Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Giants v Rams and Nuggets v Jets

FINALS action is finally here in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) and for one of these teams, there is no tomorrow with the first elimination final, as well as the qualifying final taking place at Trusts Arena. All seven teams that competed in the Sal’s NBL competition were always going to make the post-season series, but the order mattered, particularly for the top two who earn a double chance.

For Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams, one team will end its campaign tonight, while the other will need to win a further three matches in order to do the unthinkable and come from a bottom two spot to lift the trophy aloft. The other two sides in action tonight have a little more to fall back on, but it will certainly make it no less of a high stakes game, with the winner of Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets to be handed the lowest placing winner of tomorrow night’s elimination finals, while the loser takes on the highest placing winner of those matches.

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS

In the opening match of the night, the sixth placed Nelson Giants and seventh placed Canterbury Rams do battle for the right to stay alive in the Sal’s NBL competition. The winner goes on to face Auckland Huskies, while the loser bids farewell as the first team eliminated in this year’s modified competition.

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 22 | 14 | 27 | 22 (90)
Nelson Giants 39 | 16 | 20 | 22 (97)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Nelson Giants 13 | 29 | 22 | 16 (80)
Canterbury Rams 22 | 15 | 20 | 7 | (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Mike Karena (Giants) 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Dane Brooks (Giants) 13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams)** 21.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Reuben Te Rangi (Rams)** 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Alex Talma (Rams) 8.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Taylor Britt (Rams) 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals
Mike Karena (Giants) 17.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Rams need to utilise their scoring power with a great balance between their bigs and smalls, led by Taylor Britt. The key to winning will be allowing open looks and not giving Nelson Giants the space inside the perimeter. The Giants have a lot of capable close-range shooters and the biggest job may be Alex Talma up against Mike Karena. If Talma and his teammates can limit the influence of the former Ram, then it will go a long way to winning.

For the Giants, the key is stopping Britt, who has been one of the top performers in the season thus far. But in doing so, Nelson must also be aware of Reuben Te Rangi who is a sensational acquisition in the middle of the season, and the Tall Blacks scorer has the capability of putting up Britt-like numbers. He does not have the same impact in multiple ways that Britt does, but he can still use his ball-handing skills to set up the transition offence.

WHO WINS?

It is hard to pick given both these sides have suffered long losing streaks in the Sal’s NBL competition, but both picked up important wins on Saturday night. With greater balance across the floor, the Rams may well deserve to go in as favourites despite finishing lower, though if all the bigs of the Giants can get cooking, then they may overpower the Rams on the inside.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

The qualifying final between the top two sides in Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets will be the fourth meeting between the sides, and the minor premiers Nuggets will be looking for yet another win having defeated the Jets on each of the three past occasions.

PAST MATCHES:

Manawatu Jets 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
Otago Nuggets 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Otago Nuggets 28 | 29 | 38 | 35 (130)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 30 | 23 | 15 (94)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Otago Nuggets 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 26.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.0 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.7 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 19.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 24.7 points, 9.3 rebounds
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists
Taane Samuel (Jets) 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists

** Only played two games

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals
Hyrum Harris (Jets) 15.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

Both these teams are capable of sharing the ball around and setting up their teammates, and given both should be at full strength and rested after sharing minutes in their losses on Saturday night, it is expected to be a blockbuster. The Nuggets just have to keep doing what they are doing because it has worked the past three times against the Jets. They allow Jordan Ngatai to run the offence, and with Jarrod Kenny being a key distributor, the likes of Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil come into the fore on the inside and outside of the perimeter respectively.

For the Jets, having a full-strength starting five, they are so damaging because any one of them could put up 20 points which makes them so hard to guard. Accuracy is absolute key from the Jets, and while Tom Vodanovich can go on absolute scoring sprees – as he has shown at times this season – the key to stemming the scoring flow is restricting Hyrum Harris as he really makes this happen. He not only can sink jumpers from just about anywhere, but he can build transition offence with terrific passes and work hard on defence to win the ball back for the opposition. He is the key to Manawatu’s chances.

WHO WINS?

There is every chance this game goes down to the wire, and could well end up a single-digit margin between the sides. If the teams can both play to their potential, expect triple-digit scores on the board and many 20-plus point scorers. The Nuggets have had the Jets measure on the past three occasions so they will start favourites and are predicted to win, but the Jets have been good the past few months and if their scorers get cooking, watch out.

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