Reigning NBL MVP Bryce Cotton has produced a vintage performance as a new-look Perth Wildcats continued their strong start to the season with a crushing 90-67 victory over Cairns Taipans at RAC Arena.
Cotton, who missed last season’s playoffs due to a quadriceps injury, scored 31 points and hit six three-pointers in a starring role to end the opening round.
“I’m not interested in proving to anyone that I’m back to 100 per cent,” he said.
“As long as we come out with the win, I’m happy.”
The Wildcats showed signs of fatigue on the back of their season opening 85-73 victory over Adelaide 36ers on Friday night before Cotton took control.
The three-time MVP had a rusty 16-point effort against the 36ers, where he was overshadowed by Vic Law’s 37 points on Wildcats debut, but scored 16 points in a dominant third quarter to overwhelm last season’s wooden spooners.
Ex-Brisbane Bullets player Law finished with 14 points, while the Taipans were led by new American import Tahjere McCall, who finished with 16 points and showed glimpses of his defensive specialty.
It continued the winning start to Scott Morrison’s NBL coaching career after he replaced five-time champion Trevor Gleeson in the off-season.
The Taipans weren’t able to celebrate the debut of ex-Sydney Kings coach Adam Forde after he took over from Mike Kelly, who is now part of the Wildcats’ coaching staff.
“Perth got on a couple of runs and we tried to weather the storm but the floodgates opened up,” Forde said.
They did start brightly as McCall, who had tough defensive assignments against Law and Cotton, showed off his offensive prowess with an early three-pointer and deft playmaking.
The Taipans attacked a lethargic Wildcats. prompting Morrison to give his players a dressing down during a timeout late in the first quarter.
The Wildcats’ woes from three-point range exacerbated Morrison’s mood, but McCall found himself in foul trouble and a Cotton-led Wildcats capitalised with a 17-2 run to lead 39-34 at halftime.
Cotton’s momentum continued in a red-hot third quarter to ignite the Wildcats’ faithful as the hosts stormed to a double digit lead.
The Taipans shifted McCall onto him, but it was to no avail and the Wildcats cruised home.
The Wildcats play Brisbane Bullets on December 12 as part of five home matches to start the season, while the Taipans’ home opener is on Saturday against new franchise Tasmania JackJumpers.