Casey’s Corner Round 7

Photo credit: GameFace NZ

The Week That Was 

Round 6 was essentially a holding weekend, as there was minimal movement in on the ladder with The Saints, Tuatara, Airs and Rams all holding their ladder position with just the Bulls dropping a few notches on the ladder by virtue of their loss affecting their points percentage status. With a minimum of movement we seem to have a top 5 that is solidifying their grip on the top 5 with teams from 6 to 8 on the ladder jockeying for placement in the final of the postseason spots. The Nuggets, Hawks and Giants all had the chance to grip a top 6 spot a bit more tightly with double headers last round, but all three teams split their results on the week leaving their ladder position unchanged. 

The Hawks tipped off the week with a dominant win against the Whai in the Hawks nest where all 5 starters hit double figures as per usual, but what was unusual was the dominant performance from Josh Roberts where he controlled the glass and was the vertical lob threat the Hawks expected. The going was a bit tougher against the interior prowess of the Tuatara 3 days later, especially in a fourth quarter where Auckland topped the 40 point mark enroute to the Sal's NBL game season high 120 point night. By splitting the double they stay within sight of the Nuggets who were able to keep their grip on a Final 6 spot.

They did so despite being on the wrong end of a 23 point deficit to open their week as the Rams pounced on them in the friendly confines of Cowles Stadium where the Cantabs  dominated the interior to a 20 rebound advantage and were able to hold on for a double digit win despite the Tai Websters 40 piece (that featured only 2 points from the free throw line). But the Nugs bounced back to end the week by winning a track meet against the Giants at the Edgar Centre. They lost Webster early in third to a hip injury, but the Ben Henshall And Kimani Lawrence were able to close strongly to a final tally of  61 points combined at 72% from the field. The win not only solidified their grip on the the 6th spot, but kept the Giants from getting a solid hand on it themselves. But earlier in the week they held an improved Sharks team at arms distance for a dub, and by splitting their double they can still see the top 6 in the distance. 

Not so for the Sharks despite the improved effort are no closer to their first win. The Jets are losing sight as well after they were only able to hold the Saints to 72% shooting from inside the arc as they lost by 25 in a game where they were down by as many as 37. Wellington holding the top spot with the convincing win. Elsewhere at the top of the ladder the Bulls could have maintained their placing as well, but the Airs had other ideas when they returned home for just the second time this season. Taranaki showing the strength of their depth by winning comfortably despite the absence of Carlin Davison. The Bulls allowed an impressive 63% from the field as Sam Froling led the scoring for the Airs once again. 

Worth a mention

Josh Roberts Goes Big - As the Hawks continue to rely heavily on their starting 5 Roberts put his hand up to shoulder more of a load by dropping 23 points and 19 rebounds for his 4th double double of the season, his 5th of the season (over season averages of 10.6 points and 11 rebounds coming in). His presence down low has to be felt for a team light on big wood up front to keep pace with a postseason chase.

Tuatara Drop 40 in a Quarter...Again - A 47 point quarter earlier this season was impressive, a 40 point 4th quarter in a tied game after scoring 80 up to that point of the game? Possibly more so. The squad continues to click, with Rob Loe and Tom Vodanovich dropping 31 each as Corey Webster flirted with a triple double as he dropped his league leading 3rd double digit assist game as all 5 starters found 20 points. Reuben Te Rangi has been solid on both ends and is sacrificing the most of the starting 5, but it was Cam Gliddon's back to back 3's, the second a pull up on a fast break that would have been audacious in an open run, that broke the game open.

Nuggets Duo Nets 61 for 50 - The Nuggets celebrated 50 wins since returning to the league, for their coach and their franchise, as Kimani Lawrence (30pts, 8 rbs) and Ben Henshall (31 pts, 10rbs) dropped 61 combined as the team rediscovered their mojo. Wile the squad only found 7 points off the bench it didn't matter as the pair pared their prolific games with Zaccheus Dark0-Kelly's big 4th quarter. 

T Web 40 Piece- Yes on just 2 free throws but it also took just 25 shots from the field with 18 makes. Yes they lost, but worth a mention.

Round 7 

Tauranga Whai v Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets, Wednesday 7:30pm, Mercury Baypark Arena

The Whai return to their home court a smaller and less talented team with the departure of Vance Jackson Jr. While playing out of position and the size he offered was vital to the rebounding efforts of a team that was still on the bottom of the league when it comes to D-boards (23.71 per game Last in league). But as much as his absence hurts there it will be felt to an even greater level on the offensive end  where his 17.7ppg lifted the 2nd worst scoring offense (75.43ppg) in the league, at least to somewhat of a degree. The Nuggets showed a commitment to pace their last game out out and did a much better job of moving the ball side to side while finding ever important paint touches. Look for the Nugs bigs Lawrence and Jack Andrew to control the space on the interior as Henshall and Webster race off in transition with consistency. The Whai do a decent job of taking care of the ball (12% turnover rate 4th in league) but unless they find a way to turn that into points this score line could get out of reach quickly.

Stats that Matter -

Tauranga - 72 pace (last in league), 49% Effective Field Goals (10th), 4% block rate (last), 70% defensive rebound rate (10th)

Otago - 85 pace (2nd),  71% defensive rebound rate (9th), 25% offensive rebound rate (4th)

Matchup to Watch - Kruz Perrott-Hunt v Tai Webster

Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams v Taranaki Steelformers Airs, Thursday 7:30pm, Cowles Stadium

The Rams have 2 losses, but none with Lachie Olbrich in the lineup, and with Max Darling returning we'll get our first look at a full strength Rams team nearly half way through the season.  Their powerful presence down low counterbalanced nicely by M.J. Walkers perimeter prowess as well as the best offensive season of Taylor Britt's career. The increase of the interior presence a scary proposition for opponents, given this team leads the league in rebounding margin (+7.57). But the Airs will pose a challenge in this area, with a physical phalanx of perimeter players with a foundation of Sam Froling, Carlin Davision and Quintin Bailey down low to combat the Rams on the glass. On the perimeter Mitch McCarron and Flynn Cameron will be vital on defense, with their size and strength an ideal counter balance to the speed of Walker and Britt. The Rams will need to find their own solutions to the Airs offense, which leads the league in field goal percentage (50%) off a varied shot diet. That offense can get bogged down at times in the half court so transition opportunities should be valued, which hasn't always been the case for a team that is 9th in turnover percentage (15%).

Stats that Matter -

Canterbury - 24% Free throw rate  (9th), 77% Defensive rebound rate (3rd), 33% Offensive rebound rate (1st)

Taranaki - 56% effective field goals (1st), 55% assist percentage (3rd), 34% free throw rate (2nd)

Matchup to Watch - Lachlan Olbrich v Sam Froling

Franklin Bulls v Southland Sharks, Friday 7:30pm, Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

The Bulls return to the Stockyard, where they have been much more comfortable then their road foray's (1-2 in road games, 4-0 at home), to welcome the Sharks who will need to find a higher level to compete in this game. The Bulls have been at their best when they play physically without fouling, which on paper looks like they will be able to do in this game. The Bulls are 2nd in scoring defense (giving up 82.57ppg) and have the personnel to strangle the life out of offenses in the half court. This will pose a problem for the Sharks, who despite an improved effort against the Giants still only managed 79 points and are last in scoring offense at 71.88ppg. If Zo Burton, Caleb Asberry, Brayden Inger and company can find some form from deep they can make a run, but if not it will be another Bull run.

Stats that Matter -

Franklin - 22% free throw rate (10th), 28% three point rate (last), 31% offensive rebounding rate (2nd)

Southland - 44% effective field goals (last), 17% turnover percentage (last), 21% free throw rate (last)

Matchup to Watch - Sam Timmins v Callum McCrae 

Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks v Night n' Day Otago Nuggets, Saturday 4:00pm Rodney Green Arena 

The Hawks fly back to the nest after a promising but ultimetley unsuccessful road trip to Auckland, where their lack of depth seemed to come to the forefront during a 4th quarter Auckland Tuatara explosion. Their reliance on the starters isn't ideal, but it has proven effective when Isaiah Moore and Keanu Rasmussen are firing on all cylinders. At times their lack of size (with either Jordan Ngatai or Lucas Sutherland playing power forward) can be exploited, but in against the Nugs their is a chance they can stand up against the strength of Lawrence on his paint penetrations. This game matches up the 3rd (Hawks at 94ppg) and 4th (Nuggets at 92.43ppg) highest scoring offenses in the comp between two teams who have been enjoying transition more and more as of late. The key will be which squad can improve upon their scoring defense (Hawks give up 95.57ppg 10th in league, Nuggets give up 95.57ppg which is last) while maintaining the offensive flow. 

Stats that Matter -

Hawke's Bay - 34% three point fg (2nd), 37% three point rate (8th),10.57 turnovers pg (1st)

Otago - 33% three point fg (4th), 34% three point rate (10th), 14.29 turnovers pg (9th), 

Matchup to Watch - Keanu Rasmussen v Ben Henshall

Auckland Tuatara v Property Brokers Manawatu Jets, Saturday 7:30pm, Eventfinda Stadium

When these teams met a couple rounds ago the Jets came out of the gate and punched the Tuatara square in the Jaw and raced out to a 15 point 1st quarter lead. The fact that the Tuatara instantly evaporated this lead with a 15 point run to start the 2nd quarter doesn't take away the fact that the Jets can do it and if they find the right form will be able to do it again. But in the Dino-Den this will be a more difficult task as the Tuatara have a better idea what to expect and boast maybe the best offense in the league. With shooting at every position and Corey Webster leading the league in assist percentage (38%) it will be difficult for the Jets to pick a single poison to focus on. The big problem, literally and figuratively, is Rob Loe, who is playing at an MVP level once again and offers the type of dominant force that the Jets just don't have the size or sheer number of bodies to combat. 

Stats that Matter -

Auckland - 95 points per game (2nd). 83.22 points per game allowed (3rd), 35% three point fg (1st)

Manawatu - 84.25 points per game (9th), 94.38 points per game allowed (9th), 31% three point fg (9th)

Matchup to Watch - Tom Vodanovich v Troy Baxter Jr. 

Taranaki Steelformers Airs v Southland Sharks, Sunday 3pm, TSB Stadium 

The Airs will return to their home court for just the 3rd time this season on the back of an awkward road/home double header, but will be confident returning to a court that is growing it's reputation as difficult cauldron for road teams to have success. The bigs are important for them but the key to the team playing at its highest level is Mitch McCarron, whose all-around play and penchant for playmaking keep the entirety of the squad involved and motivated. That's bad news for the Sharks, who will be on the second leg of a road trip themselves. The big key will be pace, if the Sharks can find a way to slow down the Airs they may be in with a sniff of a chance. But that looks unlikely based on form coming in.

Stats that Matter -

Taranaki - 81ppg allowed (1st), 50% field goals (1st), 20.44 assists pg (3rd)

Southland - 91.75ppg allowed (8th), 39% field goals (last), 14 assists pg (9th)

Matchup to Watch - Sam Froling v Callum McRae

Mills Albert Wellington Saints v NBS Nelson Giants, Sunday 6:30pm, TSB Arena

The last game of the round could prove to be one of the most entertaining, not only because you never know what to expect when these to teams cross the Cook Strait to play each other but because both teams have been playing with extreme pace as of late. The Saints push pace like no other team, racing up and down the court and finding 3's with regularity. The offense has taken a bit of hit without Hyrum Harris acting as a hub for activity in the halfcourt, and if is still missing with injury this will dampen their effectiveness in this area. But even before bringing in Taane Samuel this was a squad with options galore. Izayah Le'afa and Ben Ayre can both act as the ball handler or play off of it and the bigs all have inside out skills that make clogging driving lanes difficult to do. Defensively is where they may make their biggest mark, with Lat Mayen's length and athleticism creating more than a problem for opposition wings as Tohi Smith-Milner locks down the paint.  The Giants have proven themselves offensively with a full contingent of players and the strength of Theo Akwuba has given a solid front court running mate for Dan Fotu on the defensive end.  Offensively the uptick in rim attacks from Alex McNaught has been a positive, with his more consistent penetration opening up a bit of freedom for Dan Grida on the wing.  Key for the Giants will be staying out of foul troubel, with Grida, Akwuba and Kobe Langley all fouling out in the last round evidence of an issue in this area. They can't afford to be down bodies due to foul trouble in this match up, but if everything goes right for the Giants they may be able to sneak out a win on the road. But that is a BIG if...

Stats that Matter -

Wellington - 12% steal percentage (1st), 48% free throw rate (1st). 80% defensive rebound rate (1st)

Nelson - 12% steal percentage (3rd), 34% free throw rate (1st), 36% three point rate (9th)

Matchup to Watch -Izayah Le'afa v Dan Grida 

Advance Stats Care of Spatialjam


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