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Cairns Taipans climb into NBL top four

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/01/2017 Scott Bailey
Cam Gliddon of the Taipans drives to the basket during the round 17 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at Cairns Convention Centre on January 29, 2017 in Cairns, Australia. © Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images Cam Gliddon of the Taipans drives to the basket during the round 17 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Brisbane Bullets at Cairns Convention Centre on January 29, 2017 in Cairns, Australia.

Cairns have surged into NBL finals contention off the back of a double-win round courtesy of key victories over New Zealand and Brisbane.

And while their Thursday night win over the Breakers was overshadowed by the sickening eye injury suffered by New Zealand's Akil Mitchell, the Taipans' run at the finals can no longer be ignored.

Cairns rallied in the final quarter after Mitchell's left eyeball came out of its socket - which has since been reattached - going on an 11-2 run to set-up the 94-81 win.

They then posted their fourth win in five games on Sunday, finishing stronger than Brisbane to record a 97-83 victory.

It continues a remarkable turnaround by the Taipans, who sit fourth after being last on the ladder early this month.

The result also ended Brisbane's faint finals hopes, stuck on the bottom of the ladder at 10-16 with two to play.

They are the only team definitely out of finals contention, with Sydney and Perth both arresting their slides via weekend wins.

The Kings were particularly impressive.

After holding on for an 80-77 win on Friday night over Brisbane - where the Bullets' Tom Jervis had a chance to put it into overtime on the buzzer - they then flogged New Zealand on Sunday 84-57.

It moves the Kings to third on the ladder at 13-13, while the Breakers' season is on life support at 12-14 in sixth after their horror weekend highlighted by their lowest regular-season score.

"There's an underlying 'quit' in us when things get tough and that's concerning," Breakers coach Paul Henare said.

Perth (12-12) are fifth, but with games in hand, after claiming a home 73-71 win on Saturday night over Melbourne.

United small forward David Barlow missed a shot from beyond the arc to win it in the final seconds, before Josh Boone claimed the rebound but couldn't sink the shot to send it into overtime.

It leaves Melbourne seventh, two wins off the pace but with games in hand on four of the five teams immediately above them, with all their remaining games against those sides.

However that is of little consolation to coach Dean Demopoulous, who hasn't give up hope while watching his season slipping away.

"We're pissed off," he said.

"(We're feeling) anger, disappointment and hope, because we played a very good basketball team (and) we played a good game tonight.

"We had our chances to tie or win and we didn't."

At the top of the table, second-paced Illawarra beat ladder-leaders Adelaide 95-92 to remain above the chasing pack.

However it won't stop the 36ers claiming the minor premiership, still four wins clear with three to play.

THE NBL RUN HOME:

* ADELAIDE (17-8): New Zealand (h), Cairns (a) Cairns (h)

* ILLAWARRA (13-12): Cairns (h), Melbourne (a), Brisbane (h)

* SYDNEY (13-13): Melbourne (h), Perth (a)

* CAIRNS (12-12): Illawarra (a), Perth (h), Adelaide (h), Adelaide (a)

* PERTH (12-12): Brisbane (h), Cairns (a), Sydney (h), Melbourne (a)

* NEW ZEALAND (12-14): Adelaide (a), Melbourne (h)

* MELBOURNE (11-13): Sydney (a), Illawarra (h), New Zealand (a), Perth (h)

* BRISBANE (10-16): Perth (a), Illawarra (a)

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