JUST when it looked like fans were getting adjusted to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) and the way the ladder was shaping up, one of the red-hot teams in Franklin Bulls suffered defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies last night. Now the Bulls take on the out-of-form Nelson Giants, whilst the even more out-of-form Canterbury Rams hope to turn their six-game losing streak around against the Manawatu Jets.
CANTERBURY RAMS vs. MANAWATU JETS
If form is anything to go off, then the Manawatu Jets will start red-hot favourites in this clash. The Jets have won three of their past four games, notching up the 100 points in three of the games, and only slipping below the ton once (94) in that time. The Rams have not tasted success since week one, having gone on a two week losing streak which now has stretched over six games. Injuries have taken their toll over the journey with not only Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green out before the opening tip-off for the season, but with Toby Gillooly also missing substantial time after some great early form.
Looking at the match statistically, the Jets are unsurprisingly ahead in the main areas. They average 95.7 points to the Rams’ 88.4, while also being ahead in rebounds (45.1 to 43.6) and assists (18.3 to 15.1). They are not afraid to run the offence and score when they can, and most importantly, are right in that top four group. While the Taranaki Airs are now two wins clear on top, the Jets are in the log-jam of teams on five wins from nine games. A win here would see them leap up to second, at least temporarily. A Rams win, aside from gaining vital confidence, would move them to at least sixth on the table and give them enough time to try and move up the table.
In the earlier match between the teams, Manawatu Jets had control for the most part and won two quarters by a combined 17 points as they recorded a comfortable 108-93 victory overall. On that occasion, Jayden Bezzant scored 25 points, six rebounds and three steals, one of four players to put up big numbers. The top scorer was Taane Samuel with 27 points, as well as six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block, while it was Tom Vodanovich who stole the show with a double-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks. Hyrum Harris was also productive thanks to 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.
For the Rams, Taylor Britt tried all he could, recording numbers of 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Aiding him in the defeat were Sam Smith (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Thomas Webley (17 points) and Mason Whittaker (11 points, two rebounds). If the Rams are to upset the Jets here, they will want to get more support out of the depth players, and it will help with the inclusion of Reuben Te Rangi, as the Tall Blacks talent makes his debut with the Rams after his signing was announced yesterday.
NELSON GIANTS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Even the best teams can slip up every now and again, and the red-hot Bulls happened to do that last night when they fell to Auckland Huskies. It was only their second loss in the past seven games after winning five of the past six coming into that night. They have turned their form around since the opening game and have been up there with the best sides in the competition. Nelson Giants have shown signs at times to be a threatening team, but after seemingly turning their early poor form around with a few consecutive wins, they have sunk to three consecutive losses and will be desperate to turn it around in this game.
Statistically the Giants actually rank fairly well, with 84.7 points to the Bulls’ 82.6. They also average more rebounds (40.6 to 39.6) and assists (14.2 to 13.4), but the way the Bulls play does not always lend friendly to statistics. They get the job done in a real team effort, no-fuss approach. They have not had to engage in high-scoring battles compared to other sides, and instead defensively wear down the opposition and win in tight scraps, while still being able to deliver long-range bombs. They will be disappointed about the loss last night, but keen to atone, whilst the Giants just need a win to turn their form around.
The last time these teams played, the Bulls got up in a six-point thriller on June 30. Racing out of the blocks, Franklin built a seven-point quarter time lead, only for Nelson to cut the deficit back to one by half-time. The Bulls extended the lead out to three by the final break, and while the Giants kept coming in the last term, could not quite finish off, and the Bulls held them off to record a memorable 75-69 win. Mike Karena was a lone hand for the Giants, putting up 26 of his side’s 69 points, as well as seven rebounds. Whilst Tom Ingham was the next highest scorer with eight points, he collected nine rebounds in the game. Zeb Lovell (six points, six rebounds) was also prominent off the boards.
Franklin dominated the assists category in the game with 15 to eight, and Everard Bartlett and Dom Kelman-Poto combining for seven themselves. They also combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the match, while Isaac Davidson was the top scorer with 15 points, four rebounds and two steal. Jackson Stubbins picked up a match-high 10 rebounds, while Nikau McCullough (11 points) and Sam Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double-figure points. The Bulls go in as favourites to bounce back from last night’s loss, but you can never discount the Giants.