The Otago Nuggets have felled the Hawks in the first Sal’s NBL play-in game tonight, with a 91-80 victory at Auckland’s Eventfinda Stadium. This huge wins locks the Nuggets into a semi-final encounter with the Nelson Giants on Friday, while the Hawks head back to the Bay with their season now officially over.
Tray Boyd III led all scores with 30 points, 5 rebounds & 5 assist in another dominant effort. Keith Williams scored 24 points along with 6 rebounds, Nikau McCullough had 19pts and Sam Timmins chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Todd Withers - who returned to action after suffering an ankle injury versus the Bulls on Sunday – had 3 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks.
For the Hawks, Ethan Rusbatch scored 29 points, while Hyrum Harris had 16 & 6 and Jarrod Kenny registered a solid 10 points, 12 rebounds & 5 assists.
the Hawks took an early 6-2 lead before a triple by Boyd III reduced the gap; both teams combining to shoot only 5-17 in the first five minutes. With the Hawks leading 13-9, the Nuggets staged a comeback - led by a 9-0 personal run by Williams. His layup was followed by a crowd-pleasing four-point play, shortly followed by another and-1 on a layup – his impressive scoring outburst giving the Nuggets a 20-13 lead with a minute left.
The Nuggets took a 22-17 lead into the second period, building it up to 28-20 thanks before the Hawks went on a tear; reducing the deficit to 32-30 thanks to big plays from the trio of Hunt, Harris and Kenny. But an 8-0 Otago run – courtesy of Boyd II and Timmins – re-built that lead yet again, with the quarter ending 42-35 in favour of the Nuggets.
With both teams shooting below 40% in the half and with 25 rebounds apiece; it was turnovers that had the Hawks in the deficit – Hawke’s Bay with 11 turnovers versus 5 for Otago.
Both sides continue to battle it out in the third, with the Hawks going on 5-0 run followed by a 7-0 run near the three minute mark; but each time the Nuggets were able to hold steady and maintain their lead. Otago was able to stretch it out to an 11 point lead early in the fourth, thanks to big triples from both Boyd III and McCullough – winning this one 91-80 on the strength of their starting five’s efforts; their starters scoring 88 of the team’s 91 points.
Surprisingly, many of the game stats favoured the Hawks despite the loss. They held a 49-44 rebounding advantage and had 18 assists to only 11 for the Nuggets; while also hitting 10-34 triples (29%) to only six makes for the Nuggets at a 30% clip. But they were undone but their turnovers (20) and 39% shooting from the field against 42% for Otago.
With their season already over, the Bulls were playing for pride in their final game of the season. And despite the loss, they played well and took the Nuggets to overtime – showing plenty of heart in the process.
SCORE: Nuggets 91, Hawks 80
Nuggets: Boyd 30 PTS & 5 REB & 5 AST | Williams 24 PTS & 6 REB | McCullough 19 PTS | Timmins 12 PTS & 10 REB | Withers 3 PTS & 5 REB & 4 BLK
Hawks: Rusbatch 29 PTS | Harris 16 PTS & 7 REB | Kenny 10 PTS & 9 REB & 7 AST | Agee 8 PTS & 6 REB | Raukawa 8 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Final 6 Sal's NBL Schedule