The second Sal’s NBL semi-final, at Eventfinda Stadium on Friday night, went the way of Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets. In the all South Island matchup they defeated Mike Pero Nelson Giants 89-74.
The Nuggets controlled the contest for long stretches but it was only in the final five minutes that the Giants challenge was extinguished.
The Nuggets enjoyed major contributions from the import trio of Tray Boyd III (20 points, following his 30 against the Hawks on Wednesday), Keith Williams (18 points) and defensive lynchpin Todd Withers (11 points).
The Tall Blacks duo of Sam Timmins and Nikau McCullough were also in fine form. Timmins posted a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds while McCullough scored a valuable 13 points.
For the Giants Sam Thompson and Alonzo Mourning II had 22 points apiece while Jarrod West posted a game high 7 assists to accompany 20 points. Tellingly for the Giants the Kiwi contingent in their ranks could only muster 10 points.
Mourning initiated the scoring, the Giants 11-8 to the good at the mid-point of the opening period.
The one-two forward punch of Timmins and Jack Andrew served the Nuggets well at the back end of the quarter, Otago ahead 20-17 at the first break.
Thompson was the first player in double figures after converting a breakaway dunk but it was the offence of Timmins and the defence of Withers bossing the opening stages of the second period. Trailing 29-22 NBL Coach of the Year Mike Fitchett needed a chat with his troops.
Mourning scored on the restart but more significantly Timmins picked up a second foul and headed to the bench for an enforced break.
The opening points in the contest from Withers gave the Nuggets a double-digit cushion.
The first half ended with a succession of triples – Boyd and Withers for the Nuggets; West and Nic Trathen for the Giants. Thompson led all scorers at the interval but it was Otago in the ascendancy (48-36).
As in the first half, it was Mourning with the opener in the second although the response from the Nuggets was immediate – a dunk from Williams emphatic.
Mourning and West combined to trim the deficit although a McCullough triple maintained a ten point lead (58-48).
A windmill jam from Williams, the former looked to have taken the wind out of the Giants sails though West’s fifth triple kept the Giants afloat – down 66-55 at the three-quarter mark.
Four minutes into the final period the Nuggets lead was still ten points (74-64) – Boyd and Trathen trading threes to keep the margin the same.
In a frantic 30 seconds Boyd and Withers combined to push the margin to 13 points before a dunk from Thompson gave the Giants hope with 3:24 to play.
With consecutive scores Timmins and Boyd put the seal on the win – the regular season runners-up toppled, much to the disappointment of the large contingent of their travelling supporters.
The Nuggets will now face Auckland Tuatara in Saturday’s Grand Final – tip-off 7.30pm at Eventfinda Stadium – both teams facing a third game in four days.
SCORE: Giants 74, Nuggets 89
Giants: Sam Thompson 22 PTS | Mourning 22 PTS & 9 REBS | West 20 PTS & 7 ASSISTS
Nuggets: Timmins 20 PTS & 11 REBS | Boyd 20 PTS | Williams 18 PTS | McCullough 13 PTS | Withers 11 PTS
Full box score HERE.