Tag: nelson giants

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #17 – Mike Karena (Nelson Giants)

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.

STATS:

Points: 17.5
Rebounds: 5.6
Assists: 1.9
Steals: 0.6
FG%: 53.4
2P%: 54.2
3P%: 37.5
FT%: 55.9
Minutes: 23.3

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #4 – Otago baffles Manawatu with 130-point display

WHILE the end result of the Otago Nuggets and the Manawatu Jets ended in a blowout, both teams put on phenomenal scoring totals. But in their second of five encounters throughout the 2020 NZNBL season, the Nuggets strung together perhaps the most dominant display of basketball across all fixtures this year securing the number four spot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the season.

For the full match report between the Nuggets and the Jets – Click HERE

Heading into the contest, neither of the eventual grand finalists were yet to establish themselves as a serious top-two team. The Nuggets had only a modest .500 record with three wins and three losses to their name. Meanwhile for the Jets, they sat just half a game above Otago, earning four wins to this point thanks to an extra-game 30-point win over the Nelson Giants in their last outing.

Both sides would ensue in a back and forth opening period, as Manawatu’s newly signed wingman Nelson Kirksey got his stroke going early to open up proceedings. But Otago emerged with the more aggressive style of play by pushing the floor and attacking the rim, which in turn forced three early Jets turnovers and created a 12-5 lead as a result.

However, a late run of points from center Taane Samuel and guard Haize Walker tied the score with less than a minute to go in the first. Two free-throws in the dwindling moments of the opening term from Jordan Hunt were responsible for the Nuggets’ two-point lead at the opening break, but the good shooting from both sides of the aisle continued well into the second quarter.

Otago once again got out to an early advantage, pulling away with another 12-5 scoring run. Unsurprisingly however, Thomas Vodanovich became the main focus point for Brent Matehaere’s side. As the multi-time Tall-Black started to catch fire in an impressive first half, managing to convert four of his seven attempts, with three of them triples as the Jets trailed by just a single point after 20 minutes.

The Nuggets decided they needed a different approach if they were to pull away from a persistent Jets outfit and through the deep ball, Otago found a solution. Creating a quick 8-0 run, the team from Dunedin got themselves out to a comfortable double-digit lead and began a dominant one-sided second half in turn.

Otago shot a ridiculous 56 per cent from the field in an authoritative third term, as the lead quickly grew out of control. Outscoring the Jets 38-23 in the championship period, Tim McTamney’s side needed drastic measures if they were to claw their way back from a 16-point deficit in the final quarter. Ashton McQueen started the fourth off in good spirits knocking down a lead-off three, but when Jordan Ngatai and Kane Keil started to heat up, there was nothing that the Jets could come up with to slow down the South Island onslaught that was the Nuggets’ second half.

Otago pushed all the way to the finish line, outscoring Manawatu 35-15 in the concluding 10 minutes, capping off a 73-point performance in the latter two periods of the game and gliding away with the 130-94 demolition of the Jets.

Collectively for the Jets, both Jayden Bezzant and Vodanovich led the way for their side with 18 points apiece, but five different individuals for the Nuggets reached double digits. Keil’s game-high 29 points, six rebounds and four assists led the way for Otago, as Ngatai and Hunt combined for a massive 55-point haul.

As a team, the victors completed their performance with a script of impressive stats. Firstly, they concluded their shooting with a 57 per cent accuracy rate, going 47 from 82 on the floor. Otago managed to knock down 14 triples and 22 free-throws, and lastly, a plus-six on the boards and a plus-10 in assists would round out the highest scoring performance from a team all season. Furthermore, the Jets’ 94 points of their own helped bring the overall total of the game to 224, the largest points total in a contest form both troops all season long.

A lot went right for both sides in this high scoring affair, but the Nuggets put the rest of the league on notice with the 130-point effort against the Jets. For this masterclass at both ends of the floor, there’s no arguing that this moment slots in at number four in Draft Central’s list.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #6 – Auckland’s historic start against Nelson

THROUGHOUT the month and a half of basketball that we witnessed in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), there were an abundance of impressive quarters. However, there is one that stands out unmistakably.

Auckland’s opening quarter against the Nelson Giants sits at the pinnacle of the season’s most productive and efficient periods, and as a result waltzes into number six on Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments.

For the full Match Report of the Huskies’ clash against the Giants– Click HERE

In their previous matchup, the Huskies held off a persistent Taranaki Mountainairs side and looked to carry momentum over into their next contest. Additionally, Auckland was also on the cusp of securing their third win in a row, which when coupled with a late charge to finish high in the postseason rankings, Kevin Braswell’s side had plenty of motivators before the opening tip-off on July 19.

As Joshua Leger won the tip, it marked the only time that the Giants would be ahead for the entirety of the game, as Dane Brooks turned the ball over, and Leon Henry threw the alley-oop to Tohi Smith-Milner for the first bucket of the game. Smith-Milner’s finish signified the start of arguably one of the best starts in NZNBL history.

Reuben Fitzgerald’s three kept the ball rolling as it were, while Smith-Milner and Henry continued to pile it on down low in the post. It was not until the fourth minute of the first quarter that a fourth player got on the scoreboard for Auckland, as Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa converted on a fast-break layup for the Huskies’ seventh made field goal in as many attempts.

Fitzgerald kept his foot on the pedal, whereas Smith-Milner started to find his range, knocking down his first triple of the game thus extending his side’s lead to 12. Leading comfortably 21-9 before the midway point of the term, it was a temptation for the Huskies to start and rest on their laurels. But Auckland did the exact opposite, as the four-man combo of Henry, Fitzgerald, Le’afa and Smith-Milner would account for their team’s opening 34 points while successfully shooting 14 straight shots to begin the game.

A fifth scorer would eventually get their name on the scorecard, with Marvin Williams-Dunn knocking down the Huskies’ 15th straight. Whereas Le’afa and Fitzgerald capped off a flurry of six threes concluding an 18-3 run, leading the Giants 43-12. Fitzgerald’s second shot from deep marked Auckland’s seventeenth straight field goal to start the game.

Finally, with 80 seconds left, Nate Wilson’s three-point attempt would not find its target, ending the season’s most impressive shooting display, and one of the best starts to a single game in the League’s history. Nevertheless, the miss did not seem to sway the 19-year-old, as just 30 seconds later he dunked the ball with two hands to end proceedings in the first.

A lone miss by Anamata Haku brought the Huskies’ shooting average down to 90 per cent (18/20), but no one was too bothered, as Auckland went into the first intermission leading 45-12, essentially winning the game before the start of the second term had even begun.

In a slow paced remaining three quarters, Auckland would walk away with the 96-67 win as a result of the opening period and string together a nice three-game winning streak in the late portion of the season.

Despite their field goal percentage dropping down to 52 per cent by the final buzzer, the Huskies would shoot a productive 46 per cent from deep, nailing 13 triples compared to Nelson’s six.

While the majority of their points came in the first quarter, the combo of Le’afa, Henry, Fitzgerald and Smith-Milner made up most of their team’s total over four periods of play. For Smith-Milner, he led the way with 20 points off of 80 per cent shooting, meanwhile Fitzgerald followed up with 14 of his own. Le’afa proved himself as the squad’s facilitator, producing 12 points alongside six assists and four rebounds, as Henry accumulated a game-high seven rebounds next to 13 points.

Even though there were some mistakes in the second, third and fourth quarters during their clash against the Giants, the Huskies could not be faulted for a single thing in the first. Opening up the second term with a 33-point lead, Auckland never looked back and after witnessing such a dominant stretch of basketball, how could you not see this moment appear in Draft Central’s Top 10.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #8 – Nelson’s statement win over Otago to conclude season

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.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #9 – Webley’s third quarter helps Rams charge into Semis

LOCKING up the ninth-best moment of this year’s NZNBL season, comes from the lowest performing team in the competition’s regular season. The Canterbury Rams’ stellar third quarter against the Auckland Huskies in their Elimination Final encounter sits proudly amongst Draft Central’s list. Thomas Webley and his teammates produced one of the most efficient quarters throughout the entire season, capping off a historic postseason run.

For the full match report between the Rams and the Huskies – Click HERE

In a season that was hindered by injury and bad luck, Mick Downer and his coaching staff at the Canterbury Rams faced numerous challenges throughout the NZNBL regular season.

Nevertheless, in a season that saw the Rams finish bottom of the table with a record of four wins and 10 losses, how Canterbury finished the season, no one could have expected, with the Rams’ miraculous finals run culminated in one quarter of play from a determined squad with everything to prove.

Putting some context behind the Rams’ third quarter in the second round of Finals week against the Huskies, Canterbury began the season in as good of form as anyone within the league.

Exploding out of the gates with three wins in three games, Canterbury sat at the top of the standings to begin their campaign. But a flurry of injuries, and a squad restructure as a result, destabilised the side’s rotations and sent them cascading down a miserable path of defeat for the remainder of the season.

The Rams endured one of the longest losing streaks in New Zealand basketball history, coming out second best in 10 straight games between their fourth and final clashes of the season. However, momentum eventually found the red and black just in time for the postseason.

Managing to topple the mid-tabled Franklin Bulls in the final game of the regular season ending their double-digit winless run, it put them in good stead for their opening elimination game against fellow bottom-dweller, the Nelson Giants.

After strong second and third quarters from the Rams, as well as surviving a late charge from the Giants in the fourth period, the Rams took the first step in redeeming themselves throughout the finals.

The next day, it was time for the Rams to really test their mettle, as they now stared down a Huskies outfit that was hot off a convincing win against the Manawatu Jets to conclude their season.

Finishing in the third seed on the standings, it was no surprise that Auckland were the heavy-handed favourites heading into their matchup against the Rams. While Canterbury’s bigs had the monstrous task of slowing down the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry.

As was expected of the underdogs during the first two quarters, the Rams found themselves down by six at the end of the first half. Despite the deficit, Downer urged his side to work one possession at a time and to play a selfless brand of basketball. Following the huddle, the message rang true for Webley in the third, putting on one of the season’s most impressive periods of play for the entire season.

To begin the third quarter, Webley got the ball rolling immediately, kick-starting the term with a slam dunk and following up with two more baskets to get his side within a basket two minutes in.

Even though Webley carried his side for the majority of the third, much needed assistance came in bunches from the side’s captain and shooting marksman, Taylor Britt and Samuel Smith. Before anyone was able to blink, Canterbury surprisingly found themselves five points ahead a minute later after Webley’s fourth basket of the quarter.

Both sides traded buckets over the course of the next couple of minutes, as Quintin Bailey, Toby Gillooly and Reuben Te Rangi made their presence felt for the Rams. Meanwhile, Henry and Auckland guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (finished his night with 39 points, six rebounds and five assists) found their range with each of them knocking down a triple to keep the Huskies within arm’s reach, as the score stood 55-54 with four minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the third.

However, after Gillooly’s three with four and a half minutes left in the term, Webley and his teammates pulled together their best stretch of play for the entire season all the way to the final break.

A 20-8 scoring run concluded a 39-point third quarter for the lowest ranked team in the NZNBL, as Canterbury miraculously produced a 75-62 lead with a quarter to be played. In turn it flipped the contest on its head and set the Rams on their way to a semi-final matchup with the would-be champion Otago Nuggets, as Canterbury held on for the 98-84 upset win.

While many of Webley’s teammates contributed to the comeback third quarter, it was the 18-year-old that led the charge from the front. The 208cm-tall center accounted for 14 of his 21 total points in the third term. He also went on to snag seven rebounds and shoot an unwavering 69 per cent from the field, as he helped his side to a semi-final spot they were not meant to have.

Despite losing to the Nuggets by 18 points in the Semi Final a day later, the third quarter for the Rams in their contest against the Huskies stands firm as one of the most exhilarating and dominant performances for a team throughout the entire competition this year.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #10 – Season Tip-Off and Opener

TO begin this edition of Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments, we look back at the season opener between the Taranaki Airs and Nelson Giants and the steps taken to get the NZNBL season underway, in a year filled with unpredictability.

For our full match report between the Airs and Giants – Click HERE

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking the world by storm the NZNBL season did not look likely to happen, however New Zealand’s swift response to the outbreak enabled them to eradicate cases and regain some form of normalcy on the the sports front.

The league’s season opener could not have been more of a success, as both sides from Taranaki and Nelson arrived at Trusts Arena with a fire in the belly and an eagerness to get out on the floor. Before too long, the opening tip was conducted, and the 2020 season was off and running.

While both sides lacked accuracy in most facets of the early stages of the contest in an adrenaline filled building, Airs bigman Tai Wynyard converted on a layup around the rim to not only set the game in motion, but the rest of the league as well, putting the first points on the board for this year’s NZNBL.

As neither team could separate from one another after 10 minutes, in what was a tit-for-tat opening quarter, the scoring prowess of eventual All-Star Five selectee and league leader in points and assists, Derone Raukawa came into effect.

Capping off 30-23 second quarter, Raukawa alongside teammates Francis Mulvihill and Carlin Davison were able to keep themselves in the driver’s seat with a six-point lead heading into the main break.

Following the second intermission, onlookers at the season-opener saw first-hand what the second half of the Airs’ duo was capable of, as Marcel Jones, the eventual leader in rebounds across the competition, proved why Doug Courtney selected him in his squad on Draft Night collecting a stockpile of offensive and defensive rebounds.

Meanwhile, Shane Temara proved why he would become one of Taranaki’s most prolific role-players as the Airs continued their good play extending their lead to double digits with a quarter to play.

Despite Nelson’s best efforts in the fourth thanks mostly to Thomas Ingham and Tysxun Aiolupotoea, the Airs proved to be too strong in their initial matchup of the fixture in a relatively even fourth quarter as Taranaki earned the 112-96 victory.

Raukawa recorded the first of many Man of the Match honours with a 28-point and 10-assist night, as Jones fell three assists short of a triple-double in what was an exemplary start to an exceptional season with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Whereas for the Giants, it was Nicolas Trathen with a game-high 25 points, while Aiolupotoea and Ingham combined for 53 points between them.

The free-flowing contest the game would become set the tone for an entertaining and meaningful season for the seven teams that participated in the NZNBL, as well as New Zealand basketball as a whole. Therefore, it fits in handsomely at the number 10 slot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Nelson Giants

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.

Played: 15
Won: 5
Lost: 9

KEY STATS:

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).

TOP PLAYERS:

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.

SUMMARY

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.

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

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)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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.

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

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

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

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS

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

PAST MATCHES:

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

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

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

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

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

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

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

WHO WINS?

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

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

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

PAST MATCHES:

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

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

** Only played two games

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

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

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

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

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

WHO WINS?

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

2020 Sal’s NBL Finals structure: Nuggets and Jets in prime positions

IT is here, the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series. After five weeks of action and each of the seven teams facing off in 14 regular season games, the final order of the post-season series has been decided. Otago Nuggets are the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown minor premiers and will face the Manawatu Jets in the double chance qualifying final on Tuesday night. At the other end of the scale, Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams will have to string four wins together if they are to hold the trophy aloft on August 1, playing off in the first elimination final.

2020 SAL’S NBL SHOWDOWN FINAL LADDER

1st Otago Nuggets (9-5)
2nd Manawatu Jets (8-6)
3rd Auckland Huskies (8-6)
4th Taranaki Mountainairs (8-6)
5th Franklin Bulls (7-7)
6th Nelson Giants (5-9)
7th Canterbury Rams (4-10)

FINAL SCHEDULE

Tuesday, July 28:

Elimination Final 1: Nelson Giants vs. Canterbury Rams
Qualifying Final: Otago Nuggets vs. Manawatu Jets

Wednesday, July 29:

Elimination Final 2:Auckland Huskies vs. Winner of Giants/Rams
Elimination Final 3:
Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Franklin Bulls

Thursday, July 30:

Semi-Final 1: Winner of Nuggets/Jets vs. Lowest Ranked Winner of EF2/EF3
Semi-Final 2: Loser of Nuggets/Jets vs. Highest Ranked Winner of EF2/EF3

Saturday, August 1:

Grand Final: Winner of SF1 vs. Winner of SF2