Tag: nic trathen

2021 NZNBL Round 1a preview: Trio of matches to tip off new season

A TRIO of highly-anticipated matches will tip-off the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, which has come around quickly after what was seemingly an eternal wait since last year’s successful NZNBL during a time where most of the world was in lockdown. The top New Zealand basketballers took centre stage across the globe due to the nation’s success with handing the COVID-19 pandemic, and the six teams from that competition – Taranaki Mountainairs, Franklin Bulls, Nelson Giants, Auckland Huskies, Manawatu Jets, Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams – are back. They are joined by successful franchises, Wellington Saints, Southland Sharks and Hawke’s Bay Hawks.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. WELLINGTON SAINTS
Saturday, April 24 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

It is absolutely fitting that the first match of the brand new season pits the reigning premiers up against the most successful team in history. In what was a challenging year for everyone, the Otago Nuggets took out the title in 2020, and will be hungry to go back-to-back with a full season, and complement of teams back in action for 2021. There might be a score to settle for Wellington Saints fans, who will no doubt want to remind the Nuggets of the superiority they have held over the competition in the past decade, winning six titles between 2010-19, and having another three runners-up efforts. In short, 2013 was an outlier as the Saints went to reach every deciding playoff final in that time.

The last time these teams played was way back in 2013 before the Nuggets disbanded, which saw the Saints win 97-72 in that encounter. Sam Timmins was a big driving force for the Nuggets in 2020, and whilst the reigning premiers will be missing some of their stars, the likes of Darcy Knox and Richie Rodger will be ones to watch this season. Tohi Smith-Milner, Taane Samuel and Ken Tuffin were unsurprisingly amongst the top players last year for their various sides, and they all team up for the Saints in this clash, making it a mouth-watering encounter.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Sunday, April 25 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Two of the newer sides in the competition, the Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies both showed some serious potential in 2020, and whilst they fell short of making the final, they could be proud of their efforts. The Huskies have had quite the journey in terms of relocation of the past couple of years, but they got the Auckland faithful behind them, and will be keen for another Battle of the North which is a fledgling rivalry between the sides.

Who could forget the long-range shooting and overall class of up-and-comer Isaac Davidson, as the Bulls have a number of players to keep an eye on in 2021, such as Dane Brooks and Denhym Brooke. Josh Selby is the big inclusion, with the ex-NBA guard set to light up the court for the home side. Tom Vodanovich was outstanding last year and he returns to the Huskies lineup in 2021, though he will be around some fresh faces. After a promising season in 2020, Nick Barrow and Reuben Fitzgerald will be among the names to keep an eye on, though another ex-NBA talent in Chris Johnson is a huge get for the club.

NELSON GIANTS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Monday, April 26 @ 2:00pm
Trafalgar Centre

Unfortunately 2020 did not go to plan for either of these sides, with Southland Sharks opting not to compete in the NZNBL, while the Nelson Giants copped injury after injury early in the season which derailed their season. They ended up losing in the first elimination final to Canterbury Rams after finishing fifth at the end of the regular season, so the Giants will be keen to improve on that effort in 2021. The Sharks have had plenty of time out at sea and will be ready to feast, having had success in 2013, 2015 and 2018 amongst the Saints’ golden era.

Donte Ingram is the name that everyone will be keen to see front up for the Giants, as the excitement machine has headed to the NZNBL after representing Loyola Ramblers to the NCAA Final 4. Otherwise predominantly local, the likes of Tom Ingham and Nic Trathen were some talents who really stood out in 2020. The Sharks are one of the teams to beat with Dom Kelman-Poto‘s emergence from impressive player to star in 2020 and then returning back to the Sharks for the 2021 season will be a storyline in itself. Toby Gillooly‘s finals campaign for the Rams wrote itself last year in a match-winning effort against Auckland Huskies, while veteran guard Courtney Belger and Alonzo Burton are other names to remember this season.

Picture credit: NZNBL

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.

Sal’s NBL night preview July 25: Triple header to close out season

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.

THE MATCHES:

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

LIKELY FINALS:

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

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 18: Giants v Rams and Nuggets v Bulls

A BOTTOM two clash between the most out-of-form sides and a battle between two title contenders is what confronts teams in a big Saturday night of action in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS

To say the first match of the night is a must-win for both teams is an understatement, with a combined 12 games losing streak between them. Luckily for the Giants, they only share in four of those 12 straight losses, having last won back on July 5 over the Auckland Huskies. Since then, they have fallen to the top four sides consecutively, and by an average of 14 points, with the eight-point defeat to Otago Nuggets the closest. The Rams have now eight straight losses to their name after three initial wins, but their last four games have been agonisingly close. Since losing the Bulls by 25 points back on July 8, their last four defeats have been by an average of four points. The fact that they have gone down by seven, five, three and one, the pattern tells us the Rams could be in for a win.

Taylor Britt has been the standout player this season for Canterbury, adding 21.3 points, 4.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game, ranked first, first and second in those areas for his side. Alex Talma has been really impressive off the boards with an almost double-double average of 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Sam Smith (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists) has stepped up in the average of Toby Gillooly since the early rounds. Reuben Te Rangi is starting to head up for the Rams, and when the Tall Blacks talent really gets going, he will be crucial to their success as they try and make up some ground on the other teams.

The Giants have missed the influence of Mike Karena (17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists) of late, while Thomas Ingham and Nic Trathen have stepped up to average double-figure points and more than four rebounds per game. throughout the season. The Rams are a strong rebounding team with four players totalling more than five rebounds per game, but need to build their assist tally with just one player – Alexander McNaught – averaging more than 2.2 assists per game.

Nelson’s best has been very impressive, but the Rams have been better in their defeats of late. The last time these teams faced off the Giants won 97-90 in a tight contest off the back of a 39-22 first term, which is why the Rams must try and restrict the scoring early and it will go a long way to finally breaking the losing drought.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

The second match of the night has finals ramifications in the scheme of things with a second and third clash between the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls. Both are level on 6-4 in the top three, with the winner to move ahead of the other clearly. The Nuggets fans may not have any nails left after their last two clashes – dropping a game to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, before bouncing back to defeat Canterbury Rams y the same margin. Overall, the Nuggets have been in great form, completely dismantling the Manawatu Jets a week ago to win by 36 points on their way to a season-high 130 points. The Bulls went on a four-game winning streak at one stage, but have had a yo-yo last couple of weeks with two wins and two losses rom their last four games. They have a real balanced squad and will be keen to make it two consecutive wins for the first time since early week three.

Jordan Ngatai is maintain a massive 20 points per game average for the Nuggets, also putting up 3.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds to sit second in those areas for his side. Since his massive first day out with 28 points, Jarrod Kenny has been the facilitator for his teammates, leading the side in assists with five per game to accompany his 12 points. Jordan hunt has stepped up as that second scorer with 16 points and six rebounds, but it is the work of underrated talents like Kane Keil and Josh Aitcheson who both average double-figure points, two assists and four rebounds, which has helped the Nuggets remain successful.

The Bulls have a side where all of their players can step up and be a scoring threat on their day, with Isaac Davidson averaging a team-high 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists, as big men, Dom Kelman-Poto and Sam Timmins have dictated play off the boards. Kelman-Poto (15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Timmins (13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds) have been prolific at the four and five spot, while captain Everard Bartlett, and fellow three-point shooter Nikau McCullough are no stranger to coming on and having bursts of impact throughout the match.

The last time these teams went head-to-head, Bulls got up by six points in an important win in the scheme of things. This clash has all the hallmarks of a thriller that could again go down to the wire, and possibly into overtime, with a flip of the coin as good a way as any to try and guess who takes out this match.

Bulls make early charge to stamp authority in win over Giants

FRANKLIN Bulls’ three quarter dominance of Nelson Giants helped the Bulls secure an impressive 12-point win in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Bulls won the first three quarters of the match to lead by 19 points at the final break, and while Nelson hit back to win the last term 19-12, it was too little, too late as the Bulls celebrated a nice 82-70 victory.

NELSON GIANTS 18 | 10 | 23 | 19 (70)
FRANKLIN BULLS 28 | 13 | 29 | 12 (82)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

The Nelson Giants were undermanned in this uphill battle, but fought the Franklin Bulls valiantly all night. Unfortunately they put themselves in a hole early and spent the rest of the game trying to dig themselves out of it. Dane Brooks got the fans out of their seats early at the Trusts Arena with what was a no look, falling down layup that somehow found its way through the hoop. Very early into the game, the Giants’ defence looked fierce with back-to-back blocks from Josh Ledger. However Sam Timmins would come back with a gigantic block, right off the backboard. From the get-go, the match looked to be a highly competitive night.

But that thought came way too soon as the Giants offence instantly looked dire and stagnant. One second they were running the floor with first quarter liveliness, the next – they were not. With less than four minutes remaining in the first, the Bulls had already made twice as many field goals with three times the amount of assists. The Bulls’ decision to run plays through Isaac Davidson was working, as he was playing very aggressive. Shooting with confidence, clearing his way to the paint, he was foundational in the Bulls leading by 10 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter saw both teams play more smoothly. The Bulls stepped up on defence and the Giants started running screen heavy plays. This change in energy was nice to see, but late. Although it took the Giants way too long to realise that the constant dribble handoffs to the left side was simply not working, as the 10-point lead remained constant. And when they finally began to attack the middle, the Bulls clogged them up beautifully. 

It really cannot be said enough – the Bulls’ defence, especially when going around screens, was sensational. Their hustle on that side of the floor was the most exciting feature of the second. They forced the Giants to shoot wild threes with no seconds left on the shot clock. Despite the fierce defensive pressure from the Bulls, with a lot of luck, Thomas Ingham was able to hit one from long-range. The end of the half looked like a before training shootout, with four three point attempts from both teams in less than 30 seconds. It ended with the Bulls leading 41-28. 

One of the biggest differences in style was just the patience shown by the Bulls on offence. They spread the floor and attacked the rim when they should have. Not just when they could have. There were numerous times when the Giants just drove in on two or three defenders, just for the ball to bounce off the rim and into the hands of the Bulls. The Giants’ deficit continued to climb and with that came more ugly shots. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Bulls led 70-51 with one period left. 

The fourth appeared to be the classic, ‘winning team takes foot off the pedal as win is assured’ quarters. The Bulls scored only 12 while the Giants nailed in 19, finishing the game with dignity. The Giants shot 13 threes in the last period making only three, while the Bulls ran with the second unit. What struck out from this game was the similarities in rebounding numbers. Clearly effort was not what was holding the Giants back, that would be missing teammates – five more turnovers – and missing shots – 40.6 per cent from the field, 10 per cent less than their opponents – which are areas the Giants can work on for their next match.

Giants’ captain, Ingham was one of the few in the blue jerseys with a hot hand, dropping 18 points on 46 per cent from the field. He would also be the only player in the starting line with double figures on his stat sheet. Nic Trathen worked hard off the bench for 15 points, draining three of four from long-range in the process, while Alexander McNaught had seven assists, almost half of his team’s total.

For the Bulls, it was all about Dominique Kelman-Poto who ended the contest with 26 points in 28 minutes while shooting an insane 78 per cent from the field, as well as eight rebounds. He was far from alone though with Davidson sinking 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Chris McIntosh (10 points, three of which were triples) also reached double figures.

Both teams next play on Saturday night with Nelson Giants taking on Canterbury Rams in a bottom two battle, while Franklin Bulls lock horns with Otago Nuggets.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 11 night preview: Jets v Huskies and Nuggets v Giants

WEEK three comes to a close tonight with Manawatu Jets and Auckland Huskies battling for that top four spot, while Otago Nuggets hope to continue the brilliant form of last night against a Nelson Giants side desperate for some consistency.

MANAWATU JETS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

The opening game of tonight’s two big clashes sees a battle between fourth and fifth, with the Jets potentially jumping up to third and making up for their forgettable 36-point loss to Otago Nuggets last night. The Huskies on the other hand have been in good form of late with three wins from four games and starting to find their rhythm. A win here could see them leap into the top four and put themselves in a good position for the run home.

Both sides are strong rebounding teams with the Jets ranked second overall with an average of 45.4 rebounds per game, just ahead of the Huskies (44.6). They have both been solid in terms of assists with Manawatu recording a league third place of 17.9, compared to Auckland’s fourth place (16.1). In most other areas Manawatu ranks much higher as the second top scorer on average, putting up 94.5 points per game to Auckland’s competition-low 79.6 per game. It is the same story when it came to two-point percentage with the Jets sitting at a competition-high 57.1 per cent to the Huskies’ competition-low 43.5. It is closer from outside the arc with the Jets ranked third and Huskies sixth, whilst in overall field goal percentage, the Jets are third and Huskies seventh.

In the last match between the teams on June 27, the Jets easily accounted for the Huskies in a 28-point win. Dominating the first half, Manawatu raced away to a whopping 54-21 lead by half-time, including 31-8 in the second term. Auckland managed to get back some pride in the second half by scoring five more goals than its opposition, but still went down 67-95. In that match it was all about Tom Vodanovich who piled on a competition season-high of 38 points, as well as three rebounds ad four steals. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, four rebounds and five assists) and Haize Walker (11 points, two rebounds) both reached double figures, but it was Hyrum Harris‘ ridiculous game that was an impressive as Vodanovich’s shooting display, racking up 21 rebounds to accompany 13 points, six assists, four steals and one block.

For the Huskies, Taine Murray finished with a team-high 16 points – though shot at just 33.3 per cent from the field – as well as three rebounds, while Jaylen Gerrand (10 points) was the other Auckland player to reach double-figure points. Leon Henry (eight points, nine rebounds and two assists) and Tohi Smith-Milner (five points, seven rebounds) both contributed off the boards, while Marvin Williams-Dunn (eight points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) also tried hard.

The Jets will start favourites given how they performed against the Huskies last time, but will have to pick up the effort from last night. The Huskies have been in good form of late and are building nicely to take a big scalp here and move up the ladder further.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs NELSON GIANTS

After a huge 36-point win and record 130 points – including 73 in the second half – last night, Otago Nuggets are raring to go for their second consecutive match-day. They take on Nelson Giants who have had an up and down season thus far but technically only sit a win behind the Nuggets – albeit with one less game played. A Huskies loss in the earlier game and a win here could see the Giants move into the top four.

When looking at the game statistically, Otago has the advantage across most facets of the game so far. From a points perspective, the Nuggets average 93.9 points per game to rank third in the competition, ahead of the Giants’ 85.4 (fifth). In terms of accuracy Otago is ranked second and fourth respectively in two and three-point shooting, with Nelson fourth and seventh in those areas, though not much separates the teams when it comes to shooting percentages. Overall from the field, Otago is 44.9 per cent to Nelson’ 43.7 per cent for a fourth and fifth ranking respectively. One area where the Giants have the upper hand is in rebounds, with Nelson sitting fifth thanks to 41.5 per game compared to Otago’s 39.4, though the Nuggets are elite at passing the rock around with a competition-high 19.3 assists compared to the Giants’ 14.8 (sixth).

The last time these teams played way back in week one on night three, the Nuggets got the better of a Giants side still trying to find its feet with the loss of Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. After being competitive early but not able to really keep consistently close to the Nuggets, the Giants faded in the final term with Otago running away courtesy of a 107-82 victory. In the absence of the big three, it was Nic Trathen (21 points, seven rebounds and two steals) who tried hard for the Giants, while Tom Ingham shot at an elite 85.7 per cent from the field to end the game with 17 points and eight rebounds. Zeb Lovell also was productive with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.

For the Nuggets, Jordan Ngatai put up a game-high 23 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block, including nailing five of 11 from outside the arc. Jordan Hunt (19 points, two rebounds) and Kane Keil (11 points, four rebounds, two assists) and two steals) were also productive from the starting team, as Josh Aitcheson (13 points) and Richie Rodger (11) reached double-figure points off the bench. Jarrod Kenny did not put up a shot after 28 points the game before, but still had six assists and two rebounds, opening up chances for teammates.

This could be a thrilling contest, though Otago should head in as favourites The key is trying to stop Karena and what he is capable of doing on a regular basis, and after Otago’s big win last night, the Nuggets are in great form to keep the run going.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 9 night preview: Airs v Giants and Huskies v Rams

TONIGHT’S 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NZNBL) Showdown matches are a Throwback to opening night of the season, when the Airs faced the Giants and the Rams took on the Huskies.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs NELSON GIANTS

Top spot is on the line for the Taranaki Mountainairs who will be keen to take back pole position from Franklin Bulls with an impressive win over the Nelson Giants in this game. However the Giants have plenty to play for because they can level with the Airs at a 50 per cent win-loss record if they get up in this contest, moving into the top three.

The Airs have been a high-scoring side this season, averaging a whopping 102.4 points per game, while the Giants sit fifth overall with an average of 85 per game. The Airs are also the number one rebounding side, picking up 45.4 per game to the Giants’ 37.1, whilst Taranaki leads the assists too thanks to 19.9, while the Giants have struggled, ranked sixth with just 14.1 per game. It will also be a case of the best three-point shooting outfit (39.7 per cent for the Airs) compared to the worst (29.6 per cent for the Giants), but Nelson have the capability to cause an upset.

Last night’s heavy defeat at the hands of Manawatu Jets would sting the Giants, as they dropped only their second game in five matches, though the 30-point beating will be one they want to put quickly behind them. The Airs looked to have slipped a little earlier in the week with three losses in four games, but managed to compose themselves for a really strong 14-point win over the Franklin Bulls to temporarily take top spot before the Bulls won last night.

In their earlier encounter, the Giants had a fast start to lead by a point in a high-scoring opening term (28-27), before the Airs took control. Taranaki won the next three quarters by seven, eight and two points respectively to run out 16-point victors back on opening night. In fairness to the Giants, they were without their three top draft picks in Mika Vukona – who is still injured – as well as Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Instead, it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tyxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) who stepped up to the plate, but it would not be enough.

Instead, second pick in the Sal’s NBL Player Draft, Derone Raukawa, went to town with a first game double-double of 28 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and a steal, shooting at a remarkable 66.7 per cent from the field, including draining five of six from three-point range. Francis Mulvihill (16 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals) also impressed, but it was another double-double of Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) that caught the eye. Tai Wynyard (13 points, three rebounds) and Shane Temara (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points for the Airs on the night.

Expect the Airs to be strong favourites in this one for consistency reasons, but Wynyard will have a massive job trying to quell Karena who is in some absolute sensational form of late – though had a quieter game last night.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs CANTERBURY RAMS

No one would have thought a week ago that this could be a bottom two clash, and that an Auckland win could theoretically push the Huskies above the Rams. Canterbury started the league like a house on fire, winning the first three games, including an opening night 32-point demolition job of the Huskies. Since winning their first three games, the Rams have not been able to muster a victory, losing four on the trot and are in danger of slipping to the bottom of the Sal’s NBL table after being the front runners for the first week. The Huskies on the other hand might only have the two wins, but spectators can see they are on the rise, winning two of their past three games and arguably deserve favouritism in this game.

In the earlier encounter between the sides, the Rams never looked like losing, blowing away the Huskies in the opening term with a 29-12 stanza to already opening up a 17-point lead. While the Huskies hit back in the second term, the Rams continued on their merry way in the second half, outscoring Auckland by 18 points to cruise to a 102-70 victory. The partnership of Taylor Britt (22 points, eight rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks) was damaging for the Rams, while Jack Exeter added 13 points off the bench, and Sam Smith and Thomas Webley combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds.

It was a disastrous shooting night for the Huskies, but Tohi Smith-Milner was a shining light thanks to 15 points at 62.5 per cent accuracy, while picking up four rebounds and two steals. Nate Wilson amassed 10 points at an identical clip, as well as four rebounds, two steals and two blocks off the bench. Leon Henry and Taine Murray had shaky starts to the season, sinking a combined three from 19 from the field at a lowly 15.8 per cent accuracy,. They did put together a combined 10 rebounds and five assists however.

Since that fateful night, Auckland has welcomed back top pick, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa who has averaged team-highs in points (16.5) and assists (4.3) as well as third overall in rebounds (5.0). Both Murray and Henry have also been strong since misfiring on night one, helping themselves to top five placings in points and assists, while Henry leads the way off the boards with 11.6. A lot of the load for the Rams has been placed on the shoulders of Britt who has put up team-high numbers in points (20.9) and assists (4.1), as well as second in rebounds (7.1). Alex Talma has provided good support off the boards with eight rebounds per game, while Gillooly has been a crucial omission through injury of late after having a strong start to the season.

The Huskies can really join the mid-table logjam with a win here, while the Rams are just desperate for a win. They cannot afford to lose a fifth straight game because then the only team yet to beat them is one of the title contenders in Taranaki Mountainairs, and the Rams would not be keen to go into finals knowing they had lost to the rest of the competition at least once.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 8 night preview: Jets v Giants and Rams v Bulls

TONIGHT’S 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action is sure to help break up the mid-table logjam of teams in some form at the midpoint of the season as sides hope to either continue or turnaround their form. The two matches see Manawatu Jets up against Nelson Giants, and Franklin Bulls going head-to-head with Canterbury Rams.

MANAWATU JETS vs NELSON GIANTS

The opening game of the night sees two teams who could be regarded as danger sides still looking to regain top stars. The Jets are missing Hyrum Harris, whilst the Giants remain without Mika Vukona, but both sides have been able to remain just one win off the pace in an even competition. The Jets have a higher percentage in terms of both for and against points, but dropping games to the Giants and Otago Nuggets earlier in the season sees them sit fifth on a head-to-head basis.

In the Jets and Giants’ earlier clash back on June 28, the Jets flew out of the blocks to lead by eight at half-time but were begged back by the Giants. Nelson only trailed by a point at the final break before scoring 26-20 in the last term to run over the top of Manawatu and win by five points, 88-83. In what was Mike Karena‘s first game of the season, he broke the Giants’ two-game losing streak to start the 2020 Sal’s NBL season, putting up 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and one block.

Theo Johnson scored a game-high 20 points for the Giants, as well as three rebounds, whilst Nic Trathen finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two assists. For the Jets, Harris top scored with 18, as well as 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal, as partner-in-crime Tom Vodanovich recorded a double-double too, thanks to 16 points, 16 rebounds and two assists. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Taane Samuel (15 points, five rebounds and two assists) also had big numbers.

In that game, the Jets dominated the boards with six more in total, as well as three more steals and a higher shooting percentage. However Manawatu also had six more turnovers which is something they would want to change in this encounter with the Giants. Nelson comes in as the more in-form team, winning three of the past four and narrowly dropping the other game to Franklin Bulls by four points in between. It was the victory against the Jets that started the roll on for Giants’ success, with Karena a huge part of that. All season the Jets have maintained a yo-yo win-loss record and have a chance to go back-to-back wins for the first time in 2020 if they can get up here.

 

CANTERBURY RAMS vs FRANKLIN BULLS

In terms of seasons, these two sides could not have had more opposite entries in the first six games facing each of the other teams in the competition. Canterbury Rams, missing two of their stars for the season on the edge of the first tip-off in Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, stunned the competition to win the first three games. They then slumped to three consecutive losses and have fallen to sixth on the table, only a win ahead of Auckland. Franklin Bulls on the other hand, dropped their first two games, then strung four consecutive wins together prior to last night’s loss to Taranaki Mountainairs.

The defeat to the Airs meant the Bulls surrendered top spot, but still sit second a win ahead of the logjam of four teams. The only problem if they lose this game is that the Rams will overtake them on the table having also beaten them in their earlier encounter. In what was effectively the Bulls prior defeat to last night, the Rams took control from the onset to score 40 points to 30 in the opening half. Franklin hit back with 42 to 35 in the second half, but fell three points short despite the best efforts of a number of players.

Taylor Britt was unbelievable in the win for Canterbury, recording a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block, while Toby Gillooly acted as a strong supporting act thanks to 16 points, five rebounds and a steal. Alex Talma was strong off the boards with nine rebounds to accompany his seven points, while Sam Smith had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. The Bulls had their own stars on the night, with Dom Kelman-Poto also notching up a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block, while Isaac Davidson dropped 21 points, three rebounds and a steal. Sam Timmins was productive in center with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Coming into this this match the Bulls are in the much better form and will be keen to bounce back from the disappointing 14-point loss to the Airs last night. Taranaki flew out of the blocks in the first half to pile on 56 points to 29 to all but end the contest. Franklin was strong in the second half, but it was too little, too late by that stage, and they will be keen to make a statement early in the match tonight. Similarly, the Rams will be desperate to turn their form around and break a three-game losing streak.