Tag: ken tuffin

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Taranaki Mountainairs

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Airs finished fourth on the ladder and lived up to their billing with a semi-final berth after defeating Franklin Bulls in the elimination final to finish third overall post-finals. We take a look at their season.

Played: 16
Won: 9
Lost: 7

KEY STATS:

Points: 98.6 (1st)
Rebounds: 47.1 (1st)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 6.6 (7th)
Blocks: 3.4 (1st)
FG%: 48.5 (1st)

BEST WIN: defeated Otago Nuggets by 26 points

In a really season-defining win, Taranaki Mountainairs stormed from seven points down at half-time to piled on a massive 68 points in the second half, whilst restricting the Nuggets to just 35, on the Airs’ way to a big 107-81 victory. Derone Raukawa led the way in scoring with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals, though Marcel Jones was best-on with a ridiculous 15 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Overshadowed by Jones’ remarkable numbers, Shane Temara still picked up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Francis Mulvilhill (17 points, four rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (15 points, five rebounds) also had accurate shooting nights.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 27 points

With a qualifying final spot on the line, Taranaki Mountainairs had to win their final match of the regular season to keep their top two hopes alive. They had beaten Franklin Bulls twice earlier in the season, but this night was different, blown off the court early and never able to recover, they went down in a deflating 92-65 loss and had to settle for fourth. Raukawa (19 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Jones (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) dug deep, but the likes of Joe Reddish (18 points, five assists), Isaac Davidson (17 points, four rebounds and five assists), Everard Bartlett (16 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Sam Timmins (seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and five steals) ran rampant. Luckily for the Airs, they beat the Bulls a few days later to reach the semis.

TOP PLAYERS:

Derone Raukawa 23.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 steals
Marcel Jones 22.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals
Shane Temara 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals
Ken Tuffin 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals
Tai Wynyard 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Jones and Raukawa’s seasons for a start, as both were named in the All-Star Five at the conclusion of the regular season. They were phenomenal each and every night, and were hard to stop even on quieter nights. Combining for 46 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals per game, they were the most dominant duo in the Sal’s NBL. Secondly, if the game was played on paper, the Airs had the best stats across the board of any side, finishing first in points, rebounds, blocks and field shooting percentage, as well as second in assists, which was a remarkable effort.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

When the depth stepped up, it was hard to match the Airs as you knew what you were going to get out of the two elite talents. However when the depth struggled, so did the Airs, with the heavy rotations making them unpredictable, but also not as consistent in the back-end of the season. Early in the season they looked like the premiership favourites, but were just overrun at the end by a couple of quality units.

SUMMARY

Taranaki Mountainairs were always a genuine contender with their elite talents and the dominant duo. The rare finds in Tuffin and Mulvihill proved steals in the competition, while a number of young talents stepped up to find their feet at the level. They fell a match short of the big one, but expect them to be back bigger and better next year.

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

THREE teams down and four remain in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series after the first two nights of post-season action. Last placed Canterbury Rams survived a challenge from Nelson Giants on night one and came from behind to put away Auckland Huskies with an inspired third term last night. Taranaki Mountainairs were able to hold off Franklin Bulls in the other elimination final yesterday to make it through to the semis. Now the Rams take on top of the table Otago Nuggets, and the Airs face up against Manawatu Jets.

Otago Nuggets vs. Canterbury Rams

Not many people would have seen this as a matchup for the semi-finals, but the last placed Canterbury Rams have made it through to the penultimate round to take on the Otago Nuggets. The winner progresses through to the grand final and the loser bows out for 2020. Will the Nuggets live up to their top billing at the end of the home and away season? Or will the Rams’ fairytale run from last to the title continue?

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 22 | 20 | 12 | 23 (77)
Otago Nuggets 28 | 28 | 9 | 22 (87)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Canterbury Rams 14 | 13 | 20 | 27 (74)
Otago Nuggets 13 | 14 | 26 | 22 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Sam Smith (Rams) 17.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals
Thomas Webley (Rams) 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals
Alex Talma (Rams) 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.5 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 20 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Nuggets must ensure the young Rams do not have a purple patch in which they can pile on the scores quickly. The last two nights Canterbury has dug deep after facing a deficit and piled on runs to hit the front and never lose it. The likes of Jordan Ngatai and Kane Keil need to be on their game, whilst the two most important people could be Jordan Hunt and Jarrod Kenny. The former needs to win the head-to-head over Thomas Webley after Webley’s match-winning performance last night, and he has the strength, but will need to avoid his opponent using his athleticism to get to the basket. Kenny won Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, and he needs to hassle his opponent whether it be Taylor Britt or Reuben Te Rangi and make sure they have an off night, whilst trying to hurt them the other way with some long-range bombs.

The last two night previews have been talking about the stars in Britt and Te Rangi, but boy did the Rams really come of age against the Huskies and look like genuine title contenders. Just as Auckland would guard one hot-handed scorer, another would pop up. Webley played his best game of the year when it counted, while Sam Smith took over Te Rangi’s scoring duties and keeping in mind the Rams built a lead in the third erm with Te Rangi and and Britt combining for just 11 points at one stage. Alex Talma also missed last night and could provide much height on the glass, but then again, do the Rams need him? As the Nuggets are a little smaller than the Huskies and more spread in their shooters. They have to limit Ngatai’s influence though as he is the star on court who can put on a one-man show.

WHO WINS?

What a clash this shapes up to be. Otago Nuggets have to be the pick given they finished first, but Canterbury Rams are running on a high right now and look like they could beat anyone on court. They have to perform at their best for longer to knock off the league’s best side this season, but anything is possible in this Finals Series.

Manawatu Jets vs. Taranaki Mountainairs

In a huge second semi-final, the Manawatu Jets are looking to bounce back from their qualifying final loss to the Nuggets with a win over Taranaki Mountainairs. The Airs knocked off Franklin Bulls last night and were effectively equal second with the Jets and Huskies despite finishing fourth. These two teams are the league’s highest scoring teams, and looking at their past two encounters, expect it to go a similar way, with the winner reaching triple-figures if not both sides.

PAST MATCHES:

Manawatu Jets 22 | 27 | 39 | 14 (102)
Taranaki Airs 23 | 28 | 23 | 19 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Manawatu Jets 22 | 32 | 31 | 33 (118)
Taranaki Airs 25 | 23 | 32 | 23 (103)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks
Taane Samuel (Jets) 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 27.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Marcel Jones (Airs) 20.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
Shane Temara (Airs) 17.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 21.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 23.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Jets will be keen to see the return of Tom Vodanovich for this clash after missing the Otago Nuggets loss. Despite being this season’s MVP and a notorious high scorer, Vodanovich has not been able to punish the Airs the same way he has other sides, scoring 17 points in both matches and only having a real impact off the boards in the first encounter with 14 rebounds. The load has been shared around and realistically they need to continue to do that because unpredictability is the best key to victory. Hyrum Harris is a terrific facilitator, but he might need to score more if Vodanovich is still sore or having a down game, while Taane Samuel could be the wildcard in the pack, being the best performing player for Manawatu across the two games. They need to match Marcel Jones off the boards and try and limit Derone Raukawa as much as possible.

The Airs might have gone down in the past two encounters, but would fancy themselves here if they can get off the chain. They have a lot of underrated players, and bench players who can come off and have spurts of impact, whereas the Jets have such a strong starting five that they can get the majority of their points from them. Raukawa and Jones are hard to stop, but it will need to be the next group such as Shane Temara – who is almost averaging a double-double against the Jets – as well as Ken Tuffin, Mitch Dance and Francis Mulvihill who really need stand up and provide support to the All-Star duo. It will also be important to try and read Harris and his passes to limit the scoring power of the Jets’ bigs, particularly Vodanovich.

WHO WINS?

The two highest scoring sides are set to put on a real show. Both sides have elite talents who can shoot or share the ball around, with strong rebounding and assist numbers across the board. They are both also more than capable defensively with some huge steal numbers, but the Jets will start as favourites in this one. With two wins from two games thus far, Manawatu need to keep doing what they have done in the past, but you cannot discount the Airs who at their best are a quality lineup.

Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Huskies v Rams and Airs v Bulls

ONE team is out and six remain in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) title race following the first night of finals action. Canterbury Rams won the first of four games they will need to win if they are to hold the title this year, defeating Nelson Giants and now moving on to face Auckland Huskies in another elimination final. Rounding out the elimination finals is a fourth against fifth clash between Taranaki Mountainairs and Franklin Bulls. Both sides have been ladder leaders at different stages through the season, but only one can advance to the semi-finals.

The semi-finals take place tomorrow night, with Otago Nuggets playing the lowest placing loser – which could be any of the three sides other than Auckland Huskies – while the Manawatu Jets could meet anyone bar Canterbury on the penultimate finals stage.

Auckland Huskies vs. Canterbury Rams

In the opening match of the night, the fourth placed Auckland Huskies take on the last placed Canterbury Rams who got through the first hurdle by overcoming the Nelson Giants last night. This clash will be substantially harder, but they have beaten them once, albeit in the opening week of the season.

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 29 | 17 | 24 | 32 (102)
Auckland Huskies 12 | 20 | 16 | 22 (70)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Auckland Huskies 18 | 30 | 28 | 12 (88)
Canterbury Rams 24 | 12 | 18 | 27 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies)** 19 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 8 steals
Leon Henry (Huskies) 9.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies) 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks
Toby Gillooly (Rams)** 25 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Taylor Britt (Rams) 21.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Thomas Webley (Rams) 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies) 19.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.7 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Huskies have really found their form in the second half of the season and have a really well balanced team. With Leon Henry guiding the younger players with his rebounding prowess, Taine Murray on a tear when he is red hot, and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa having a Defensive Player of the Year award type-season, they are a hard team to beat. That is before you get to the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner among a host of others off the bench who can contribute on the scoring front.

The Rams rely a lot on Taylor Britt to score, but can have cameos from others such as Toby Gillooly and more recently, Reuben Te Rangi. They have the strength off the boards with Alex Talma and Thomas Webley working hard on the inside, but will have their work cut out with Henry and Smith-Milner crashing the boards. It will need to be a clinical performance from the Rams to get up with the Huskies so strong defensively, you cannot afford to have too many loose balls.

WHO WINS?

Auckland Huskies were not too far off the top two, and deserve to head in as favourites here. While they lost to the Rams in their opening game of the season, they are in much better form of late, even with the Rams picking up back-to-back wins in the past few days. If the Huskies can play to their potential, they just have too much depth to rely on, while the Rams have some serious A-grade talent, but injuries have hurt them this season otherwise they would have finished higher up the ladder.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Franklin Bulls

The second match of the night has a huge clash between two genuine title contenders that neither the Nuggets nor Jets would particularly look forward to playing. The Airs have won both their previous encounters against the Bulls, but finals is a different ball game and this shapes up to be a beauty.

PAST MATCHES:

Franklin Bulls 31 | 21 | 18 | 25 (95)
Taranaki Airs 25 | 30 | 27 | 25 (107)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Franklin Bulls 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
Taranaki Airs 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Marcel Jones (Airs) 29.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Ken Tuffin (Airs) 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Isaac Davidson (Bulls) 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Nikau McCullough (Bulls) 11.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Derone Raukawa (Airs) 22.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Airs have had the edge over the Bulls in their opening two encounters thanks to the 12 and 14-point wins. Given they are relatively comfortable victories, they would head into this game with confidence, particularly given not only their All-Star duo in Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa‘s form against the Bulls, but also Ken Tuffin‘s 10-point and six-rebounds average against Franklin. They need to keep doing what they’ve been during the season, but need to put in a four quarter effort to ensure they remain alive in the competition.

The Bulls have one of the most even spread of sides in the competition. At one point they won five out of six games and looked like they were going to storm away with the minor premiership before slipping back to the pack in the second half of the season. If the Bulls can limit the influence of Jones and Raukawa then that will go a long way to winning. Obviously that is easier said than done, but perhaps the roles for Everard Bartlett and Nick Barrow could be huge, with Isaac Davidson and Nikau McCullouch trying to pile on the points, while Dom Kelman-Poto provides the inside presence.

WHO WINS?

With two wins in the bank against their opposition, the Airs will be favourites heading into this. Given they have 40 per cent of the All-Star team in their possession, they are genuinely a top four side ready to advance. The Bulls have such an even squad across the board, it is difficult to try and lockdown on one player, but Davidson might be that player whose hot hand early in the season led the Bulls to a number of victories.

Sal’s NBL night preview July 22: Bulls v Airs and Nuggets v Jets

The penultimate night of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown regular season has a couple of tantalising clashes. The third placed Taranaki Mountainairs are fighting for a top two spot with a loss to the Franklin Bulls ruling them out of qualifying final contention. The second game is a potential qualifying final preview with the top two teams, Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets facing off.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

It is now or never for Taranaki Mountainairs who must win their clash with Franklin Bulls to have a chance at cementing a top two spot. A win will not guarantee them a top two place, but they will move into second with both Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets to face off in the next game. It will be the Airs final game of the regular season, as the first team to reach 14 games and have a break until next week’s Finals Series which could be a telling factor in recovery. The Bulls on the other hand have their own individual battle with Auckland Huskies to see who finishes fourth or fifth. Realistically, it will not matter because both sides will face off in the first week of finals. The only difference will be if the Bulls win here and then win their final match to over take the Airs in third.

After looking like a top two chance a couple of weeks ago, the Bulls have stumbled in weeks four and five, dropping three of a possible four games and scoring no more than 84 points in that time. To their credit they have kept their opposition to double-digit scores, but it has not been enough to take home the win. Isaac Davidson (16.3 points) and Dom Kelman-Poto (16.0) have been the key scorers, while Sam Timmins (11.9) has contributed well from the five. Both Kelman-Poto and Timmins contribute about 15 rebounds per game, while the team’s highest playmaker is Jackson Stubbins with just 2.8 assists per game.

The Airs have maintained touch with the top sides, though back-to-back losses to Auckland Huskies and Manawatu Jets in the past week has hurt their chances. An important win over Nelson Giants last night ensure the Airs are still in with a shot to earn a qualifying final spot, but must win the clash. Derone Raukawa has been the star this season, leading the way for his side with 23.1 points and 7.9 assists, while Marcel Jones has been phenomenal off the boards with 13.8 rebounds to accompany 22.5 points and 4.5 assists. The duo have caused all sorts of headaches for the opposition. Shane Temara (12.8 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds) have also been prolific across the season.

Neither side has had perfect form leading into this clash, but there is more on the line for the Airs, so expect them to go as hard as ever to try and come away with the points.

 

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

In what could be a grand final preview, the top of the table Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets battle it out for potentially pole position heading into the finals series. If the Airs are victorious in the previous game, then winning is crucial because for the loser, it will come down to their final game of the round on Saturday. If the Airs lose, then this game is largely a warm-up for finals as neither team can slip below the Airs. However plenty is on the line for these sides with the teams set to meet again next week, and getting confidence heading into the finals will be huge.

Otago Nuggets have an even side across the board, with Jordan Ngatai a dominant performer, but one of a number of fluent scorers that has helped Otago to win its past three games. Ngatai is ranked second for all of points (18.3), assists (4.1) and rebounds (5.4), though Jordan Hunt (18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (11.5 points, 2.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds) have also being really strong. Jarrod Kenny is the key facilitator, dishing out a team-high 5.3 rebounds to go with his 12.8 points per game this season.

The Jets are in similar form, winning the past four games, and scoring over 100 in three of them, and 99 in their most recent win over Franklin Bulls. Since their disaster against the Nuggets back on July 11 where they lost by 36 points, Manawatu has looked a genuine title contender, especially with all their big guns firing. Fresh off a 43-point double-double effort which featured 10 treys, Tom Vodanovich is as dangerous as they come in the offensive half. He is far from the sole shooter though, with Jayden Bezzant (20.0 points) and Taane Samuel (18.4) both recording big numbers, Hyrum Harris can do a bit of everything with 14.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game this season.

The Nuggets found the formula to defeat the Jets last time, but the Jets are in ripping form. One thing is for sure, it will be a high scoring contest.

Airs keep top two hopes alive with win over Giants

TARANAKI Mountainairs have kept their dreams of finishing in the top two of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown alive after downing Nelson Giants by seven points last night. In what was a team effort – five players scored double-figure points – the Airs reached the hundred mark yet again in the 102-95 win.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 20 | 26 | 28 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 24 | 27 | 16 | 28 (95)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Both teams were able to gets shots off early, but back-to-back threes by Thomas Ingham and Dane Brooks gave the Giants an early advantage. Denhym Brooke countered with a triple of his own for the Airs, and the big guns in Derone Raukawa, Mika Vukona and Mike Karena all got on the board with some points. Trailing by as much as six, the Airs drained three consecutive treys – one to Marcel Jones and two to Shane Temara – to hit the front themselves. They did not lose it again for the rest of the quarter as both teams share the points around.

The Airs long-range shooting was a huge feature of the opening term as the Giants looked to get as close to the basket as possible. The teams traded baskets in the last couple of minutes as Nic Trathen had a late triple to follow on from Mitchell Dance, but it would be Zach Easthope who had the last say with a layup as the clock ticked down to four seconds for Taranaki to lead by four at the first break.

The second term opened with Ken Tuffin scoring his first points of the game with a jump shot after missing his earlier three-point attempt, as the Giants kept in touch with the third placed Airs through another Trathen triple just two minutes into the game. Raukawa and Jones scored the next seven Airs points, but then their side went three minutes without scoring. Despite the long period, Nelson did not fare much better with a Karena driving layup a minute earlier the first time the Giants had been in front since midway through the first quarter.

The teams traded buckets in the second half of the term, as the Giants through Ingham and Karena built a handy lead. Temara scored five late points for his side to cut the deficit to three points by the main break. Having had a break later in the term, Raukawa returned to the court for the second half to try and spur his team on after conceding the lead in the second quarter.

Just nine seconds into the quarter and Tuffin got to the rim with a nice layup and Vukona fouled Jones on a three-point attempt to send the big man to the line which he duly delivered to give his side a two-point advantage. Vukona soon made up for his error with a two-pointer of his own, and the teams again traded passes. Josh Bloxham cleverly picked up a steal off a Raukawa pass and Karena fed the ball to Ingham for a triple to hit the front. No sooner had the Giants went ahead, and Raukawa quickly drained a triple of his own to give his team the advantage.

The Airs maintained that advantage throughout the term, as the Giants got as close as three points with 2:22 left in the quarter. However the last two baskets – to Raukawa and Tai Wynyard – extended the lead out to seven at the final change, with no score added in the last 74 seconds of the game as the Giants kept having chances but not nailing them. Four consecutive shots resulted in three offensive rebounds for Nelson, before Wynyard finally grabbed a defensive board, only for Jones to turn the ball over again. Not long after the siren sounded with the Airs up by seven.

Still within striking range, the Giants continued to push as Karena, Trathen and Ingham all scored early baskets. Temara produced an entertaining dunk, while Raukawa was still making life difficult for the opposition with his shooting. Midway through the term, the game was well and truly alive with the Giants drawing within a point on a number of occasions. Vukona capitalised off an and-one chance with two minutes and 43 seconds remaining and the scores 89-88 in favour of the Airs.

That seemed to wake the third placed team up a little as Jones and Brooks both contributed with jumpshots to push it out to six points and the Giants never got closer. Karena’s basket with 56 seconds on the clock put the Giants to within six, but then the deliberate fouling was on and the Airs made sure to get the ball in the hands of Raukawa who delivered from the charity stripe. An Ingham turnover in the last 38 seconds resulted in a Tuffin basket, and while Theo Johnson nailed a late triple, it was too little, too late for the Giants who went down 102-95.

Raukawa finished with a double-double of 15 points, 11 assists and two rebounds, while Jones picked up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in another big performance. Temara had 20 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench, while Dance (13 points) and Brooke (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the Giants, Ingham top scored with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Trathen came off the bench for 20 points of his own to accompany five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Karena (18 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Brooks (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) both picked up double-figure numbers while Vukona aided his teammates well with five rebounds, three steals and two assists to go with eight points.

Taranaki takes on Franklin Bulls tomorrow in a must-win clash if the Airs are to secure a top two spot, while Nelson plays its final game on Saturday against Otago Nuggets knowing it is set for the first elimination final on Tuesday.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 22: Airs v Giants and Rams v Huskies

EACH 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown side only has two games left in the regular season as the finals seres has already taken shape. With the top two teams winning overnight, it all but locks up the qualifying final unless one massively stumbles, while the bottom two are also secured with Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams set to play off in the first elimination final. Both play tonight against a couple of top four sides hoping to have a strong run in the last couple of games. The remaining matches in the competition are the third encounters between the teams.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. NELSON GIANTS

Taranaki Mountainairs are the only side that can upset the current order of play with the top two sides in the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets. Whilst the league’s most high-powered offence can level the top two sides on eight wins after this game, the Airs have to hope they win their last game while both teams lose their final two encounters. For the Giants, they sit in the bottom two and are preparing to play the Rams in the first elimination final next Tuesday in which there will be no turning back. In saying that, claiming a huge scalp or two in the final week could do wonders for the confidence.

While the Airs dominate across the board in most statistical areas such as points (plus 19.8), rebounds (plus 9.1) and assists (plus 4.5), the biggest differential might be in the shooting efficiency from the charity stripe. The Airs are the top side at capitalising from the line, making 79.3 per cent of their free throws, while the Giants are last with just two thirds on their free throws going in. The Airs are the most efficient side in the competition which sets them up for finals, shooting at an average of 47.5, while the Giants are 43.3 per cent, ranked sixth of the seven sides.

In the first encounter between the sides back on opening night, the Airs got up 112-96 over an understrength Giants side missing Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Derone Raukawa (28 points, six rebounds and 10 assists) had a night out, teaming up with Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) who both were not too far off triple-doubles. Five Airs reached double-figure points in the opening game of the season, while it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tysxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds) who picked up 68 of the Giants’ 96 points on the night.

The Airs doubled down on their hold over the Giants in their second match on July 9, albeit needing overtime to finish them off. Leading by a whopping 21 points at half-time, Taranaki watched its lead dissolve as the Giants stormed home. Lucky for the Airs, they won overtime 20-13 to claim a 95-88 victory. Raukawa (24 points, three rebounds and seven assists), Jones (21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Ken Tuffin (10 points, 13 rebounds and three steals) all went to work in the win. For the Giants, Brooks topscored with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Zeb Lovell picked up a double-double courtesy of 10 points and 12 rebounds.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Auckland Huskies’ top two dreams might have been dashed with the loss to the top of the table Otago Nuggets last night, but third spot is still within reach if the Huskies can string together a couple of wins. They sit in fourth currently, but could still slide to fifth if they go down here and the Franklin Bulls get up. The Rams are locked into the bottom two, but have the chance to overtake the Giants with a couple of wins in the last two games and get off the bottom. In saying that, Canterbury is on a nine-game losing streak after winning its first three matches, so will need to lift in order to break that run.

Both these sides are evenly matched when it comes to the stats, with the Rams marginally ahead in points per game (86 to 85.3), while the Huskies shade them in rebounds (44.6 to 43.9). Auckland is one of the stronger assist sides, averaging 17 per game compared to the Rams’ 14.9, though Canterbury is far more accurate from the field, with a 45.5 per cent efficiency rate compared to the Huskies’ 40.3 per cent. Thought a lot of that damage was done early in the season, with the Huskies boosting their field goal numbers on the weekend having sunk the first 17 baskets against Nelson Giants. Not much separates them from a three-point shooting perspective, but the Rams are ranked second in free-throw shooting percentage.

The other game on opening night was a throwback to sweeter times for the Rams as they produced what would be their best performance of the season with a 102-70 triumph over the Huskies. The Rams dominated from the first tip-off and won three of the four quarters on their way to a 32-point victory. Taylor Britt lit up the court with 22 points and eight rebounds, well aided by Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks), as the side looked to have compensated for the loss of Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green on the eve of the season. The Huskies had a dirty shooting night, sinking just 33.8 per cent of their field goals compared to the Rams’ 52.1 per cent, with Tohi Smith-Milner‘s 15 points at 62.5 per cent, and Nate Wilson‘s 10 points at the same efficiency the only proficient and efficient scorers.

The second encounter on July 9 resulted in a Huskies victory, but not without a sluggish start. Auckland trailed by six points at quarter time, then poured on 58 points to 30 in the middle two terms to race off to a 22-point final break lead. The Rams tried to storm back with a dominant 27-12 final term, but fell short going down 88-81. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa played in this one after missing their early encounter and had a whopping eight steals to accompany 19 points. Inaccurate on opening night, Leon Henry (17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals) and Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds) both contributed at a higher rate. Britt had another impressive night with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, while it was Thomas Webley (15 points, six rebounds) and Sam Smith (12 points, two rebounds) who stepped up in the absence of Gillooly who had joined the injured group.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 16: Huskies v Airs and Rams v Nuggets

SAL’S National Basketball League (NBL) action sees the dangerous Auckland Huskies taking on the ladder-leading Taranaki Mountainairs, before the last placed Canterbury Rams hope to turn around their form against the Otago Nuggets tonight.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

The red-hot Taranaki Mountainairs take on the reformed Auckland Huskies in a match that is predicted to be quite the show to kick off some Thursday night action. The Airs have earnt the title as the team to beat if the form after 10 games is anything to go by, sitting a game clear of second with a comfortable 51 more points on the board than their nearest opposition. The Huskies might have the least points score – with a game less – but could well make their way level with fourth if they can win here, but more importantly, go two games clear of the bottom two sides.

Looking at the statistics, Taranaki is ahead in most areas. Their points per game sits at a mighty impressive 101.5 compared the Huskies’ 82.6, while their rebounds (48.9 to 44.7) and assists (19 to 16.1) are also higher. In terms of their accuracy, the Airs’ field goal percentage is almost 50 per cent at 48.7, well ahead of the Huskies’ 39.7, but that figure has been steadily improving after a shaky start to the season. From long range, the Huskies drop a third of their shots, just below the Airs at 37.5. One area where the Huskies clearly top the Airs is in the steals department, with an impressive 9.4 per game compared to 6.8, so Taranaki will need to be aware of Auckland’s pick-pocketing abilities.

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa has been the prime thief for opposition players, averaging a league-high 3.6 steals per game. In the last game between the teams, Mauriohooho Le’Afa picked up two steals, but had 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a really promising performance. Five players notched up double figures on that day from the Huskies, as Leon Henry (18 points, 14 rebounds), Tohi Smith-Milner (16 points, six rebounds), Taine Murray (15 points, three rebounds and five assists) and Nate Wilson (15 points, six rebounds) all had big nights out.

It was a rare loss for the Airs, as they were blown away in the first half – particularly the second term – with the Huskies piling on 66 points to 44 to set up a 109-93 victory. The Airs had four players reach double figures, with Marcel Jones having a sensational game of 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Derone Raukawa went to town with the rock, notching up nine assists to accompany 19 points. Ken Tuffin (19 points, three rebounds) played his best game of the season, while his close friend Francis Mulvihill (11 points) also contributed on the scoreboard dropping three of six from long-range. The Airs should still start favourites in this one, but after their last match, the Huskies will head in very confident of toppling the top side again.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. OTAGO NUGGETS

In the second game, two sides hoping to overcome losses will go at it with the Otago Nuggets still looking strong, but are at the midpoint of the season at 5-4 and keen to remain up with the top group and not slip to the chasing pack. A one-point heartbreaking loss to the top of the table Airs would hurt, but a second half comeback would have been promising for a side that has taken plenty before it to-date, including knocking off its opponent, Canterbury Rams a couple of weeks ago. If one is talking needing a win, then there is no team more desperate than the Rams, who have now dropped seven on the trot after three wins to start the season. One promising aspect is the fact that they have got closer and closer each match, losing by seven, five and then three points the last three outings. They could be really primed for a big match here.

Looking at the stats, it is a real mixed bag despite the Rams’ form, with the Nuggets ahead on points (94.3 to 89.4) and Assists (19.8 to 15.7) and well ahead in steals (11.1 to 6.3). Their ball-handing skills are on point and hard to stop, but Canterbury’s big men could have a say, as the Rams are ahead in rebounds with 44.1 to the Nuggets’ 40.2. Their field goal percentage is neck-and-neck with the Rams marginally ahead (46.5 to 45.9 per cent), though Otago is the superior two-point shooting side with 56.8 per cent accuracy to the Rams’ 49.6 per cent, whilst outside the arc, Canterbury is the side to watch (36.3 to 33.2 per cent).

In the last match between the teams, the Nuggets set up a 10-point win with a fast start to lead by six and then 14 at the first two breaks. Canterbury hit back in a low-scoring third term – where just 21 points were put on the board combined – and then won the final term by a point, but it would not be enough, going down, 77-87. Despite the loss, Taylor Britt was still productive with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Thomas Webley (14 points, nine rebounds) and Sam Smith (12 points seven rebounds and three assists) supported him well. Alex Talma (11 points, eight rebounds) and Ben Carlile-Smith (11 rebounds) were also strong off the boards in a massive 50-rebounds team game.

For the winning Nuggets, Jordan Ngatai finished with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round game, leading the way with Kane Keil who dropped four of nine from outside the arc to finish with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Richie Rodger (10 points, three rebounds) was the other player to reach double-figure points, as Jarrod Kenny had a team-high five assists. Otago head into this match as strong favourites, but with Reuben Te Rangi now in the side, the Rams have a bit more firepower and will be desperate to turn their losing streak around.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 10 night preview: Nuggets v Jets and Rams v Airs

A COUPLE of teams hoping to break into the top two, and a top-against-bottom clash are what fans will come to see in the Saturday night outing for Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs MANAWATU JETS

Opening up Saturday night action is a battle between a couple of mid-table teams who at their best can push anyone in the competition. The Nuggets started strongly to win their first two games in week one, but have dropped three of their last four since then to slip to a 50 per cent win-loss record. If they win here, they will leapfrog the Jets into third and sit a win off the top two. For the Jets, victory would move them on level pegging with the top two teams – at least temporarily – and give them some breathing space on the rest of the competition.

As it stands, the Nuggets are averaging 87.8 points per game, slightly below the Jets’ 94.6. Both teams have some top-end scoring power, so putting up big numbers is not too difficult for the respective teams. The Jets are far superior when it comes to rebounding though, ranked second with 43.6 per game compared to the Nuggets’ sixth ranking of 35.8. When it comes to assists, the sides are dead level on 18.3 per game, while the Jets have the higher shooting accuracy.

In the Nuggets’ first game this season, they got up in a four-point thriller thanks to a barnstorming third term. Trailing by six points at half-time, Otago piled on 27 points to 16 in the third quarter to hit the front and then hold on in a high-scoring last term to win 104-100. On that night, Jarrod Kenny had a massive game with 28 points – including five of nine from outside the arc and a total 61.5 per cent accuracy – while dropping six dimes in the process. Jordan Ngatai had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists himself, while Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) were also prominent in supporting roles.

Three players did all the scoring damage for the Jets in the loss, with Jayden Bezzant finishing with a game-high 30 points, as well as five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tom Vodanovich dominated with 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Taane Samuel helped with 20 points and four rebounds. Hyrum Harris fell short of a double-double and had nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on the night.

With Harris having missed the last couple of games, the Jets have missed him, but have also made do, still making their way up the table. It will be a tough game and it could well come down to the depth, with both teams fourth and fifth players capable of contributing to the headliners.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs TARANAKI AIRS

Two teams at opposite ends of the Sal’s NBL ladder take to the court in the second game, with the Airs looking to go outright top with six wins from nine games if they get up, while the Rams hope to peg back a win and break a five-game losing streak.The good news for Canterbury is that the ladder is so even, by the end of the night, the Rams could theoretically sit fourth again after slipping to seventh following last night’s loss to the Auckland Huskies.

The Airs have been the team to beat throughout the season with 101.5 points per game to rank first overall, while the Rams come in at a respectable third, though somewhat down in the averages with 88 points per game. Taranaki is also ranked number one in rebounds with 45.5 and assists with 19.6. While the Rams are mid-table in both statistical areas, it is clear to see the Airs are playing better basketball both in theory and practice. The one aspect the Rams hold over the Airs is the experience and knowledge that they have beaten them before.

Back on June 27, Canterbury got up by 11 points, 112-101 despite a fast start from the Airs. Trailing by four points at quarter time after a 66-point combined opening quarter, the Rams won the next three terms by four, eight and three points respectively. More importantly though, the Rams have to win to avoid becoming the first team to lose to every team in the competition once. In the win, it was Taylor Britt who came agonisingly close to a triple-double after having ridiculous numbers of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, shooting at 63.2 per cent from the field. Sam Smith was also impressive with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, while three other players – Alex Talma, Thomas Webley and Mason Whittaker – all score double-digit points. Talma and Webley combined for 18 boards too with the former picking up double-double for his troubles.

The Airs still had some strong performers with Derone Raukawa leading the way once again with 25 points, though it was Marcel Jones who did the most damage, dominating his way to a double-double thanks to 19 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Ken Tuffin (14 points, six rebounds) and Denhym Brooke (11 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points in the defeat, with Mitch Dance contributing as well with eight points and four rebounds.

The Airs will go in as strong favourites in this game and the Rams really need to find something soon to turn their form around. If they can rekindle their first week form then they are capable of anything, but the Airs are in ripping form and will want to secure outright top spot at the end of the night.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 5 night preview: Huskies v Giants and Jets v Airs

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.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 1 night preview: Airs v Nuggets and Jets v Rams

QUITE possibly four of the top contenders are battling it out on night two of week two in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition. There will be plenty of Tall Blacks on show for fans to enjoy throughout the night.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS VS OTAGO NUGGETS

Form lines can change in the blink of an eye, and the last time Otago Nuggets walked off the court, the Taranaki Mountainairs were 2-0 – the same as the Nuggets – and this game loomed as a potential top of the table clash. Since then, the Airs have lost back-to-back games to the Canterbury Rams and Auckland Huskies, but are no less dangerous than they were last week. They will be disappointed by the loss to the Huskies, but showed promising signs by pushing the undefeated Rams all the way. Now they take on the Nuggets who claimed wins in their opening two games, but are coming off a long layoff post-win on Thursday.

This game looms as a high-scoring clash with the teams ranked first and second respectively in points per game, with the Nuggets (105.5) marginally ahead of the Airs (103.3). The teams are also fairly accurate when it comes to shooting with the Airs ranked third and first for overall two and three-point percentage respectively, whilst the Nuggets are ranked first and second in those statistical categories. It means with the long-range prowess of both teams, we could see some long-range bombs dropping.

The Airs stat sheet has been well padded across the board with top draft pick, Derone Raukawa applying plenty of pressure on opposition defences thanks to 22.5 points per game at 52.4 per cent accuracy from the field. He also averages 7.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game in a promising start to the season. His partner-in-crime is Marcel Jones who has been phenomenal off the boards, averaging 18.8 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, but has also stolen the ball 1.8 times per match on average. Other than the damaging duo, Ken Tuffin (14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Francis Mulvihill (9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals) have impressed.

The Nuggets have so many potential scorers it is easy to see why Otago has put up big scores in their first two games. Jordan Ngatai leads the way living up to his first selection in the Player Draft with 21.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Jarrod Kenny put up 28 points in his first game, then opted to share the rock around in his second without taking a shot, but still averages the 14 points and six rebounds from the matches. Jordan Hunt has provided great support for the duo by averaging 16.5 points and 5.0 rebounds, whilst Josh Aitcheson (12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds) has seemingly flown under the radar.

This game is set to be a cracking contest. Otago Nuggets are fresh and unbeaten to start favourites, but the Airs might get a jump on them having had the recent run yesterday. Expect the game to go down to the wire.

MANAWATU JETS VS CANTERBURY RAMS

Depending on the result of the previous game, Canterbury Rams could end the night as the only undefeated team in season 2020. However, if the Nuggets get up and the Manawatu Jets play to their potential, then the Rams could be on the back foot against the Nuggets heading into a massive clash between the pair later in the week. Neither of these sides has played since week one, having last night off to prepare for the big clash.

In terms of statistics, the sides are evenly matched, ranked third (Rams) and fourth (Jets) for points per game, as well as first (Jets) and second (Rams) for rebounds. Both teams have some big boys, but also know how to position themselves well around the basket for either second chance points, or the defensive rebound to kick-start a transition play. From a shooting perspective, the Jets are ranked second from inside the arc to the Rams’ fourth, but from outside the arc, the Rams have the upper hand with a 35.8 per cent efficiency – third overall – to the Jets’ 31.9 per cent efficiency – fourth.

If the Jets’ season continues, they are due for a win, with a formline of loss-win-loss, though in fairness, the losses have come at a combined nine points against the Nuggets and Nelson Giants, either side of a big win over Auckland Huskies. Tom Vodanovich has been electrifying at times, averaging 27.3 points, including a 38-point starring effort against the Huskies. He is averaging a double-double for the season thus far with 11.3 rebounds too. Hyrum Harris has been just as impressive across all key areas, averaging 12.7 points. 14.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists, not that far off a triple-double average. Jayden Bezzant deserves credit too for his 22.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists, ranked top three in all those areas.

The Rams have answered every challenge put to them, with a big win to open the season over Auckland, then tight victories over the Bulls and Airs. In the absence of key injured stars on the eve of the season, Taylor Britt has been simply sensational in the red and black, putting up 23.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists – ranked first at the club in all those areas. Toby Gillooly has been impressive from a shooting perspective with 14.3 points per game, while Sam Smith (13.0 points, 3.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds) and Alex Talma (8.0 points, 7.7 rebounds) also provide strong efforts across the court. The Rams can beat opponents in multiple ways with great cohesion and reading of the play.

The Rams are unbeaten and will start favourites, but the Jets have some players who can turn it on and are hard to stop, so if Vodanovich and Harris fire, watch out.