Casey’s Corner: Round 3

Photo credit: Armstrong Photos

The Round That Was

Early in the week the Tuatara withstood a 17-0 run by the Naki to go down 10 early in the 4th, only to reel off 17 straight in reply once again reminding the league about their class. All but 3 points were scored by the big 4 of Cam Gliddon (21pts), Reuben Te-Rangi (13pts), Rob Loe (22pts) and Corey Webster (25) in a battle between two of the preseason's biggest favourites. Taranaki will head into this round looking to find ways to better capitalise on the play of Sam Froling (21pts, 18reb), while improving upon their 20 turnovers and their presence on the o-glass as they come home for the first time this season. The Tuatara would continue their bounce back week as they drove to Tauranga to dispatch the Whai, who were held at arms length after a strong opening quarter. This time it was Te-Rangi (23pts) and Webster (22pts) leading the scoring while Loe looked his do-it-all self as the Tuatara imposed themselves physically to the tune of 28 free throws, making 22. The 2-win week should allay premature concerns about their form and put the league on notice, especially with Tom Vodanovich set to return. 

The Wellington Saints were of course responsible for some of those concerns after the week 1 blowout win over the Tuatara, and would have carried confidence into their game against the Giants despite not having Lat Mayen.  The Giants, still down two imports as they carefully complete their selection process, would have felt confident after Dan Fotu (20pts 10 reb) drained a 3 to open scoring in the fourth and give the G-men a 3 point lead. But then the class of the Saints defense showed, holding Nelson to just 7 more points in the quarter to smother the energy in the Trafalgar Centre. Hyrum Harris (20pts, 12 reb, 5ast, 3stl, 40min) once again led from the front for a Saints team that went an icy 5-41 from beyond the arc. Nelson now 0-3 and in desperate need of some good news coming on the import arrival front.

The Canterbury Rams were also short of 2 imports, as well as Max Darling, leaving them at a disadvantage against a similarly undersized Franklin Bulls squad. Taylor Britt (24pts) kept the offense humming early to keep the Rams close, but in the end the lack of an interior presence was exploited by Sam Timmins (23pts @ 83%, 11reb,) as Luther Muhammad (31pts @63%, 6ast) exploited the mid-range. 

The Otago Nuggets looked unflustered against the Jets holding them at bay over the course of their 112-103 victory, Tai Websters (20pts, 6ast) insertion lifting the efficiency of the offense as Ben Henshall (28pts, 7rb, 6ast, 3stl) and Kimani Lawrence (30pts, 8rb) enjoyed a bit less attention from the defense with T-Web joining the backcourt. The Jets never able to find the heights of their first game of the week despite Campbell Scott's (28pts) breakout game and a double-double from Tyrell Harrison (17pts, 12 reb) before fouling out. 

Could that make the Jets win against the Southland Sharks the last hurrah for Harrison? It looks likely as he has been recalled to Brisbane to begin NBL1 duties, the door closed on his time in Manawatū leaving the Jets looking for ways to fill his 15.3ppg, 16.3rpg production any way they can. 

But at least they have a hurrah, as the Southland Sharks slumped to 0-3 and the bottom of the table after being taken behind the woodshed in the final game of the round by a Hawks team that looks better then predicted (by me at least) as Jordan Ngatai (11pts) and Isaiah Moore(17pts, 10ast, 7reb, 4stl) lifted the talent level for a team that will lean heavily on its starting 5. And with all 5 starters in double figures that figures to be a promising plan, especially if Keanu Rasmussen (35pts) can continue his form. Currently 2nd in the league in scoring at 29ppg, Rasmussen and Moore look to form a lighting quick backcourt for a team that delivered the first win of Sam Gruggen's Sal's NBL head coaching career. 

Leaving the Sharks, who after an uninspiring team wide performance against the Jets in their first loss of the round, pulled the trigger on sending home the first import of the year (if you had Sharks for this you are better at prognosticating than I). His replacement can't come quickly enough for a squad last in the league in effective field goal percentage (44%), free throw rate (21%), offensive rating (95) and defensive rating (114). Playing the last game of the round (Monday 14th April) will give the squad time to collect themselves and honestly assess what needs to be lifted, changed and scrapped altogether. With or without a new import, an improved effort is a necessity to give any hope to the idea of Sharks swimming in postseason waters.

Worth Mentioning

Campbell Scott - With an import spot to fill and a Tyler Harrison sized hole in the frontcourt the Jets may want to rethink replacing Jasper Rentoy with another import pg. Scott has proved his worth with a 13pt 8ast 40 minute performance in a win v Southland, followed by a hot shooting 28pt career high that helped keep the Nugs from running away with the game. If he is able to play at this level a lift in talent down low or on the wing may be the better course to follow in their Final 6 quest.

Luther Muhammad - Putting his offensive talents on display again a slightly less jet lagged Muhammad proved round 1 was no fluke, silky smooth from midrange on his way to 31 points to dispatch the Rams. Averaging 32.5 is great, but doing so while shooting 53% from 2 and 80%(!!) from 3 is otherworldly. Combined with a tidy 5.5 ast and 2.5 steals highlights the completeness of his game and gives faithful at the Stockyard reason to believe a 2nd consecutive postseason is in the running.

Keanu Rasmussen - Possibly the recruiting find of the season, the Australian based Kiwi is a terror in transition and deadly from 3 (37%). but its his 80% at the rim and 67% from the paint that make him truly difficult to stop. His presence, even if the efficiency drops, raises the floor for the Hawks while also giving hopes for a higher ceiling.

Property Broker Manawatū Jets v Hawke's Bay Taylor Hawks, Thursday 7:3opm, Fly Palmy Arena

The Jets begin the first week without the big fella and we get our first glimpse at how they will play. If Troy Baxter Jr is to be plugged into the 5 spot, this will be a much quicker team, both in transition and the halfcourt. The depth takes a hit, but while Liam Judd and Simon Lafaele have proven capable the bulk of responsibility will fall on Mustapha Heron until a replacement for Jasper Rentoy comes ashore. What a difference a week makes for the Hawks. After round 1 it looked to be a long season coming, but the talent influx of Isaiah Moore and Jordan Ngatai allowed the Hawks to lean more heavily on the starting 5 (less than 25 minutes played cam off the bench. Moore's addition to Keanu Rasmussen in the backcourt gives the Hawks a level of dynamism that will be stretch defenses capabilities in transition, but the current Jets lineup looks to match up well in that area of strength making for an interesting tip-off to round 3. 

Stats That Matter:

Manawatū- 40% Free Throw Rate (2nd), 42% Three Point Rate (2nd)

Hawke's Bay- 54% Effective Field Goal (2nd), 2% Block Percentage (10th), 18% Offensive Rebound Rate (last)

Matchup to Watch - Mustapha Heron v Jordan Ngatai

NBS Nelson Giants v Auckland Tuatara, Friday 7:30pm, Trafalgar Centre 

The Giants come into the game having come withing touch distance of two wins, but a league worst 19% turnover rate and 66% defensive rebound rate have made winning the possession game, a Nelson staple in recent years, impossible to come by. Dan Grida's energy levels are infections and he'll be looking to propel off of his 27pt 11rb performance last round. But the Tuatara will be their deepest this year with Tommy V offering the Dino's another dimension on both ends. Without some incoming support the Giants will find it tough to defend home court, 

Stats That Matter:

Auckland - 9.7 made 3's per game (1st in league) on 34.1% 3pfg (2nd)

Nelson - 18.7 Free Throws Made (3rd) 7.3 Offensive Rebounds (10th)

Matchup to Watch - Alex McNaught v Corey Webster

Taranaki Steelformers Airs v Whai, Saturday 4:00pm, TSB Arena

The Airs come off a loss that easily could've been a win and, with Flynn Cameron's arrival impending, have a chance to lift on their already impressive personnel list. Sam Froling but with Carlin Davison currently getting the majority of minutes at the power forward spot, the interior advantage isn't overwhelming. if Vance Jackson and Phill Carr can pull Froling away from the paint there should be more opportunity for Kruz Perrott-Hunt to reach his round one heights, Ellijah Minnie was kept mostly in check in the loss but that will be a difficult task to repeat for the Whai as they head on the road for the first time in franchise history. 

Stats That Matter:

Taranaki - 10.5 steals per game (1st), 81% defensive rebound rate (2nd)

Whai - 9% turnover rate (2nd), 37% assist percentage (10th)

Matchup to Watch - Mitch McCarron v Kruz Perrott-Hunt

Night n' Day Otago Nuggets v Mills Albert Wellington Saints, Saturday 7:30pm, Edgar Centre

The Nuggets come back home and host the Saints as both teams stand undefeated and eyeing first place with a win there is sure to be plenty of fire in this game. For the Nugs, Zaccheus Darko-Kelly has failed to fire, but Ben Henshall (24.5pts, 51%fg) and Kimani Lawrence (24pts, 58%fg) have played with enough efficiency for it not to matter. Jack Andrew (13.5reb, 2blk) has held down the middle and with Tai Webster running the show and a solid contingent off the bench led by Matt Bardsley and Darcy Knox the Nugs will like their chances. But the Saints present a tough task. Hyrum Harris (25pts, 10.5reb, 5ast, 2stl) has been a hub of activity on both ends as Tohi Smith-Milner (21pts, 9reb) does the heavy lifting on the interior. With Izayah Le'afa and Ben Ayre yet to find their peak efficiency and Lat Mayen possible to rejoin the lineup this is a team with a top gear that has not yet been reached. 

Stats That Matter:

Wellington- 7% turnover ratio (1st), 56% assist rate (1st), 50% three point rate (1st)

Otago -  7% steal rate (last), 35% Offensive rebounding rate (2nd), 102 Defensive rating (2nd)

Matchup to Watch - Kimani Lawrence v Hyrum Harris

Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams v Auckland Tuatara, Sunday 3pm, Cowles Stadium

The Rams fought valiantly with an undermanned and undersized lineup before eventually succumbing to the Bulls. With a fuller strength lineup the team may be able to capitalise on the Taylor Britt's (22pts, 60fg%) aggressive start to the season. M.J. Walker found some promising form down the stretch and Walter Brown will adjust to a heavier load than he has been asked to carry since last season. But even on the second leg of a back to back their opponent from Auckland will be tough to best. The Tuatara starting 5 will fancy their chances as arguably the top starting unit in the league with enough depth to hold the fort when needed. 

Stats That Matter:

Canterbury- 45% effective field goal (10th), 7% steal rate (10th), 1% block rate(last)

Auckland - 113 Defensive Rating (4th), 81% Defensive rebounding rate (2nd)

Matchup to Watch

Walter Brown v Rueben Te-Rangi

Franklin Bulls v Property Broker Manawatū Jets, Sunday 6:30pm, Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre

The Bulls look to build on a hot start to the year and will once again be looking at an opponent that is missing size in the paint while missing some size themselves. Of course the Jets loss of Tyrell Harrison seems to be permanent, so they too will be feeling a bit of shrinkage. Sam Timmins 17.5pts and 14rbs should be his floor of contribution but its his 10% block rate (1st) that is his biggest contribution to this teams winning chances. Luther Muhammad should find space at his preferred spots on the floor. The Jets will see an uptick in usage for Troy Baxter Jr. from his current 26% and he will need to pair a top level with Mustapha Heron and probably Campbell Scott for the Jets to pull off the road win.

Stats That Matter:

Bulls- 56% Effective Field Goal Percentage (1st), 18% Turnover Percentage (2nd), 27% Three Point Rate (11th)

Jets- 40% Free Throw Rate 40%(2nd), Three Point Rate 42%(2nd),  9.3 Three pointers made per gam (2nd)

Matchup to Watch - Luther Muhammad v Mustapha Heron

Southland Sharks v Mills Albert Wellington Saints, Monday 7:30pm, ILT Stadium Southland

The Saints head further south to complete their South Island double. and will need to lean on their depth to play at their preferred breakneck pace in a rare Monday night game. This will be a contrast of styles as the Wellington bring 2nd highest pace in the comp and will try to run by the Sharks and their 2nd slowest pace. But the deliberate pace hasn't helped Southlands efficiency, ranked last in effective field goal percentage (44%) leading to the tied  lowest scoring average in the league (76.3). When you combine that with the most porous defense in the league giving up 92ppg the task to defend home court seems even more difficult. 

Stats That Matter:

Southland- 9% Block Percentage (2nd), 21% Free Throw Rate (last)

Wellington- 117 Offensive Rating (1st), 92 Defensive Rating (1st), 82% Defensive Rebounding Percentage (1st)

Matchup to Watch

Marcale Lotts v Hyrum Harris

Advance stats care of Spatial Jam


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