Casey’s Corner Round 10

Photo credit: Monica Toretto

The Week That Was 

Round 9 tipped off the second half of the season with a series of results that confirmed one thing unequivocally, there is a lot of time left before we enter the postseason.  At the top of the table we are now down to two teams with just 2 losses, the Tuatara, who are 2 wins in front and riding a 9 game winning streak and the Rams riding an 8 game streak of their own. Both teams impressive, the Tuatara with their most recent dismantling of a Giants team that played hard and did it's best to stay tight, but were unable to do so in the end as 6 players reached double figures for Auckland, led by Tom Vodanovich's 30 point night on 69% shooting including 5 triples. and the Rams who marched into the capital to take a game that looked to be the matchup of the round, and promptly threw it onto it's head. It was a team effort spearheaded by K.J. Buffen's season high 26pts and a Taylor Britt masterclass where he dropped 17 points and 7 assists to just 1 turnover. The Rams were meticulous throughout the 23 point road win against a Saints team that leaves the round with an injury cloud hanging over several players, but none more concerning than Hyrum Harris and his knee. The Rams and Tuatara now with a slight lead on it's competition for a top 2 placing while the Saints look to temporarily regroup as they drop to 4th spot and within striking distance of the group of teams massing between 5th and 9th.  

Elsewhere Taranaki has continued it's mid-season form, winning it's 6th game in 7 outings, albeit the 3 game home winning streak has been against teams that were unable to provide too much resistance. This time it was the Hawks, sans Keanu Rasmussen, who did their best behind Isaiah Moore's high volume 26 point outing to keep pace, but the strength of Sam Froling (27pts, 16rbs) and crew made that a tough task indeed. The Hawks hoping to get healthy soon, as a mass of teams in that group chasing the 6th spot are finding a bit of form in their attempt to stake claim to the postseason. 

Two teams in that group chasing postseason glory found split results this week, with the Whai and Giants both splitting games to keep their postseason dreams within their grasp but not firmly. The Giants, outpaced by Auckland in their first matchup of the round, were in desperate need of a win to split the 09 double, found themselves down 4 heading into the final quarter but a 36 point explosion in the quarter powered by efficient outings by Kobe Langley (23pts @58%) and Dan Fotu (22pts@81%) while Dan Grida found the 30 point mark despite not hitting a three. The Bulls would leave the round concerned about the result, but hopeful an incoming import will give them the needed help down the stretch. The Bulls have done enough work through the first part of the season that they can withstand a wobble or two, but it is worth monitoring. 

The Whai continuing their improved run of form by keeping pace with the Rams on their homecourt for most of 3 quarters before eventually succumbing down the stretch to lose by 14. A bounce back game against the Jets was then on the cards, but new recruit Kahil Whitney brought some needed energy and shot-making to the Green Machine. Despite his contribution the Whai built themselves a 20 point lead behind Te Tuhi Lewis' 23 breakout that seemed insurmountable.  The Jets had other ideas, but despite defensive efforts that held the Whai to 9 4th quarter points, they eventually ran out of time, going down by 2points. With Ira Lee's arrival announced the Whai will hope to continue to fight for a postseason placing while the Jets showing they will continue to play hard chasing results but the postseason is likely out of their reach for this season. 

But the story of the week was what happened in the deep south, where the Sharks finally took a bite out of an opponent, tasting their first victory of the season with a dominant 18 point win against their local rivals, Otago. For the Nuggets their struggles continue as they dropped their 4th straight amid a 7 loss in 8 games slide leaving their season on an edge. On the other side of their agony is the joy being felt in Southlands camp as a burden that has been weighing on the shoulders of the team for nearly two full calendar months. Brayden Inger (22pts, 12rbs, 5stsl) was one of 3 players to cross the 20 point mark and the arrival of Cooper Robb allowed for a bit more positional stability allowing players to shine in their preferred roles (Caleb Asberry(21pts, 4ast) playing off the ball, Alzono Burton(20pts) operating off the catch and shoot and fewer playmaking duties on Callum McRae (13pts, 10rbs). 

After nine rounds nine teams still have the Final 6 within in their sight, and the Sharks and Jets can still point to mathematical chances with a bit less than half the season to play.

Worth Mentioning

Sharks Win!! - Did I mention the Sharks win? Allow me to do so again. The first win of the year produced season bests in shots made, fg%, efg%, ft%, defensive rebounds, turnovers and second high marks for steals and assists!!

Rams and Tuatara Rolling - The leagues two longest win streaks are both chugging along with the Rams 8 straight only bested by the Tuatara's 9. The teams are similar in their balance between the perimeter and interior play but vastly different in experience. A streak ending date awaits the teams in Round 11 if they can continue their form until then.

Bigs are Rolling Too - Across the league powerful post play is propelling teams to big victories. With Sam Froling (27pts, 16rbs, drew 8 fouls), Lachie Olbrich (avg. 21.5pts, 9.5rb over 2 games), Rob Loe (21pts, 13rbs, 4ast, 2blks, Tom Vodanovich (30pts, 5 3pfgm) and, Marcale Lotts (12pts, 6rb in 13 minutes) Dan Fotu (22pts, 3-5 3pfgm) of particular note in their contributions to wins contributing to wins across the league.

Te Tuhi Lewis - The 21 year old dropped 23pts in under 20 minutes while hitting 6-10 from three to help the Whai build and barely hang on to in their win over the Jets. Yeah, that's worth a mention. 

Round 10

Tauranga Whai v Mills Albert Wellington Saints, Mercury Baypark Arena, Wednesday 7:30pm

Tauranga are firmly in the chase for the finals and with Ira Lee confirmed to be joining the team, have reason to see themselves climbing even higher. There would be some concern even in victory, as they watched a 20 point lead dwindle down to 2. But a win is a win and Lee's skill set should lift the squads bottom three ranking in Offensive and Defensive rebounding percentage, free throw rate, effective fg% and block rate. They've been doing a good job of controlling the pace and defending in the half court to slow down opposition, while combining that with just enough offense from Kruz Perrott-Hunt, Jayden Bezzant and Phil Carr to tick over the scoreboard. 

That may be just enough against a less than full strength Saints team.  With Hyrum Harris out, Lat Mayen out or hobbled, Tohi Smith-Milner injured and Izayah Le-afa just returning the Saints are less than their most formidable selves currently. But they can still impose their pace on the game with Ben Ayre pushing tempo alongside Le'afa. And even a slowed Smith-Milner alongside Taane Samuel will be a load for the Whai frontcourt to withstand. 

Stats that Matter: 

Tauranga- 44% 3point rate (2nd in league), 33% 3point fg (5th), 71% defensive rebound percentage (8th)

Wellington- 48 % 3point rate (1st), 33% 3point fg (4th), 78% defensive rebound percentage (2nd)

Matchup to Watch: Jayden Bezzant & Kruz Perrott-Hunt v Ben Ayre & Izayah Le'afa

NBS Nelson  Giants v Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks, Trafalgar Centre, Thursday 7:30pm 

The Giants may have saved their season with their Sunday night victory, but their last big victory (against the Saints) snapped back with a dose of reality when the fell to an unheralded team on their home court (against the Whai). This time they welcome the Hawks, who have been below form since losing Keanu Rasmussen. But with lead scoring leader Isaiah Moore and Jordan Ngatai leading an offense a victory is never off the table. Kobe Langley and Alex McNaught's defensive prowess will be well utilised in this game but it will be the work on the glass of Dan Fotu and Theo Akuwba that will determine Nelson's fortunes on the day. 

Stats that Matter: 

Hawke's Bay- 11% turnover rate (best in league), 42% assist rate (last), 23% offensive rebounding rate (10th)

Nelson- 11% steal rate (2nd), 34% free throw rate (2nd), 35% 3point rate (9th)

Matchup to Watch: Isaiah Moore v Kobe Langley

Taranaki Steelformers Airs v Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets, Edgar Centre, Friday 7:30pm

Taranaki continues its homestand where they will look to again take advantage of a team teetering on the ropes. The Nuggets will be hopeful of an improved performance ubut a victory may be too much to ask for from a team that has been unable to find its best of late. With a youth dominating the starting lineup (3/5's under 24 including 2 teenagers) it may be up to a veteran bench to inspire the teams way to victory. 

But it will take more than inspiration to slow down the Airs who have been dominating at home with their own young core dominating in high flying fashion. Sam Froling is top 5 in scoring and rebounding while Carlin Davison and the  Cameron bothers have terrorised the passing lanes leading to transition buckets. Look for Mitch McCarron and co. to wrap up another big win on their home court. 

Stats that Matter: 

Taranaki- 78 pace (10th), 55% effective fg% (1st), 34% free throw rate (1st)

Otago- 85 pace (1st), 34% 3point rate (10th), 1.16 assist to turnover ration (8th), 58% free throw% (last)

Matchup to Watch: Flynn Cameron v Ben Henshall

Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams v Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks, Cowles Stadium, Saturday 4pm

The Hawks will fly to Christchurch for their second of a round 10 double header and it doesn't get any easier a little further south.  In their previous meeting the Rams came out firing and rode 60 points in the paint to a 20 point victory. That will likely be the same formula for the streaking Rams again, with Olbrich, Buffen and Max Darling likely to find space when needed and Britt and M.J. Walker driving the lane to challenge the size of the Hawks at the rim.  The Hawks will be desperate to split their road trip, but if they didn't come up with a win in their first game of the week vs Nelson they will likely find an even tougher task to conquer.

Stats that Matter: 

Canterbury-  74% free throw% (1st), +6.73 rebounding margin (1st), 30% 3point percentage (9th)

Hawke's Bay- 34% 3point% (2nd), 9.1 o boards per game (9th), 10.4 turnovers per game (best)

Matchup to Watch: Taylor Britt v Isaiah Moore

Auckland Tuatara v Mills Albert Wellington Saints, Eventfinda Stadium, Saturday  7:30pm

In the first round this season the Saints blew the Tuatara off the court with explosive pace and a level of physicality that Auckland looked unprepared for. That is unlikely to be the case this time around. Aside from the aforementioned injury woes the Saints are dealing with, this is a different Auckland team then faced each other, and a different team to the previous season's versions of the Tuatara as well. The depth has taken a huge step forward with the addition of Brayden Iuli and Charlie Daulton, two young players who have returned improved from their early U.S. college experiences. Tommy V leads the league in 3point% while Rueben Te Rangi And Cam Gliddon offer comparable threats from the other side of the court. They have two of the leading MVP candidates in Loe and Corey Webster and look to have a reserve gear when needed, not to mention the 9 game winning streak. A Saints win wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility, but it would be surprising. 

Stats that Matter: 

Auckland- 55% effective fg% (2nd), 58% assist% (2nd), 41% 3point rate (3rd), 78% defensive rebounding rate (1st) 

Wellington- 78% defensive rebounding rate (2nd), 27% offensive rebounding rate (4th), 11% steal rate (1st), 61% assist%(1st)

Matchup to Watch: Tom Vodanovich v Taane Samuel 

Southland Sharks v Franklin Bulls, ILT Stadium Southland, Sunday 3pm

The Sharks look to continue their home win streak (its 1, but still a streak) as they host Franklin in what may be a closer matchup then one would have thought a few weeks ago. The Bulls will be looking for a chance to improve their defensive efforts from their round 9 loss, but the Sharks are suddenly not the team that you get well against after dropping 99 points last round. Will the Sharks find the same level of activity against an opponent that isn't the Nuggets? That remains to be seen, but Callum McCrae will provide a tough matchup for Sam Timmins on the interior and the new Robb/Asberry backcourt looks to have the skills to make Luther Muhammad's night a difficult one.  

Stats that Matter: 

Southland- 46% effective fg% (last), 17% turnover% (last), 8% block% (2nd)

Franklin- 10% block% (1st), 11% steal% (3rd), 27% 3point rate (last)

Matchup to Watch: Callum McRae v Sam Timmins

Property Brokers Manawatu Jets v Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets Palmy Arena, Sunday 6:30pm The last game of the round may also end up knocking the loser out of finals contention making for a intriguing matchup. The addition of James Moors and Kahlil Whitney has bolstered the Jets to make them much more dangerous but a lack of offensive punch was still notable their last game out. If this can that be fixed by a bit more practice time remains to be seen, but either way the Nuggets won't make it easy. Their pace can attack the Jets in transition, which has been a weak point for Manawatu across the year. Earlier in the season one would have favoured the Nuggets, but without Tai Webster and in the midst of 4 game skid that is no longer the case. If the young backcourt can force turnovers and find the range from deep the Nuggets are more than capable of winning the game and getting back in the chat for the Final 6, but if the Jets improve on their chemistry and find a way to avoid the patches where the offense stutters they could claim their second victory of the year.

Stats that Matter: 

Manwatu- 49% effective fg% (9th), 17% turnover% (10th), 45% assist% (10th)

Otago - 85 pace (1st), 34% 3point rate (10th), 7.73 steals per game (4th)

Matchup to Watch: James Moors v Jack Andrew 


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