Alan Williams stars as Phoenix beat Taipans in NBL

Big man Alan Williams has cemented his status as an NBL MVP favourite by guiding South East Melbourne to a 91-78 defeat of the Cairns Taipans.

The Phoenix led for the majority of Sunday's game at John Cain Arena but did not appear assured of victory until the final two minutes.

When fellow work-horse Mitch Creek (21 points, 11 rebounds) hit back-to-back baskets after Williams fouled out, the lead was 14 points and South East Melbourne appeared home.

Under new coach Mike Kelly, the Phoenix have won five of their past six games to remain entrenched in the top half of the ladder.

"Huge possession game, the guys did a great job of continuing to attack those O-boards, which was good," Kelly said.

"They took care of the ball for the most part. It was the little things like that that were key for us."

When he was fouled pulling down a defensive rebound, Williams (18 points, 15 rebounds) went to the charity stripe to confirm his double-double by half-time. He has three from five games this season.

On the defensive end, the American blocked Bobi Klintman with 20 seconds left in the third quarter as the talented Next Star looked to cut Cairns' deficit to three points.

Instead, the Phoenix marched up court where Creek iced a three for an eight-point lead at the final change.

As he did in his side's last-start loss, Williams ran into foul trouble late on but demonstrated his importance when he came back on to restore a game-high 10 point lead in the final quarter.

Semi-finalists last season, Cairns have lost three of four games since returning from their trip to the USA for the NBA pre-season, including back-to-back games in round six.

The Taipans rued their 65 per cent shooting from the free-throw line and cried out for the composure of injured guard Patrick Miller (back) down the stretch.

"We sucked, we were terrible. Let's call it for what it is, it was a bad basketball game," said Taipans coach Adam Forde.

"I think this was the first time we broke a little bit mentally.

"We should be better and we will be better."

Big man Sam Waardenburg could consider himself lucky not to have fouled out in the third quarter when he remonstrated with the referees following his fourth foul.

Forde hastily substituted him out and the tech foul went on the Cairns bench instead.

But with their leading scorer to that point of the game on the pine, the Taipans began to fall off the pace.

"We're relying on him unnecessarily at the moment to try and get everybody else going," Forde said of Waardenburg.

Guard Tahjere McCall returned from the personal leave he took for the birth of his child in the US but did not hit a field goal until the mid-point of the final quarter.

He had only two assists for the game to go with one from eight shooting from the field.