THE bottom two sides searching for a second consecutive win to keep building their form go at it in the first game, before the Taranaki Airs hope to take top spot with a win over the up-and-down Manawatu Jets.
AUCKLAND HUSKIES VS NELSON GIANTS
A battle between the two bottom sides opens the final night of week two action, with both teams desperate to get a win on the board. Despite being in the bottom two, there is still plenty of time to turn things around, with Nelson Giants technically a win off second, and the Huskies a win behind them with a 1-3 record from four games – and a game in hand. The Giants have a marginally better points differential with a minus 35 to minus 48, but both also come into the match after winning their last start.
These teams are not traditionally huge scorers this season with the Giants ranked fifth with an average of 86.4 points per game, and the Huskies at the bottom with 76.3. In terms of their rebounds, the Huskies have the advantage with 43 per game compared to 39.6 from the Giants. The Huskies also shade their opponents with 15.5 to 14 assists per game, but still sit in the bottom three sides in the competition. Accuracy is still a worry for Auckland, with a competition-low 36.6 per cent from the field, whilst the Giants are fourth overall with 44.8 per cent. If the Huskies are to win, they will need to make the most of their chances.
Both teams will be missing key players in this game, with the Giants still missing Mika Vukona who remains on the sidelines, while Leon Henry will be out for the Huskies due to suspension sustained in the last game. Since Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa joined the team after missing the opening game, the Huskies have started to pick up, with the young talent averaging a massive six assists per game to go with his 11 points, while Tohi Smith-Milner (14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds) will need to step up in the absence of Henry who has been dominating off the boards with 10.8 rebounds per game. Young gun Taine Murray has also been one to watch, ranked in the top five for points, assists and rebounds showing just how bright of a future he has.
The Giants have improved since their opening couple of games, winning two of their past three matches and only dropping the other one by four points. If the Giants can continue that good form, they can continue to rise up the ladder in such a short season. Mike Karena has been borderline unstoppable for the Giants and he continued his ripping form against his former side, Canterbury Rams last start. This season he has posted numbers of 23.3 points, 8.3 rebounds ad 2.3 assists in the season. Thomas Ingham has also been strong, averaging the 14.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists, as Nic Trathen has also recorded top five averages for his side in 2020.
This is a tough game to pick because both sides have been on the improve, but Giants seem a touch more settled, though the Huskies have the ability to pile on the points when they need to, if they can overcome the loss of Henry in this game.
MANAWATU JETS VS TARANAKI AIRS
The second game of the night sees the Taranaki Airs hoping to go back-to-back and join the Franklin Bulls on four wins if they can topple the fifth placed Manawatu Jets in this contest. The Jets are just a win behind in an even competition, with two wins from five games, and whilst they had won two of the past three coming into last night’s contest, missed Hyrum Harris to injury and went down to slip to a third loss. If they win, they could even leapfrog the Airs, whilst a win for the Airs would see them take equal top with the Bulls.
Statistically speaking, the Airs are the high-powered scoring team, still managing a remarkable 104.4 points per game. The Jets are not too far behind however, equal second with 91.6 points per game. The Airs are also ranked at the top with rebounds, something the Jets could well match them in, sitting second on 44, six behind the top ranked Airs. Taranaki is also ahead in assists, with 19.4 to 17 per game, ranked first and third respectively though the Jets are more accurate with their two-point shooting. Manawatu is ranked first for their accuracy inside the arc with 58 per cent compared to the Airs’ 52.6, whilst outside the arc it is a different story as Taranaki ranks top with 42.1 per cent to the Jets’ 32.8 per cent. It could be a case of inside shooting up against outside shooting.
Whilst Harris was a huge loss for the Jets last night – having averaged the 14.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists – Manawatu still has plenty of firepower. Tom Vodanovich has been a scoring machine, with 23 points per game to go with 11.6 rebounds to pick up a double-double average with Harris. Jayden Bezzant has also been on a tear, ranking second in both points and assists, thanks to 22.2 and 4.0 averages respectively. Taane Samuel is another averaging in the top five across the board putting up numbers of 17.2 points (third), 5.8 rebounds (third) and 1.6 assists (fourth) for the 2020 season.
After back-to-back losses, the Airs have regained some momentum with a good win against the Nuggets and are keen to notch up another win here. Derone Raukawa continues to cause headaches for opposition players, averaging team-highs in points (22) and assists (7.2), as the top playmaker in the competition. Marcel Jones has been in elite form across the board, ranking in the top two across the three major stats thanks to 18 points, 15.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists himself. Ken Tuffin and Shane Temara are the other two Airs players to rank in the top five for team points, rebounds and assists, so can also not be forgotten.
The Airs will head into this game as deserving favourites having bounced back from a couple of losses with an important win. While the Jets might be missing Harris, they still have what it takes to get the job done.