The Wellington Saints have picked up a crucial 89-79 win over the Mike Pero Nelson Giants in Wellington on Tuesday evening, putting them in prime position to secure a Final 6 spot.
It was a scrappy, low scoring first half that saw the Saints hold a narrow 38-34 edge at the break. Seven different players found the scoring column for the Saints through the first 20 minutes of action, while the Giants had six different players score a bucket in what was a team effort on offence on both sides of the court. Imports Jarrod West and Sam Thompson both managed double figures in the first half, and American Mike Smith had 10 for the Saints.
It was an underwhelming first half for both teams shooting the ball, with the Giants hitting just 31% of their shots and a 5-of-20 effort from downtown. The Saints shot just 3-of-12 from the 3-point line, which wasn't quite up to the standard we've seen from them in recent weeks when it comes to shooting from distance.
The third quarter was the most productive for both sides and there was just one point to separate them, and in the fourth the Saints were able to fend off a valiant late push from the Giants. Nelson just weren't able to make shots down the stretch, as the Saints played some feisty defence and would mix in a zone defence look which often cause problems for the Giants. The zone defence has served as the ultimate equalizer this season for teams that are able to utilise it well and that's exactly what Wellington did in this one.
The Giants only turned the ball over nine times but it was their poor shooting that held them back, registering a 36% clip from the field and 12-of-38 from three. Nelson decimated the Saints on the offensive glass 16-6, but they weren't able to take advantage of those extra looks due to their poor shooting.
Wellington shot a tidy 54% for the game and were led by Xavier Cooks' 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting, and fellow import Mike Smith dropped 23 points off the bench on 7-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 from outside. The Saints are right on the doorstep of a Final 6 spot and will secure one with a win against the Tuatara this week. The Hawke's Bay Hawks and Canterbury Rams play a few hours before in a game that will have huge weight on the Saints' Final 6 chances. A loss against the Tuatara for the Saints and a Rams victory over the Hawks would put Wellington in a mini-ladder with the Hawks and Rams to determine who goes through.
The Giants head to Taranaki for a date with the Airs infront of a sold out TSB Stadium. The winner of that game will claim the No. 1 spot on the ladder and crucial seeding in the Final 6.
SCORE: Saints 106, Giants 55
Saints: Cooks 28 PTS, 7 REB, 2 BLK 12-17 FG | Smith 23 PTS, 7-10 FG, 4-6 3PT | Vodanovich 12 PTS
Giants: West 17 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL | Thompson 16 PTS | Mourning 14 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 10 votes
Sam Thompson (Giants) - 8 votes
Trey Mourning (Giants) - 5 votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 4 votes
Jarrod West (Giants) - 2 votes
Tom Vodanovich (Saints) - 1 vote
Saints - Aug 6 @ Auckland Tuatara
Giants - Aug 4 @ Taranaki Airs
Round 15 Sal's NBL Schedule