TWO in-form sides and two out-of-form sides take to the court in a couple of expected thrillers tonight when the Franklin Bulls and Manawatu Jets hope to continue their runs of late, while the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets hope to bounce back after a couple of losses.
FRANKLIN BULLS VS MANAWATU JETS
In a top four battle that is set to be a fantastic clash of two sides on the up, Franklin Bulls take on Manawatu Jets to ensure they remain in the top four after the round is up. The Bulls have played the extra game, and after dropping their first two matches, have picked up and won three on the trot to be the most in-form team of the competition. The Jets have been fairly handy as well, though will be keen to string a couple of wins together with their 2-2 record also looking like LWLW.
The Jets sit as the second highest scoring team in the competition after another big night on Thursday, and now averaged 96.5 points per game. They are well ahead of the Bulls at 77.6, but Franklin continues to get the job done defensively. The Jets are also ahead on rebounds per game, averaging 44.5 to the Bulls’ 39.4, while the Jets are also well ahead in the assists stakes. Where the Bulls do well is their discipline with the second lowest foul count per game of any side (16.8) whilst the Jets sit second most with 20.3. Where this game could be interesting is the defensive aspects where these sides are ranked first and second in blocks per game. They have some big boys going at it and spectators could be in for some big defensive moves.
Taking a look at the Bulls, after dropping their first game to Taranaki Airs, they almost toppled Canterbury Rams and then won three on the trot from that point on. They have done that whilst keeping their opponents to just 70.5 points per game after allowing the Airs to sink 107 in the opening game. Whilst the Bulls’ scoring might have lowered too (73.3 from 95), their defensive aspects have helped them pick up the wins. Focusing on those aspects, Isaac Davidson is not only leading the points for the team with 19, but also the steals with 1.6, whilst Everard Bartlett is not far behind with 1.4. The duo are responsible for draining 44 per cent of their long-range attempts, whilst Dom Kelman-Poto has been a shining light in the rebounding department with a team-high 6.4 per game, but crucially 2.4 off the offensive boards giving his side best chance at second chance opportunities.
The Jets are not afraid to score big, and they have reached the ton twice, winning one of those games. They play better when they produce open scoring, and with four players averaging more than 14 points per game – Thomas Vodanovich, Jayden Bezzant, Taane Samuels and Hyrum Harris – Manawatu has some serious firepower. Harris also leads the team in rebounds (13) and assists (6.5) with Vodanovich completing a double-double too thanks to 11.5 rebounds, while Bezzant is the other faciiltator with Harris, racking up 4.5 assists per match. The only problem? Harris will miss the game with a hip flexor injury. However if the Jets can continue the work they did in their last start against the Rams – where multiple starters were dangerous scoring threats – it will stretch the Bulls defence that has operated so well thus far.
This game could be the match of the season, with one of the best offensive teams up against one of the best defensive ones, and fans get to see which style will win.
CANTERBURY RAMS VS OTAGO NUGGETS
In an evenly matched contest, the start of the week both the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets were undefeated with 3-0 and 2-0 records respectively. Since then, both teams have suffered back-to-back defeats, and for one outfit, it means they will sink to a three-game losing streak, while the other will bounce back and steer their season back on the up.
In terms of scoring these teams are evenly matched with 94.4 and 92.8 points per game. From a rebounding perspective, the Rams are ranked second overall, whilst the Nuggets sit at equal fifth in the competition, though when it comes to assists, Otago is far superior with 19.3 to 15.4 per game and the Nuggets love to share the rock around. The Nuggets field goal percentage could be higher, with 46 per cent accuracy, ranked fourth overall, while the Rams are ranked equal first in that regard. The interesting aspect to watch is shooting from outside the arc. The Rams are ranked second with a 38.8 per cent accuracy, but only drop six triples per game on average. The Nuggets are a little bit lower at 35 per cent, but manage to sink 12.5 triples per game, which is straight away 37.5 points to 18.6 points.
The Rams had a really strong start to the season with three consecutive wins, but have lost the past two after three consecutive forgettable quarters. The Jets piled on 68 points in the second half against the Rams on Wednesday, before Nelson Giants scored 39 points in the opening term against the Rams on Thursday. This is no doubt an area the team will focus on heading into the clash, especially wiht a four-day break until the next match against a Franklin Bulls outfit that pushed them in the second match. Taylor Britt has been the star for the Rams, racking up 23.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists, while Sam smith (13.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists) has stepped up in the absence of a number of injured stars. The Rams lost Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green prior to the season, but also have missed Toby Gillooly the past two games after he had been the second highest scorer behind Britt. His presence is vital to the Rams success.
The Nuggets have just as much capability of putting up big scores, though the second week they have averaged 80 points from their two games after 105.5 from their two last week. Jordan Ngatai has been a prominent figure and worthy of the top selection from this year’s Player Draft, averaging almost 20 points per game to go with 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Whilst the last couple of matches have seem some player numbers drop, Jarrod Kenny (14.8 points, 4.5 assists) and Jordan Hunt (16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds) are always strong competitors. Josh Aitcheson is the fourth player to average double-digit points per game, putting up 10.3 points, as well as 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Both of these teams might have lost a touch of form this week, but expect both to try and bounce back and go hard in this one.