<
>

Taipans stun United in Boxing Day classic

The Cairns Taipans have boosted their NBL finals chances with a 77-75 victory over Melbourne United in the annual Boxing Day clash.

The capacity crowd at Melbourne Arena were treated to a dramatic finish on Thursday night as the home side came back from an 18-point deficit to tie the game in the final minutes.

But DJ Newbill scored with 58 seconds to play and Cairns held out United in the dying stages to maintain fourth spot on the NBL ladder with an 9-9 win-loss record.

United made a horror start to the traditional open air game with the lowest first half score by any NBL team this season as Scott Machado and Newbill steered Cairns to a 16-point halftime lead.

Down by 18 in the third quarter, Chris Goulding's deadly outside shooting gave his side hope but it wasn't enough to prevent United's third loss to the Taipans this season.

Newbill and Scott Machado each scored 20 points for the victors while Mirko Djeric added 14 in his 100th NBL appearance.

Melo Trimble led Melbourne with 16 points while Goulding (15 points, five three-pointers) and Shawn Long (14 points, 12 rebounds) were valuable contributors.

The home side found themselves behind early as their offence faltered, shooting a miserable 3-of-16 from the field with the only highlight being new import Stanton Kidd coming off the bench to score his first NBL points.

Cairns also struggled to take full advantage until Newbill closed the first quarter by drilling a pair of three-pointers for a 20-9 lead.

The Taipans extended their advantage to 13 early in the second period but United's shooters started to find their range, triples from David Barlow and Mitch McCarron helping cut the margin to six.

But the visitors responded with a 7-0 run and Machado capped a strong opening half with a pull-up three-pointer to edge ahead 46-30 at halftime.

Things started to look dire for Melbourne after Cam Oliver slammed home to hand Cairns a 51-33 lead in the third quarter but Goulding stepped up with an offensive burst to keep his side in the contest.

United's captain connected on three long-range bombs to reduce the margin to seven points but Cairns steadied to hold a 63-53 advantage heading into the final quarter.