up to be the club’s second sell-out crowd in a row, the Wildcats need to beat the Taipans – or win one of their last two away games against Illawarra (on February 15) or Tasmania (February 17) to clinch second spot and a semi-final spot.
“We owe it to our fans to give them a good show so hopefully that means we can come away with a win,” forward Hyrum Harris said.
After back-to-back home losses, Harris felt the Wildcats needed to “find their edge again”.
“The biggest thing that we talked about was that we need to find our edge and find what makes us a really great team,” he explained.
“We went away from what we’re best at the last couple of home game and that’s pushing the pace, rebounding and creating easy scores.
“On the other end it’s about being better defensively.”
Head coach John Rillie says Harris’ early foul trouble in last week’s loss to New Zealand at RAC Arena, when he picked up three fouls in the first 73 seconds, showed just how important he is to the team.
Harris is in the conversation for the NBL’s Most Improved Player after impressing as a starter to help the Wildcats turn their season around from a 2-5 start to on the verge of play-offs.
“You look at his career, he’s just been a fighter just to make a roster, or be a development player,” Rillie said.
“He put his own money into being a NBL player.
“Last week was the first time he’s dealt with the situation where a team really relies on his responsibility, so for him to get in foul trouble as quick as he did, it allows him and us to see the influence he has on the game.”
Who: Perth Wildcats vs Cairns Taipans
When: 5pm WST Saturday 10 February
Where: RAC Arena
Watch: Live on ESPN via Kayo or Foxtel
The Taipans are still in the finals hunt, but a win in Perth will be vital.
Cairns are currently sitting eighth on the NBL ladder with an 11-15 record after losing their last three games against Brisbane, Adelaide and Tasmania respectively.
Imports Patrick Miller and Tahjere McCall will be a couple of players for the Wildcats to stop.
Last time they met
The Wildcats and Taipans last met on Boxing Day in Cairns, when the visitors survived a late scare to prevail in a thriller.
MVP favourite Bryce Cotton scored a game-high 33 points in a dominant performance, while big man Kristian Doolittle was another massive performer with 17 points and a staggering 16 rebounds.
Next Star Bobi Klintman was the Taipans’ best with 24 points and seven rebounds.