The Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets have picked up a crucial 102-87 win over the Southland Sharks at the Edgar Centre on Wednesday evening.
There was nothing to separate the two sides in the first quarter with it all locked up at 22 after 10 minutes of action. Sharks forward Brayden Inger hit a pair of early triples to help get him to eight points, while Keith Williams had seven points for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets were probably lucky to be so close to the Sharks with their six turnovers in the first quarter, but they were making up for it with some solid work on the glass - a direct by-product of Sam Timmins' reinsertion into the lineup. Timmins grabbed six boards alone in the first.
Otago opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run powered by guard Nikau McCullough. McCullough has missed the past two games due to covid, so the Nuggets would have been thrilled to welcome him back and he showed why he's so valuable.
The Nuggets would lead by as much as 11 points in the quarter but the Sharks were able to reel them back in over the final few minutes. It was a nine-point advantage for the home side at the half led by McCullough's 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 4-of-6 from three. Their nine turnovers were an issue, but the Sharks weren't able to capitalise on them as effectively as they could have with some poor shooting at the other end (40% FG, 4-14 3PT). In support of McCullough, imports Keith Williams and Tray Boyd III each had 12 points.
Brayden Inger was up to 15 points at the break thanks to a 6-of-8 shooting effort from the floor. The main concern for the Sharks, though, was the health of their centre Romaro Gill, who went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury in the second quarter. Fortunately for Southland, he would return to the game in the second half.
The Nuggets turned in another strong quarter in the third, outscoring the Sharks 24-15. The Sharks had 10 turnovers to that point and were shooting 38% from the field and 6-of-21 from distance. Otago were simply the better team in this one, with McCullough and Timmins providing a much-needed boost to the Nuggets lineup at the right time.
They've struggled in recent weeks to score the ball outside of their imports, but tonight the Nuggets looked like a completely different threat with McCullough adding another weapon on offence and Timmins doing it all. It might have been forgotten in recent weeks, but the Nuggets reminded everyone tonight that with a full strength or close to full strength squad, they're tough to beat. They were without import Todd Withers tonight, but once he returns the Nuggets are going to be a real threat to not only make the Final 6 but to compete for a title.
The Sharks would make the Nuggets a little nervous in the fourth, though, opening on a 10-4 run over the first three minutes of the quarter, but Otago would shut the door and not let Southland any closer than 12 points to finish the game.
American import Tray Boyd III was again a top contributor for the Nuggets with 22 points, three rebounds and eight assists on 9-of-18 shooting and 4-of-7 from three. He not only showed his scoring ability, but had a number of sensational dimes in the second half that you'll almost certainly see again in the top plays of the week. Keith Williams scored a game-high 23 with four rebounds and five assists.
Inger had one of his best games of the season for the Sharks with a team-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Daishon Knight, Mojave King and Romaro Gill each scored 12, and Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape continued his strong play this season with 10-3-3 off the bench.
The win moves the Nuggets to 9-8 on the season and temporarily into fourth place on the ladder. They've got a monster game at home against the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls in Round 15, a game that could decide who heads to the Final 6.
The Sharks are officially out of the Final 6 hunt, but it was a superb effort over the past couple of weeks to claim some big scalps and they aren't done yet playing spoiler with another game on Saturday against the Rams.
SCORE: Nuggets 102, Sharks 87
Nuggets: Boyd III 22 PTS, 8 AST, 4-7 3PT | Williams 23 PTS | McCullough 18 PTS, 4-6 3PT | Timmins 18 PTS, 11 REB
Sharks: Inger 22 PTS, 8 REB | Knight 12 PTS, 7 AST | Gill 12 PTS | King 12 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Tray Boyd III (Nuggets) - 10 votes
Sam Timmins (Nuggets) - 6 votes
Brayden Inger (Sharks) - 6 votes
Keith Williams (Nuggets) - 5 votes
Daishon Knight (Sharks) - 2 votes
Romaro Gill (Sharks) - 1 vote
Nuggets - Aug 7 vs. Franklin Bulls
Sharks - July 30 @ Canterbury Rams
Round 14 Sal's NBL Schedule