The Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets have edged past the Auckland Tuatara 99-95 at Eventfinda Stadium on Thursday night.
The first quarter might have been one of the most entertaining of the season, with both teams trading buckets and numerous highlight dunks. The Nuggets managed to take a 29-25 lead into the second quarter, but the Tuatara would come out strong with a 23-13 run through the first six minutes of the second.
Chris Johnson was doing Chris Johnson things in the first half with 12 points and five rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from three. He was joined by Taki Fahrensohn who was impressive with 15 first half points.
The Nuggets closed the second quarter on 14-0 run to take a 56-48 lead through 20 minutes of action. New import guard Tray Boyd III was superb for the Nuggets with 17 points and four assists on 8-of-11 shooting in 19 first half minutes. His speed and ability to get to the rim stood out, along with his impressive ability to run the offence despite it being just his first game with the team. He would finish with a game-high 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field.
The Tuatara were the aggressors again to start the quarter coming out of halftime, and did a good job taking care of the ball with no turnovers in the third after committing a whopping 13 in the first half. They managed to keep pace with the Nuggets in the quarter, but still found themselves in a 9-point hole heading into the fourth. The Tuatara were getting balanced scoring contributions from their starters but were struggling to keep up with the firepower of the Nuggets.
Auckland made inroads and managed to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets' starters put their foot down to hold on for the win. Todd Withers totaled 24 points and 10 rebounds with four 3-pointers for the Nuggets, making an impact on both ends of the floor. He's a key piece in their title aspirations because of his ability to effect the game in a magnitude of ways.
This was an impressive overall win for the Nuggets, who have bounced back from a mini two-game skid and have now sent the Tuatara on a three-game spiral and searching for answers with Chris Johnson now headed to the States.
Johnson went out with 23 points, nine rebounds, two steals and three blocks on 10-of-13 shooting from the floor and 2-of-3 from distance. He did everything in his power to get the Tuatara across the line but the overall punch of the Nuggets was a task even Johnson couldn't quite overcome. Johnson was tremendous during his 2022 stint with the Tuatara and goes out on top of the MVP rankings as it currently stands.
SCORE: Tuatara 95, Nuggets 99
Tuatara: Johnson 23 PTS, 9 REB, 2 STL, 3 BLK, 10-13 FG, 2-of-3 3PT | Russo-Nance 15 PTS, 5 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL | Fahrensohn 18 PTS
Nuggets: Boyd III 28 PTS, 10-15 FG | Withers 24 PTS, 10 REB, 4 3PM | Williams 20 PTS, 8 REB, 4 AST | Timmins 22 PTS, 7 REB
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Tray Boyd III (Nuggets) - 10 votes
Chris Johnson (Tuatara) - 8 votes
Sam Timmins (Nuggets) - 5 votes
Siler Schneider (Tuatara) - 4 votes
Todd Withers (Nuggets) - 3 votes
Tuatara - June 24 vs. Nelson Giants
Nuggets – June 23 vs. Canterbury Rams
Round 8 Sal's NBL Schedule