Tag: Taine Murray

NBL21 Round 2 preview: Rematches galore, while Breakers and Wildcats enter the fray

ROUND 2 of the National Basketball League (NBL) tips off tonight, with several games rematches of Round 1 contests throughout the week. With one game on every night, basketball fans will be treated to some high-class matches, and it all begins back in Adelaide with the 36ers and Phoenix locking horns.

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Wednesday, January 20 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Tipping off Round 2 of action is a sense of déjà vu with Adelaide 36ers and South East Melbourne Phoenix going head-to-head at Adelaide Entertainment Centre tonight. Just four days earlier, the 36ers took care of business in the game of Round 1, managing to overcome the Phoenix 116-108 in double overtime. Daniel Johnson won Player of the Match honours thanks to 33 points at a deadly 78 per cent from the field, but it was Next Star young gun Josh Giddey who caught all the attention on his way to a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in just his second game of NBL.

Luckily for the Phoenix, Giddey is unavailable for their rematch, and coach Simon Mitchell described his team’s performance as a “rough one” because the Phoenix “looked a little rusty, particularly at the offensive end”. He will no doubt be searching for a response from his side, though one could hardly fault captain Mitch Creek who put up 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, whilst the import duo of Yannick Wetzell (24 points, 11 rebounds and three steals) and Keifer Sykes (18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) both made sensational debuts.

The sense post-game was that Adelaide’s mid-range shooting was sublime, with 64 per cent from two-point range, compared to the Phoenix’s 48 per cent. Protecting the perimeter well, the Phoenix only conceded three triples, whilst nailing eight themselves, though Cameron Gliddon‘s three of 13 showed the former Brisbane Bullet guard could find his range better in this match. The depth of the 36ers was also much better on the night, with Isaac Humphries (14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks) having an underrated role off the bench.

Many would argue without Giddey in the first game, the Phoenix would have won, and therefore are the tip in this game. In saying that, Adelaide improved well from game one to game two, and now coming into game three – with no travel involved in between – it will be fascinating to see what Conner Henry‘s side can produce tonight.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks
Thursday, January 21 @ 7.30pm
Nissan Arena

By the time you scroll to the second game of the round, you could be forgiven thinking that you had accidentally clicked on the Round 1 fixture. Not only do the 36ers and Phoenix battle for the second time in less than a week at the same venue, but Brisbane Bullets and The Hawks do as well. These two sides took to the court last Saturday, with Brian Goorjian making his return to the league, and managing to gel a team that was vastly unfamiliar with each other, and getting early points on the board. Never mind it was on the road, the 90-84 win was a statement to the rest of the competition.

In that match, it was a real team effort, as import Justin Simon came off the bench for 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a starring role on debut. He was one of four Hawks to hit double-figure points, with Sam Froling (19 points, four rebounds) – getting one up on his brother Harry (10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) in the match – Emmett Naar (17 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tyler Harvey (16 points, three rebounds) all sharing the points around.

The rebound and assist counts were identical, showing just how even these teams were during the six-point victory, but it was just some crucial moments for The Hawks that got them the win. The Bullets can take plenty out of the performance, having lost a number of key talents over the off-season, thought still had a number of double-digit shooters. Nathan Sobey predictably led the way with 19 points, while Victor Law (17 points, nine rebounds) and Jason Cadee (12 points, five rebounds) both came in and had a say on proceedings.

In the end there had to be a winner, and The Hawks emerged victorious. It will be interesting to see what the teams took from that game to bring into this match, with free throw shooting not a highlight for the Bullets – just 57 per cent – whilst The Hawks will want to continue their heavy rotations, as they recorded 39 points off the bench compared to 24. The Hawks will be favourites in this game, but Brisbane will be hungry to turn the tables on them.

Adelaide 36ers vs. New Zealand Breakers
Friday, January 22 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Adelaide 36ers have had quite a busy start to the 2021 NBL season, and are piling on a heap of early games thanks to South Australia’s controlled COVID-19 pandemic situation. The 36ers will enter Friday night’s game playing their fourth match of the season. Their opponents New Zealand Breakers? They will be entering the court for the first time. It has been a long way for the Breakers who will have a point to prove after missing out on finals last season, but have gained of the league’s best players – and lost another – in what will no doubt provide some tactical changes for the coaching staff.

Having not played a game, the Breakers will have had plenty of time to study up on the 36ers and have enough data to take into the match ready to limit their opposition’s offensive rhythm. Daniel Johnson is a key player for the 36ers, though with ex-Bullet Lamar Patterson making his way to the Breakers, New Zealand has the answer and would not be afraid to go head-to-head in that potential heavy-scoring battle. The other key player to watch for the Breakers is import Colton Iverson who arrives as a starting five, and provide depth to the position alongside Rob Loe.

Isaac Humphries has been a key player for the 36ers coming off the bench, and teaming up Keanu Pinder, they will have their hands full. Without Giddey at the three spot, experienced Tom Abercrombie will look to run the floor and guide the team, working with the younger Finn Delany. Whilst only development players, one can only hope the likes of Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson can get some minutes as up-and-coming young stars with long-range shooting and highlight-reel worthy potential.

At the start of the season, New Zealand would have been declared heavy favourites for this game, though with what we have seen from Adelaide, it appears the game will be a lot closer, particularly in South Australia. The Breakers should still win and bank their first points, but how much will the extended break impact on the side compared to the match-fit (but perhaps tiring) 36ers outfit?

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, January 23 @ 8pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

If you have not had a sense of déjà vu yet, then this might tip you over the edge, with a rematch of the one-point Round 1 thriller between Cairns Taipans and Sydney Kings taking place at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Saturday night. In their opening round encounter, the Taipans won 87-86, with some late long-range misses from the Kings seeing them fall short in heartbreaking style. Last year’s grand finalists showed enough to suggest they will be better for the run, but the Taipans were switched on, and after a slow opening term, hit their straps.

Cameron OIiver showed he had not missed a beat over the off-season, collecting a double-double in his first game back, putting up 12 points and 11 rebounds, as well as denying the opposition time and time again with six blocks. He and his partner-in-crime, Scott Machado (17 points, seven rebounds) caused all sorts of headaches for a Sydney Kings outfit that relied a lot on Casper Ware (18 points, three assists). Mojave King made his much-anticipated debut, and while it was not quite what many had expected the young gun to produce, he still had 14 minutes and put up seven points and grabbed three rebounds in that time.

His limited minutes were mostly due to the fact the Taipans had no passengers in the starting five. Aside from the two superstars of the competition, Mirko Djeric (15 points, four rebounds and two assists), Kouat Noi (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, six rebounds) all played their part. Compare that to Sydney, who outside of Ware’s 18 points, had an additional 23 points from their starters. The positive was the likes of Dejan Vasiljevic (15 points, four rebounds) who had a real impact off the bench, as did Brad Newley (14 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Jarell Martin (11 points, eight rebounds).

If the Kings are going to turn the tables on the Taipans, their starters will need to produce more, with the talented Didi Louzada registering just seven points, and then Craig Moller (four) and Shaun Bruce (three) in about 20 minutes of action each. Cairns was nowhere near the standard in the second game against The Hawks, and they will also be seething from the defeat, so expect the Taipans to come out hard. Both teams will be seeking their own redemption in a way, which makes for an entertaining contest.

Perth Wildcats vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, January 24, 5pm
RAC Arena

There would be few things hungrier than a reigning premier many have written off, having the longest break to prepare and prove the critics wrong. Back-to-back premiers and the greatest team of the past decade, Perth Wildcats prepare to mount their assault on NBL21 with a different looking side to the one that brought the team so much success in recent times. The Wildcats have lost a couple of crucial cogs such as Terrico White, Nick Kay, Damian Martin and Miles Plumlee who made up four of the starting five.

Luckily Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton remains, but effectively he will be running with a different looking starting five. Todd Blanchfield has come into the side, with John Mooney coming in as the second import alongside Cotton to replace Plumlee at the five spot. Blanchfield departed Illawarra to slot into the three role left by White, while Mitch Norton is expected to fill the shoes of Martin, who he would have shadowed not only on the court but in practice learning all the tricks of the trade. In short, we do not know what to expect from the Wildcats this season, but with Trevor Gleeson at the helm, anything is possible.

Their opponents in the Sunday evening encounter are South East Melbourne Phoenix, who will finally get to leave Adelaide after back-to-back games against the 36ers. Having lost their Round 1 encounter, the Phoenix will be hoping to head into this game with momentum and confidence after reversing the result from their Wednesday night rematch. It is no surprise that without his experienced teammates, Cotton would be the name not only bolded on the Phoenix’s whiteboard, but underlined and circled to drive home the point.

He must be stopped at all costs, and while Mitch Creek can match him in scoring prowess, it will likely be Cameron Gliddon given the job to match him at the two spot. Given Gliddon struggled with his range in game one, he could easily focus defensively to nullify Cotton, whilst Creek and the likes to Yannick Wetzell and Kyle Adnam took care of the scoring. It is a tough match to pick a winner with so many unknowns about the Wildcats, but at home they are always tough to knock over, and the Phoenix will be wanting to have a better week this week to come away with two wins.

Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United
Monday, January 25, 7.30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

The final game of the round is the fourth at Cairns Pop Up Arena, as the Taipans take on Melbourne United. This will be the Taipans’ biggest challenge thus far, having split their Round 1 games with a one-point thrilling win over the Kings before a disappointing 16-point loss to The Hawks. The Taipans will have a second crack at the Kings a couple of days earlier, so could be 3-1 by the end of Monday night’s game. However in saying that, United seem the team to beat, and quite literally destroyed Adelaide 36ers in a 24-point beatdown on the NBL’s opening night.

Forget the fact it was on the road and after a tentative first half, United clicked into gear. Coach Dean Vickerman said they had to sort out their defensive mindset after the first term, and they did that to then take control and run out the game in dominant fashion. Scoring double the opposition (52-26), they completely took the 36ers out of the game. What impressed the most was the fact that star recruit Scotty Hopson only picked up four points and four assists and largely had limited impact on the contest.

Instead, it was Chris Goulding (16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Jo Lual-Acuil (16 ponts, 12 rebounds and two steals) who did the bulk of the damage, while recruits Jock Landale (10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks) and Yudai Baba (10 points, three rebounds) slotted in seamlessly. Shea Ili earned Player of the Match honours with his deadly shooting display of 13 points, three rebounds and two steals, shooting at 71 per cent from inside the arc and nailing all three free-throws.

Landale will have a big task up against Cameron Oliver in the battle of the two best fives in the competition, while Mitch McCarron will have his hands full trying to limit Scott Machado’s influence. If United play like they did on night one, they will win, but it will be a question of whether or not the second half United comes out, or the first half United. The Taipans have had similar inconsistencies from game to game, but the depth of both sides – and the ability to share the ball around to hit jumpers – makes it a fascinating contest and what some believe to be a potential grand final preview.

Picture credit: Getty Images

NBL21 season previews: New Zealand Breakers

THE sole New Zealand based side was unlucky not to make the postseason finals last year, narrowly missing out to Melbourne United, and falling just behind Brisbane Bullets in the tightest finish to a season in some time. RJ Hampton made his way to Denver Nuggets in the NBA, but then a shock loss of Scotty Hopson to Melbourne United left the Breakers a little short in the back court. A massive signing late in the season turned the offseason from potentially worrying to a positive, and the Breakers remain a team to watch in the NBL21 season.

Having come so close yet so far to competing with the best after a slow start last season, the Breakers were able to add some key pieces to their list, and re-sign some valuable members to remain a consistent threat heading into the new year. The loss of Hampton – expected – and Hopson – unexpected – was a bitter blow, but the only other key loss was Deng Deng who headed north to join The Hawks. Then came the flurry of inclusions across the off-season, but none bigger than former Brisbane star, Lamar Patterson.

The NBL All-Star talent immediately adds the star power lost by Hopson, and provides a real target across the court both in his shooting and rebounding ways. He is the kind of player who makes his teammates stand taller, and with Robert Loe and the returning college talent in Kyrin Galloway also in the front court, the depth there is more than solid. That is even before you add in veteran forward Thomas Abercrombie, and up and comer Finn Delany who remain consistent threats.

The back court might have lost a chunk of talent, but the likes of Corey Webster and Tai Webster returning from overseas, and Rasmus Bach – a dual Dane/Australian – also coming on board. Coach Dan Shamir clearly valued versatility and has a lot of top two-way ballers, as well as keeping an eye on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). Young guns Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson lit up the competition with their athleticism and shooting prowess, and earned NBL contracts off the form.

In the five spot, Colton Iverson joined from Zenit to join Loe in that area and add extra height to the team. With a few sub 190cm talents such as Webster and Jarrad Weeks, the Breakers have a nice mix of athleticism and power. Finally when talking size, it is hard to look past Dan Trist, with the Spanish forward crossing from South East Melbourne Phoenix over the off-season and will add great depth to the four spot.

It might have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Breakers fans, but with some great young up and coming local talent, as well as some big inclusions, New Zealand should be able to overcome the losses and remain a team to watch, particularly if Patterson can fire once again.

Picture: Photosport NZ

Draft Central’s Top 20 Players of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown: Complete List

HERE is our complete list of the Top 20 Player of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown. Click on any of the links below to view the corresponding article:

#1 Tom Vodanovich (Jets)

#2 Derone Raukawa (Airs)

#3 Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets)

#4 Marcel Jones (Airs)

#5 Hyrum Harris (Jets)

#6 Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Huskies)

#7 Taylor Britt (Rams)

#8 Jordan Hunt (Nuggets)

#9 Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls)

#10 Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets)

#11 Leon Henry (Huskies)

#12 Taane Samuel (Jets)

#13 Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies)

#14 Jayden Bezzant (Jets)

#15 Sam Timmins (Bulls)

#16 Isaac Davidson (Bulls)

#17 Mike Karena (Giants)

#18 Shane Temara (Airs)

#19 Kane Keil (Nuggets)

#20 Taine Murray (Huskies)

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #13 – Tohi Smith-Milner (Auckland Huskies)

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.

#13 TOHI SMITH-MILNER

Making our way into the second week of our countdown, Auckland Huskies big man, Tohi Smith-Milner comes in at number 13. It would have been no surprise to see the Melbourne United forward named on this list if you had predicted it at the start of the season, such is his even balance between scoring and rebounding. Playing just 25 minutes a match, he contributed around 16 points and eight rebounds, while dishing off a couple of assists as well.

Smith-Milner is ranked 14th overall in terms of points, and of the top 15, has the second lowest minutes on court. More impressively, the Huskies rebounder finished the season ranked sixth in the competition, and had the third lowest minutes of the top 15. Smith-Milner’s ability to drain jump shots from beyond the arc – averaging 1.6 makes per game – separated him from a number of big men, and really helped aide the likes of Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Leon Henry when it came to the scoring front.

Along with Henry, he also provided great experience and basketball IQ with a number of younger players running around including Taine Murray, and provided the bigger body required to take the blows when driving to the basket. His two-point and free throw shooting could be higher, but his presence at both ends was what really had an impact for the Auckland-based side.

Smith-Milner picked up four double-doubles during the season, but his undoubted best game came against Taranaki Mountainairs on July 16 when he finished with a remarkable 22 points and 20 rebounds. Critically, he had six offensive rebounds, and dropped three of six attempts from beyond the arc, as well as three assists, two blocks and one steal. It was a complete game by Smith-Milner who followed on from his 22-point and 11-rebound game against Franklin Bulls two days prior.

The 22-point achievement was his top score for the season, achieving it a third time – another double-double – against Canterbury Rams in the final week of the regular season – where he had another 12 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. He only dipped below 13 points on three occasions, showing remarkable consistency and earning his spot on this list. Now he heads back to the Australian NBL where he will compete for Melbourne United in the 2020/21 season.

STATS:

Points: 15.5
Rebounds: 7.7
Assists: 1.9
Steals: 0.9
FG%: 43.6
2P%: 46
3P%: 38.7
FT%: 69.2
Minutes: 25.9

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #2 – Huskies and Airs go the distance in OT

IF you just so happened to tune in to the opener of the NZNBL’s action on Thursday July 16 between the Auckland Huskies and the Taranaki Mountainairs, then you were privy to arguably the most thrilling contest of the entire campaign and number two amongst Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments.

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

Kevin Braswell’s side was certainly looking for nothing less than a win against an old foe in Taranaki, whom they upset in their first encounter to really shake up the league standings. A win for the Huskies once more, would bring their win-loss record back up to .500 for the first time since the start of the season.

Braswell noted pre-game the need to neutralise Taranaki’s two main threats, the one-two punch combination of Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones, as well as the supplementary damage the Airs’ role-players could also inflict.

Nevertheless, it was a different combination that commenced business between the two sides, as Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry both began what was a very impressive outing. Shortly after, Raukawa and Jones started off their nights with their initial baskets and the game was underway.

In a fast-paced three minutes that saw 18 points get put up on the board in that time, both teams got off to good shooting starts. Notably, Raukawa had his hands full with the fantastic play of Auckland’s point-guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa. Despite this, Raukawa still managed to collect 11 of the Huskies’ first 18 points, but following a late triple from Mauriohooho-Le’Afa bringing his total to 10, Auckland obtained a slim one-point lead at the end of the first period.

The second quarter took on a more casual persona, as scoring started to come at a higher premium. But a three pointer from Jones and six straight points from Shane Temara allowed Taranaki to have a firm grip on the game for the first time in the encounter and force a Huskies timeout. Coming out of the huddle, the Huskies quickly dismantled their deficit by capping off a lovely 9-0 run with a couple minutes to go in the first half. But again, Jones led another charge handing back the lead to the Airs going into half time, 47-44.

Given that Auckland had failed to complete their main objective in slowing down Raukawa and Jones, the Huskies looked to their long-range shooters to try and gain the upper hand in the second half. First up to the plate in this respect was rising youngster in Taine Murray who did not make his presence known until the closing stages of the third quarter and made Taranaki pay for their hand-down defence as a result. Coupled with Smith-Milner’s rebounding, the Huskies oozed confidence as they led by seven with a quarter to go.

Reuben Fitzgerald, who had proven himself a prominent participant in the opening three quarters, made his impact on the game late in the fourth, as both sides jostled for the driver’s seat, converting on an and-one. As both teams arrived at the final seconds of regulation tied at 83-83 apiece, the Airs found themselves with a chance to win it at the death. But after two missed attempts by Jones off of two second chance points opportunities and a missed buzzer-beater attempt from Raukawa outside the arc, fans had to wait five minutes longer, as the game went into overtime, the second time for the Airs.

The Airs struck first with a nicely facilitated layup and three by Jones, which was further compounded by a follow-up three from Raukawa, putting Taranaki up by as much as six. But the Huskies did not wither away, as Smith-Milner and Mauriohooho-Le’Afa brought the game back to a single possession ball game and after Murray converted on a reverse hanging layup with just over a minute and a half to play, the match was once again at a stalemate.

Free throws became the deciding factor in the dramatic end to the game, as numerous fouls from the Airs put Auckland into the bonus. In the final ten seconds of overtime, the Huskies shot six free throws converting on five of them, to put away a resilient Doug Courtney led squad and topple the top-of-the-table Airs for a second time in a row in an overtime thriller, 102-99.

Even though Jones (36 points and 17 rebounds) and Raukawa (28 points and eight assists) proved their dominance once again, Temara tried his best to help the duo get their side over the line with 15 points and eight boards of his own, but Auckland’s bigs were too productive to let that happen.

For the Huskies, Smith-Milner had himself a ball, as he amassed one of the few 20-20 games of the season (22 points and 21 rebounds), whereas Murray led the way in scoring with 28 points alongside six threes. Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Henry also proved instrumental collecting 21 points apiece, summing up a terrific performance from Auckland’s core.

In a game that had all the trademarks of a classic, it sits perfectly as a top two moment on Draft Central’s list, and perhaps the best game in all respects throughout the entire 2020 NZNBL season. One to remember.

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #20 – Taine Murray (Auckland Huskies)

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.

#20 TAINE MURRAY

One of the youngest players in the competition, and certainly one of the youngest starters, the Auckland Huskies teenager had a really promising season before it was cut short due to a broken hand. Overall he makes his way into our list because of what he showed in the 10 games he played, and how dearly the Huskies would have loved him as a scoring option in the finals series.

His season started with a rusty shooting performance, scoring just seven points with two of 10 from the field hitting the mark. He still picked up the four rebounds and a couple of assists on the night, but the poor shooting performance would prove to be an outlier. He did not score in single digits again, with the next lowest coming in the final week he played – week four – when he had 11 points against the Bulls.

His two most notable performances came either side of that game, with a season-high 35 points – including 7 of 11 from three-points range in a huge effort. He also amassed an equal season-high five rebounds in the match, as well as four steals. In his final game of the year, Murray played a full match in an overtime thriller, with more than 40 minutes on court and 28 points for his troubles.

While his year might have ended early, Murray averaged 17.5 points per game, ranking equal 10th in the competition and showed plenty of signs that a college future awaits. If he can continued to develop his game, Murray has a number of exciting traits that will catch the eye of fans and his speed off the mark is superb. Looking forward, expect him to be a player of the future and whose name will continue to pop up for years to come.

STATS:

Points: 17.5 (eq. 10th)
Rebounds: 3.3
Assists: 1.5
Steals: 1.9
FG%: 45.5
2P%: 47.2
3P%: 43.5
FT%: 65.4
Minutes: 32.8

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Otago Nuggets

OTAGO NUGGETS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Nuggets had a season to remember returning to the competition, finishing on top of the table at the end of the 14-game regular season and then going all the way to premiership glory. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 12
Lost: 5

KEY STATS:

Points: 92.6 (3rd)
Rebounds: 40.6 (6th)
Assists: 20.2 (1st)
Steals: 9.2 (2nd)
Blocks: 3.0 (4th)
FG%: 47.4 (2nd)

BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 2 points

What else could it be? The match that guaranteed Otago Nuggets premiership glory. It was far from a straightforward win though despite beating the Jets on the previous four occasions. In the tightest match between the teams, fitting for a grand final, the Nuggets had to fight back from a four-point deficit at half-time to cut it to three by the final break and run over the top of their opponents thanks to a 27-22 final term to win, 79-77. Jordan Hunt topscored with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, as five players recorded six or more rebounds. Josh Aitcheson (16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Kane Keil (15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one block), Jordan Ngatai (11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Jarrod Kenny (six points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals) were phenomenal on a memorable night for the organisation.

WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland Huskies by 12 points

While the final day of the regular season was by far the worst loss in terms of points, considering the obvious man management factor and that top spot was secured, you have to wind back to when the Nuggets went down to the Huskies on July 7 in a 12-point defeat. Trailing at every break and losing each quarter – albeit by no more than five points, it was just one of those games where the opposition team was better on the night. The usually accurate Nuggets were simply terrible from the field, shooting at just 32.4 per cent, including Kenny (30 per cent), Ngatai (22.7) and Richie Rodger (22.2). Meanwhile the Huskies were led by Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds and three assists), Tohi Smith-Milner (17 points, 10 rebounds), Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (12 points, six rebounds, three assists and six steals) and Leon Henry (11 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals) on a big night for them.

TOP PLAYERS:

Jordan Hunt 19.6 points, 6.1 rebounds 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals
Jordan Ngatai 18.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Kane Keil 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals
Jarrod Kenny 11.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.4 steals
Josh Aitcheson 10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Everything if you look back in hindsight. That is not to say they did not have their challenges, but in terms of their list, they predominantly had their best team out on the court each night, they followed team structures and just did all the team things perfectly. From the start to finish of the season, they were consistently in the top few teams and deserved the title by season’s end. While not many top teams end up following through after winning the minor premiership, the Nuggets did just that, and can celebrate their first ever franchise title.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

In the counter opposite to the above, nothing that could be considered serious enough to derail a season. They can look back and be proud of their year, because aside from the odd hiccup here or there in terms of losses, they legitimately were one of the contenders all season.

SUMMARY

Otago Nuggets were the premier team of the 2020 Sal’s NBL and were well coached by Brent Matehaere to lead his team to a memorable title. They had first pick in the Player Draft, and Ngatai paid them back in spades, with their second choice who slid in Kenny, also paying dividends. What a year to remember for the Nuggets.

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Auckland Huskies

AUCKLAND HUSKIES are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Bulls finished a strong fourth on the ladder at the end of the regular season, then went down to a red-hot Thomas Webley-inspired Canterbury Rams in the elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 8
Lost: 7

KEY STATS:

Points: 86.1 (5th)
Rebounds: 45.0 (2nd)
Assists: 17.0 (4th)
Steals: 9.3 (1st)
Blocks: 2.1 (3rd)
FG%: 40.5 (7th)

BEST WIN: defeated Nelson Giants by 29 points

Who could forget the first quarter of the Huskies during their impressive victory over the Nelson Giants. It was the only game where it was over by quarter time as Auckland piled on 45 points to 12, and from there did enough to secure the 96-67 victory. It was not just the total points that was impressive, but their first 17 shots dropped, going at 100 per cent to start the game in what was a remarkable effort from the Huskies. Tohi Smith-Milner dropped 20 points at 80 per cent, Leon Henry had 13 points at 71.4 per cent, as well as seven rebounds and four assists, whilst both Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Reuben Fitzgerald ran at greater than 60 per cent for double-figure points.

WORST LOSS: lost to Canterbury Rams by 14 points

The loss itself was not so bad, but more so the stakes on offer as Auckland went down to Canterbury by 14 points in the elimination final. The most frustrating aspect for the Huskies was the third term of the Rams, led by Webley, as the higher ranked side had been in firm control at each break, despite only being six ahead on the scoresheet. A 39-20 third quarter in favour of the Rams blew the game open and the Huskies went down 98-84. Webley finished with 21 points at 69.2 per cent, as well as seven rebounds. For the Huskies Mauriohooho Le’Afa went to town in a remarkable effort with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry had 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks.

TOP PLAYERS:

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.5 steals
Taine Murray 17.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals
Tohi Smith-Milner 15.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals
Leon Henry 11.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.6 steals
Jaylen Gerrand 6.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Auckland Huskies took a while to gel, but when they did, they looked might impressive. Taine Murray was superb and really lit it up showing the big future he had, while Mauriohooho Le’Afa’s all-round game and Henry’s defensive work was sensational. They had a good balance of talents across the board with great experience guiding the younger players along the journey, and if the team can stick together next season, they will be one to watch.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The slower start to the season with inaccuracy being a real problem for the side early days. Once they honed in on their range, the Huskies were slick. Unfortunately just an inspired effort by Webley in the elimination final ended their season, but they can be proud of what they achieved and got to by the end of the regular NZNBL season.

SUMMARY

Auckland Huskies were the slowest out of the blocks in the early stages of the season, as a brand new side took a while to gel together having not had too much experience playing together before. They got back into it and not only became competitive, but were able to really knock off some quality teams along the way. It would have been nice to see them earn a semi-final place after their second half of the season performances, but it was not to be.

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

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

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

Auckland Huskies vs. Canterbury Rams

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

PAST MATCHES:

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

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

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

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

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

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

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

WHO WINS?

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

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Franklin Bulls

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

PAST MATCHES:

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

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

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

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

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

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

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

WHO WINS?

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

Sal’s NBL night preview July 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