The Mike Pero Nelson Giants have moved to the top of the Sal's NBL ladder with an 85-76 win over the Hawke's Bay Hawks in Napier.
It was a tightly contested first half with little to separate the two teams. The Hawks managed to build a 49-43 lead through halftime on the back of some strong outside shooting (6-of-13 from three) and a 7-of-8 shooting effort from captain Ethan Rusbatch. Hawke's Bay as a team shot 57% to give them an edge over the Giants, who were shooting just 41% from the field and 5-of-20 from downtown through the first 20 minutes.
The Giants were generating good looks at the rim but weren't able to convert on a number of occasions. After a gritty game against the Tuatara on Friday night, fatigue looked to have hit the Giants in some capacity with their poor shooting but they were outworking the Hawks on the glass with double digit offensive rebounds - a noteworthy achievement against one of the better rebounding teams in the Sal's NBL.
Nelson put the clamps on the Hawks in the third quarter, holding them to 13 points. The Giants were forcing turnovers and turning that into points on the other end. American import Sam Thompson was a key factor in the Giants' win over the Tuatara and was solid again in this one, leading their turnaround in the third. It was tied at 62 heading into the fourth.
The Giants started the fourth quarter on a 15-9 run to take a 77-71 lead with 3:53 left in the game. Second chance opportunities and takeaways again the theme of the run for Nelson. Jarrod West has regularly risen to the occasion late in games and his 3-pointer down the stretch in the fourth was the dagger for the Hawks' hopes.
Hawke's Bay were outscored 14-23 in the fourth quarter and managed just 27 points overall in the second half. They had no answers once the Giants locked in defensively, and it's their defence which has been the foundation for their current three-game winning streak and ascent to the top of the ladder.
The Hawks will have just a couple of sleeps to recover, as they head to Palmerston North for a date with the Jets on Tuesday.
SCORE: Hawks 76, Giants 85
Hawks: Rusbatch 19 PTS, 8-10 FG | Agee 18 PTS, 10 REB | Raukawa 17 PTS | Harris 12 PTS, 11 REB
Giants: West 18 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST, 5 3PM | Thompson 18 PTS, 13 REB | Mourning 18 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Sam Thompson (Giants) - 10 votes
Jarrod West (Giants) - 7 votes
Trey Mourning (Giants) - 5 votes
Tajuan Agee (Hawks) - 4 votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 4 votes
Hawks – June 28 @ Manawatu Jets
Giants – July 2 vs. Taranaki Airs
Round 10 Sal's NBL Schedule