HERE is our complete list of the Top 20 Player of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown. Click on any of the links below to view the corresponding article:
IN our newest countdown series wrapping up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, we look at our top 20 players that took to the court this year. While it was an incredibly difficult list to create, we have had a mix of pure domination, defensive efforts and eye-catchers to form this list.
#17 MIKE KARENA
The first person on our list that features in the top 15 for both points and rebounds is Nelson Giants’ center, Karena. The big man defies the usual role of a five to some regard because of his ability to shoot from long range. Now he is obviously much more adept at getting close to the basket or dropping inside jumpers, but he is not afraid to make the jump shot when necessary and can release well without having to force his way to the rim.
Karena finished the season for the league’s bottom team as a shining light, ranking equal 10th in points (17.5) and equal 15th in rebounds (5.6). His two-point percentage was strong at 54.2 per cent, but his clear deficiency is still from the charity stripe, sinking just 55.9 per cent of his points, which is why the jump shot has become so crucial for him. He is able to get a fair chunk of offensive rebounds, with 1.7 per game a healthy number, showing a capability to work hard on both ends.
The former Canterbury Rams big man had a delayed start to the season, missing the first two games before returning for the final game of week on against Manawatu Jets. He picked up 17 points, six rebounds and shot at 50 per cent from the field, also draining a triple on the night. His next two games he continued his huge start to the season, averaging 26.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shooting at 71.4 per cent from the field. He only made two more triples for the rest of the season – in the last two games – but his accuracy was crucial throughout the season.
Not quite hitting the 30-point milestone, Karena went berserk against Otago Nuggets in the final round. With the Nuggets resting some of their top stars in the second half, Karena had a big night out with 26 points, three rebounds, three assists and hitting 75 per cent of his field goals from just 17 minutes of action.
The big question mark for Karena is whether or not he remains at the Giants or heads back to Canterbury Rams where they would have loved to have had him in the 2020 season. Either way, the big man certainly provided some great consistency in his 12 games, not dipping below 10 points once.
FOR most of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, the Nelson Giants struggled to string together many triumphs in the 14 games of their campaign, finishing with a record of five wins and nine losses. But when the final game of the regular season came around, the Giants were hell bent on finishing on a good note.
The NZNBL this year has been touted as one of the most even in terms of the skill and the ability of all seven teams. Nelson’s final matchup with the first ranked Otago Nuggets is truly a testament to this statement, as it makes an appearance in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.
Full the full match report between the Giants and the Nuggets – Click HERE
Coming off of two demoralising defeats at the hands of the Auckland Huskies (67-96) and the Taranaki Mountain Airs (95-102) in their two prior outings, Nelson was in need of some dire momentum if they were to put themselves in as good of form as possible heading into finals week. However, to do this the Giants had to be flawless for a full four quarters if they were any chance to conquer minor premiers, Otago Nuggets.
While Otago limited the minutes of their marquee duo in Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny before their Qualifying Final as well as both bigs in Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil being absent due to “niggles” according to coach Brent Matehaere, the point still stood that Nelson needed to make a statement before finals.
The opening 10 minutes of play did not bode well for the Giants, as the Nuggets blew out of the starting blocks with their shooters ablaze, knocking down six first quarter threes led by Darcy Knox and Richard Rodger who had two each in the opening term. Otago produced an attractive 28-21 quarter time lead and it was obvious what Nelson needed to limit them for the remainder of the contest.
Mike Fitchett managed to hammer home the message of limiting Otago’s long-range shooting, as the Giants held the Nuggets to just four threes in total over the next three quarters and contribute to their fantastic defence during the stretch of play.
Through multiple stops and neutralising Otago’s scoring avenues, Nelson found themselves in the lead halfway through the second after a corner three from Thomas Ingham. The majority of the second entailed the trading of buckets, but a 7-0 scoring run thanks to Mike Karena and Tom Gargiulo, capped off the first half in dominant fashion and gave their side an eight-point advantage at the main break.
Despite a couple of big plays from Otago, the Nuggets could not eat into their double-digit deficit as Karena and his side continued their good defence in the final quarters of the encounter. Next to Karena, Zeb Lovell and Mika Vukona provided supplementary points down low in the paint as the Giants pummelled their South Island neighbours around the basket.
A final layup by Tysxun Aiolupotea with 27 seconds left in the game put the stamp on the one-sided affair, with the Giants putting on a defensive clinic over a Nuggets side that now had to quickly shift their focus to the Manawatu Jets a couple days later.
Nelson held the Nuggets to just 46 points in the last three quarters, as the Giants accumulated 76 points of their own in the same period of time. The winning side tallied 52 points in the paint, compared to the Nuggets’ 30, helping the Giants achieve a 52 per cent shooting average on the night.
Karena led the game in scoring with 26 points and three assists, while Ingham added a further 17 points and five rebounds. On the other side of the aisle, Knox displayed his offence for the Nuggets by serving up a team-high 17 points off the bench in 23 minutes of court time.
Nelson’s 97-74 demolition job of Otago marked their fifth and final win of the season and slotted them into sixth position to conclude the campaign. But the fact that Nelson was able to trounce the eventual champions of the season, fully embodies the level of competition the NZNBL had on display this year.
NELSON Giants are first up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Giants ended up the bottom placed team after a sixth placed regular season finish, going down to Canterbury Rams in the first elimination final. We take a look at their season.
Points: 84.0 (6th)
Rebounds: 41.1 (5th)
Assists: 14.7 (7th)
Steals: 7.3 (5th)
Blocks: 2.3 (7th)
FG%: 44.2 (5th)
BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 5 points
It might be easy to say the Giants’ best win came against eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets in the final week of the season, but realistically taking into account what the motives were in that game in terms of management ahead of Finals, the narrow victory over a full-strength Manawatu Jets side earlier in the season takes the cake. No Jets player scored more than 18 points, as Theo Johnson put on 20 points and three rebounds, while Mike Karena had 17 and six, and Nic Trathen had 11 and six.
WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland by 29 points
The game was over by quarter time after the Huskies shot a lights-out 17 from 17 to start the match, piling on more than 40 points in the best first term of the season. The Giants managed to match it with their opponents after that, but the gap was a bridge too far despite the best efforts of Karena (15 points, eight rebounds).
Mike Karena – 17.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Thomas Ingham – 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Dane Brooks – 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals
Nic Trathen – 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals
Mika Vukona – 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals
WHAT WENT RIGHT?
Nelson Giants always looked like a dangerous team at times given their big man out on court, Karena was the best center in the competition, and his ability to be able to go inside or outside, and shoot at a high 54.2 per cent clip from two-point range and 37.5 per cent from three-point range was always going to be hard to stop for opposition clubs.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
A slow start to the season caused by injuries to Karena, Dane Brooks and Mika Vukona, the latter of whom did not return until late in the season. If the Tall Blacks legend had played a full season, there is every chance the Giants might have finished higher on the ladder, with his experience crucial to the side.
The Nelson Giants might have finished seventh overall post-finals, but given the losses of key players to injury, the team was always playing catch-up basketball. At their best, the Giants were clearly able to match it with the best sides, and it was more the fact they struggled to get their full side on the court often enough. There were enough signs there to suggest if they can retain their big guns for another season next year, the Giants could be more competitive when the whips are cracking, and more consistently as well.
CANTERBURY Rams have remained in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series following a tight four-point win over Nelson Giants, eliminating their opponents in the process. In what was a battle between the bottom two sides and the first of four sudden-death finals should one of these sides have made it to the grand final, the Rams were able to build on their last round win and record a narrow 93-89 victory thanks to strong play through the middle two quarters.
NELSON GIANTS 30 | 17 | 19 | 23 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 26 | 23 | 27 | 17 (93)
Despite their low finishes on the ladder, a salivating matchup always beckoned as arguably the best back court in the league of the Rams contested arguably the best front court in the league of the Giants, and that was where the game started. Mike Karena won the tip emphatically and set the tone for the Giants’ offence early as the ageless Mika Vukona drove straight to the cup for two. Up the other end, Taylor Britt opted to be the facilitator and dropped a dime to offensive leader for the first half in Quintin Bailey for two at the rim for the Rams. Britt then found Toby Gillooly on the perimeter for three who was looking to have an impact early after fouling out in their last outing. With both teams knowing it was a do-or-die match, the intensity was red hot and Giants captain Tom Ingham stepped up with the reply from deep. It was game on.
All the stars were involved early as Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi used his strength to score inside, and Dane Brooks split the Rams defenders to earn his way to the free-throw line for two. The Giants controlled the early stages of the game as seven individual scorers saw them get out to an 11-point lead. With Karena getting on the board with his trademark post-hook, Rams coach Mick Downer had seen enough and called a timeout. He was not happy with his team’s tempo offensively and some errant passes, a sign that there was a lack of cohesion and chemistry due to not having a full-strength side for much of the season, as well as their defensive effort labelling it as “garbage”.
Canterbury managed to find another gear to finish the quarter much like their game on Saturday as Sam Smith hit his first of three triples for the game, and Alex Talma got it done at both ends of the floor. The game was back to a one possession lead until the experienced front court of the Giants managed a couple of baskets late in the quarter as the scores read 30-26 at the first break.
High intensity and efficiency offensively for Nelson saw them shooting 66 per cent from the three-point line while it was Bailey, who got the starting nod for the game, and his 10 first quarter points keeping the Rams within arms-length.
Britt made his way to the free-throw line to score his first points of the game two minutes into the second quarter, but he still hadn’t made a shot from five attempts on the floor. Ingham also hit from the charity stripe to find his way to double-figure scoring, as five quick fire Te Rangi points tied the scores for the first time since the early part of the game. Britt eventually made his first shot from the floor, but it was Ingham again stealing the show with a corner three, before forcing Gillooly to roll his ankle with a vicious step-back jumper on their next possession.
Jack Exeter returned from concussion with a corner three of his own, and Talma’s tough defence on Karena led to him draining a triple from the wing up the other end. He managed to keep Karena to just six first half points as the Rams led 49-47 at the main break thanks to their resurgent defensive effort. Bailey (13 points) and Talma (7 points, five rebounds) led the way for Canterbury while Britt was restricted to just four points (1-8 shooting). Nelson’s 10 turnovers were a concern with five of them coming from Vukona, but his nine points and eight rebounds (three offensive) were also very valuable in keeping the contest tight.
Josh Bloxham tied the game again with a layup to start the second half until the Talma and Karena matchup started to fire up. Both fired shots at each other from both ends in an impressive showcase of skill and speed from the big men. Talma eventually went down with an ankle injury after landing on it awkwardly in a shot contest. He would ice up and not return for the rest of the game. Nelson tried to expose the defensive hole that was left as Karena bullied his way to two offensive rebounds and an and-one. With Vukona securing a double-double with a quarter and change left to play, a Canterbury big needed to step up, and they did. The 18-year-old Tom Webley kept the pressure on Karena at both ends and ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, playing a big role in many of their defensive plays. His involvement sparked another late-quarter run for the Rams as they dominated the final three minutes to take a 76-66 lead heading into the last break.
Turnovers were again a big reason the Giants found themselves down having recorded eight in the third quarter alone, something they needed to rectify if they had any chance of keeping their season alive. Despite Webley’s solid play, Karena continued to attack him with an and-one starting the Giants on the right path of a comeback. Nelson oozed full court defensive pressure and active offence as the Giants knew it was all or nothing. Despite this, they could not quite take a big enough dent out of the Canterbury lead.
With just under four minutes left, a Tysxun Aiolupotea runner sparked a seven to nothing run to be back within four points with just a minute and a half left. This was the finish the fiery first half promised fans. The Giants managed another stop and had a chance to dig into the lead again. The ball pinballed around the court as neither team could quite recover the ball cleanly, until it slipped into the hands of Britt and he wasn’t letting go. Looking to extend their lead, he took off but was stopped and fouled at half court with 37 seconds left. The referees deliberated on whether it was an unsportsmanlike foul, and with enough contact, that call was made. After making the two free throws and getting to the line on their retained possession, the lead was back to eight and it looked like game over. That was not the case.
Brooks hit a three on his second attempt in the possession and in his typical athletic fashion, he forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a huge dive. A quick Ingham three bounced off the rim and into the hands of Karena who is not known for his exploits from deep, yet he understood the situation of the game and Reggie Miller step-backed behind the line and drained it. The game was back to two points but unfortunately for Nelson, the lead only extended with the Smith free-throws the last scores of the game.
A valiant fightback fell short as the Rams won 93-89 and with them back at full strength, four wins in five days to win the championship isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Despite a quiet first half, Britt led a team-binding win with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Bailey’s 19 points and eight rebounds was important for their first half efforts. Te Rangi (11 points, five rebounds) was important, while fans wait on news on Talma’s (10 points, five rebounds) injury.
Karena (19 points, five rebounds) and Ingham (19 points) were the best for eliminated Nelson outfit, as Vukona did what Vukona does and put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. As the Giants head home from the competition, the Rams now take on Auckland Huskies for a spot in the semi-finals. If the Rams get up, they will face the red-hot Otago Nuggets in the semi-finals.
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.
Canterbury Rams 22 | 14 | 27 | 22 (90)
Nelson Giants 39 | 16 | 20 | 22 (97)
Nelson Giants 13 | 29 | 22 | 16 (80)
Canterbury Rams 22 | 15 | 20 | 7 | (64)
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.
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.
Manawatu Jets 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
Otago Nuggets 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)
Otago Nuggets 28 | 29 | 38 | 35 (130)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 30 | 23 | 15 (94)
Otago Nuggets 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)
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.
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.
ANOTHER upset win for the Nelson Giants can be added to the books, as they came away with an impressive 23-point shellacking of the top of the table Otago Nuggets in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) middle game of the triple-header.
NELSON GIANTS 21 | 31 | 22 | 23 (97)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 15 | 15 | 16 (74)
Knowing full well the outcome of last night’s result was to have no effect on each team’s positioning for next week’s Finals, the Nuggets were without starting big-man Jordan Hunt and stretch-four shooter Kane Keil. As a result, both Brent Matehaere and Mike Fitchett could tinker around with their sides before their games next week, despite it being a clash between first and second last. It also allowed both coaches to allow any players with “niggles” to gain much needed rest.
Even though young Kiwi big-man Akiva McBirney-Griffin got the starting nod from his side, Mike Karena quickly reminded him of the pecking order to begin the game, converting on a running hook. Nevertheless, Joshua Aitcheson knocked down a triple to get the ball rolling for the Nuggets. It was evident early on that each team went about scoring in totally different fashions. For the Giants, it was attacking the rim hard and getting up close and personal with Otago’s frontcourt, as 14 of their first 17 points came from inside the paint. For the Nuggets, they knocked down five shots from deep in their first ten attempts, signalling a more distant approach to getting on the scoreboard. The quarter time totals would reflect a slight advantage in favour of the Nuggets, who’s 28-21 lead came as a result of their bench’s contributions, outscoring Nelson’s 12-2 in the first 10 minutes. Eight points of which, came by way of Darcy Knox, along with Matthew Bardsley and Samuel Aruwa hitting a shot each.
To commence the second, Nelson slowly but surely began to crawl their way back taking the lead halfway through the quarter, thanks to a corner three from Thomas Ingham. But, both sides would remain within earshot of one another, dealing blows to back and forth for most of the remaining few minutes in the first half. Consecutive fast-break layups from Karena and a three-pointer from Tom Gargiulo handed Nelson a commanding nine-point lead heading into the main intermission after a 31-15 period, due mainly to instrumental rebounds, which in turn translated to a bunch of second chance points in the paint over the first two periods (14-4). Karena and Knox both led their teams in scoring at halftime, with the Giants’ center compiling 17 points in eleven and a half minutes of court time, before getting the second half started with an and-one.
A nice Euro-Step by Jordan Ngatai got the number one draft pick going after a rather quiet first half, making just one three in the initial 20 minutes of game time. With this being just one example of lacklustre performances through three quarters, Otago struggled to cut into the double-digit deficit that the Giants had created. An enormous dunk by Ngatai looked to spark an injection of energy into his side, as McBirney-Griffin repeated the action on the next play forcing Nelson to call a time-out.
The task of a fourth quarter comeback was made even harder for the Nuggets however, after a hook-shot once again from Karena extended Nelson’s lead to 16 with 30 seconds left in the third, as both teams went to the huddle one more time for the regular season with Nelson on top 74-58. Nicolas Trathen made Otago’s lofty deficit even greater to start the fourth, following a friendly roll from deep. And to make matters worse, Zeb Lovell’s up-and-under layup helped Nelson to their biggest lead of the contest (20). The Nuggets remained persistent in staying in the contest, but the fact of the matter was that Otago was undermanned and lacking size. And after Gargiulo was able to find the target for his second three with three minutes to go, Nelson could secure the upset result and obtain their fifth win of the year, taking home the triumph 97-74.
It was a one-sided affair down low in the paint, as the absences of Hunt and Keil factored majorly into the statistics. Nelson put their foot down with an impressive 52 points in the paint compared to Otago’s 30. While a number of bench players got remarkably more minutes due to the insignificance of the meeting, it remained a two-man effort through four quarters. A stat line of 26 points in 17 minutes, alongside three rebounds and three assists rounded out a dominant night around the rim for Karena, whereas Ingham was feeling his stroke to finish off the season with three threes to go next to his 17 points and six rebounds in another quality performance.
In what was a quiet night for both Jarrod Kenny and Ngatai, with both combining for 29 minutes of court time, the night belonged to the youngsters. Props went to Knox, who came off the bench to account for a team-high 17 points, meanwhile McBirney-Griffin and Richard Rodger each paved their own way with 13 points apiece.
The fates of both teams are already known for their first matchups of Finals Week, as the Nuggets who locked up top spot in standings go up against the Manawatu Jets in the qualifying final on Tuesday night. At the other end of the table, the Giants lock horns with the Canterbury Rams on Tuesday night as well, however, it will be a win or go home situation, as the teams engage in first elimination final of the postseason.
FOR the final day of the regular 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) season, we look at the overall ramifications over the day and what could come from the three remaining matches in the season. To tip off your Saturday afternoon of action is Canterbury Rams up against Franklin Bulls, followed by Nelson Giants up against Otago Nuggets and finally Auckland Huskies taking on Manawatu Jets.
Canterbury Rams (7th) vs. Franklin Bulls (5th)
Nelson Giants (6th) vs. Otago Nuggets (1st)
Auckland Huskies (4th) vs. Manawatu Jets (2nd)
HOW CAN THE LADDER CHANGE?
As it stands the qualifying final and first elimination final is locked in. Otago Nuggets secured top spot on Thursday night with victory over Manawatu Jets, but a Taranaki Mountainairs loss on the same night ensured the Jets will hold onto second spot with winning records over both the Airs and Auckland Huskies. Whilst the Huskies can knock off the Jets in the final game on Saturday, the Jets hold a 2-0 record over them from their previous encounters.
The Huskies can slip down to fifth on the table if they lose and Franklin Bulls topple Canterbury Rams in the opening game of the night. The second game is largely academic with both Nelson Giants and Otago Nuggets locked into their matches next week. If Canterbury Rams upset the Franklin Bulls and break their 10-game losing streak, then it will lock the Bulls into sixth on the table.
HOW DID THE TEAMS FARE IN THEIR PREVIOUS MATCHES?
Canterbury Rams vs. Franklin Bulls
Canterbury Rams (75) def. Franklin Bulls (72)
Taylor Britt (Rams) 19 points, 10 rebounds
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 20 points, 10 rebounds
Franklin Bulls (102) def. Canterbury Rams (77)
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 22 points, 7 rebounds
Alex Talma (Rams) 25 points, 7 rebounds
Nelson Giants vs. Otago Nuggets
Otago Nuggets (107) def. Nelson Giants (82)
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 23 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Nic Trathen (Giants) 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals
Otago Nuggets (87) def. Nelson Giants (79)
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 26 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks
Tom Ingham (Giants) 15 points, 5 rebounds 3 assists
Auckland Huskies vs. Manawatu Jets
Manawatu Jets (95) def. Auckland Huskies (67)
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 38 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals
Taine Murray (Huskies) 16 points, 3 rebounds
Manawatu Jets (105) def. Auckland Huskies (100)
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
Taine Murray (Huskies) 35 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS TO WATCH ON THE FINAL NIGHT?
- Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams) 21.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists
- Dom Kelman-Poto (Franklin Bulls) 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals
- Mike Karena (Nelson Giants) 16.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists
- Jordan Ngatai (Otago Nuggets) 19.8 points, 4.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals
- Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Auckland Huskies) 18.6 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 steals
- Tom Vodanovich (23.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals
Elimination Final 1: Nelson Giants vs. Canterbury Rams
Qualifying Final: Otago Nuggets vs. Manawatu Jets
Elimination Final 2: Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Giants/Rams
Elimination Final 3: Auckland Huskies vs. Franklin Bulls
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)
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.
AUCKLAND Huskies produced the most efficient first quarter of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown season, sinking 17 consecutive baskets without a miss on their way to 45 points in their 96-67 victory over Nelson Giants. Despite missing Taine Murray whose season ended with a broken hand in their last outing, the Huskies’ first quarter was the difference in building a staggering 32-point quarter time lead that was never really challenged.
NELSON GIANTS 12 | 19 | 23 | 13 (67)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 45 | 17 | 23 | 11 (96)
The Huskies showed no signs of missing Murray’s valuable offence in the first quarter as they exploded for an offensive barrage of 45 points. Even more staggering was their efficiency as their first missed shot came with 1:20 left on their eighteenth shot.
If the start of the game was a sign of things to come, it never looked good for the Giants as big man Josh Leger was caught sleeping on defence, before Leon Henry lobbed it in to Tohi Smith-Milner for the finish inside to open the game’s scoring.
Reuben Fitzgerald started in the place of Murray and grabbed the opportunity with both hands hitting a corner three, on his way to 12 first quarter points.
It was clear early that Henry was looking to attack the smaller Nelson outfit in the paint which opted to start without Mike Karena or the returned Mika Vukona. Once Karena was substituted in, Smith-Milner was able to stretch him to defend the perimeter, leaving Henry unleashed with the size advantage inside.
Every starter got involved for the Huskies with a deep three from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa following a Marvin Williams-Dunn triple. Nate Wilson missed the first shot of the game for Auckland, but the Huskies were even able to grab the offensive board, rubbing salt into the wound for Nelson.
A Dane Brooks air ball accurately represented the quarter for the Giants as Wilson made up for his blemish with a big transition dunk. The first quarter ended 12-45 as the Huskies shot an incredible 90 per cent, including 89 per cent from deep.
There was no real offensive determination out of the gates for Nelson as they struggled to 22 per cent shooting, recording one assist compared to Auckland’s nine. Henry led all scorers with 13.
If the Giants were any chance of making it a respectable margin, they had to respond immediately. Besides a Karena technical foul, two Brooks blocks and a Tysxun Aiolupotea three gave them that start they needed. A Jaylen Gerrand three and a Wilson and-one quickly put a stop to that as the Huskies would not let any inroads be made into their huge lead. They passed 50 points with seven minutes to go in the second quarter and managed to continue to trade baskets with Nelson having made a very comfortable lead for themselves.
Karena’s shot was not falling as it usually does while Isaac Miller-Jose was trying to match his frustrated physicality for much of the game as the match threatened to heat up at times in the second quarter.
A Zeb Lovell and-one brought the lead below 30 until Mauriohooho Le’Afa dropped a deep two, and Murray replacement and New Zealand basketball veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell scored his first competition points.
Smith-Milner barrelled his way to the hoop to close out a dominant first half for the Huskies which saw them lead 31-62, still shooting 56 per cent from beyond the arc. Though their burning hot hand couldn’t maintain their ridiculous first quarter shooting, they still attacked the paint, scoring 18 more points inside than Nelson.
Henry and Fitzgerald did not add to their quarter time tally as Lovell and Aiolupotea led the scoring for the Giants with seven points each.
Coming out of the locker room much later than their opposition, you had to wonder what Nelson were looking to achieve in the second half. Whatever it was, Smith-Milner was not having any of it as he scored 11 points in the first three and a half minutes which included two three-pointers and an and-one.
Theo Johnson and Brooks both put up athletic finishes inside as Mauriohooho Le’Afa did what he does, knocking down a beautiful step back mid-range jumper.
Williams-Dunn and Aiolupotea went head to head down the stretch until Karena imposed himself on the game with a spin out of the post for the reverse baseline dunk, only to follow it up with another one-hand dunk not long after.
With four seconds left, Fitzgerald burst out of the half court inbound for the layup, but another Miller-Jose offensive foul prevented it from counting. Though they showed better signs, the Giants were unable to take a big enough chunk out of the margin as they trailed 54-85 heading into the last break.
The Huskies did not play Mauriohooho Le’Afa, Smith-Milner or Henry in the final quarter giving some bench players good minutes.
Unfortunately, the game ended with little excitement as Nelson won the quarter scoring just 13 points to Auckland’s 11. Karena showed some fight out of the post but it was too little too late with them losing 96-67, a loss they will be keen to move on from as soon as possible having not been in the game after the first quarter deficit they gave up.
With 11 out of their 12 players scoring, Smith-Milner led the way with 20 points with Fitzgerald the next best with 14. Mauriohooho Le’Afa (12 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Henry (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) enjoyed well-rounded performances as the Huskies fired on all cylinders offensively for much of the night. Their final week of NZNBL action will start when they face the Otago Nuggets on Tuesday and if they can mirror their first quarter in any way, it will go a long way toward them winning.
A disappointing night saw Nelson shoot just 38 per cent with Karena (15 points, eight rebounds) and Aiolupotea (13 points) the only players to reach double figures. The loss sees them sit at sixth place as they will want to start fresh against the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs on Wednesday.