Think Tank: Round 11

Photo credit: Masanori Udagawa/Photo Wellington


If you THINK the Tuatara were going to have it all their own way this season THEN the Canterbury Rams have reminded us all that the race to the 2024 championship is wide open. In an enthralling battle the Rams kept their cool under pressure to land a gripping 86-83 win, and with it came an end to the Tuatara’s 10-game winning streak. Let’s see how they respond while remembering they are going to be without a majority of their starting lineup during the international window as the Tall Blacks look to qualify for the Olympics. 


If you THINK the Bulls were lucky and relieved to escape Palmerston North with a win over the lowly Jets on Sunday night THEN you need only have seen the emotion on the sidelines from coach Sebastian Gleim down the stretch when his team nailed a big basket to get the win. Fists were pumping! There is little doubt this contest turned into a far bigger danger game than the Bulls were expecting as they chase a placing in the top four and the postseason homecourt advantage that comes with it. 


If you THINK the Whai need to find some scoring options THEN another sub-par scoring performance, this time against the Giants, was more evidence to that point. The Whai are now equal last (with the Sharks) for points per game this season, at a lowly 76.4 points per game. The Final 6 hopefuls have lost three of their last four games and only Phil Carr is scoring more than 15 points per game (15.4). Next up the Whai face a Tuatara looking to rebound from a loss. Ouch!


If you THINK the Airs are genuine contenders this season THEN their win-loss record against teams above them on the ladder is a big worry. While the Airs enjoy dispatching teams below them on the ladder with relative ease, to date they are 0-4 against those with better record - Tuatara (0-1), Rams (0-1), Saints (0-2). Are the Airs contenders or pretenders? With games against the Nuggets and Sharks in R12 you'll need to wait a bit longer for the answer to reveal itself. 


If you THINK the Hawks will be upset with their large loss to the Nuggets THEN stop and consider the defeat came in their fourth game in 10 days, all of which were played on the South Island. Fear not Hawks fans, yes it was a flat performance in Dunedin, but your boys are still in the mix after splitting their southern trips 2-2 setting up what could be a season defining game on their homecourt against the Giants this round.  


If you THINK the Jets might be capable of causing an upset or two over the next five weeks THEN their performance against the Bulls will give you some optimism. Yes, it was another loss. Yes, they haven’t won a game since the start of April, and yes the decision-making in the final minute of this game was questionable. However, if Mustapha Heron and James Moors can continue their run of strong form, if Liam Judd can keep playing as a solid third option, and the likes of Kahlil Whitney and Quashawn Lane can play with some consistency, then the Jets are likely to shock a finals contender at some stage before calling time on their season. 


If you THINK the Saints were going to slide down the ladder without Hyrum Harris THEN someone forgot to tell Izayah Le’Afa, Ben Ayre and Tohi Smith-Milner. The three Saints stars have been on fire in recent weeks and have helped to ensure the 12-time champs remain a genuine contender this season. In R11 a thumping win over the Jets looked effortless at times, while victory on the road to the Airs was a big reminder that the Saints are not to be written off when listing the teams with championship mettle. 


If you THINK the Giants were delighted to prize Dan Fotu away from Auckland during free agency THEN you would have noticed their smiles were hard to hide in Tauranga following R11 when the athletic forward led the team with 23 points at 60% in a crucial win over fellow Final 6 hopeful, the Whai. With games upcoming against a streaking Canterbury Rams and fellow Final 6 hopeful Hawke's Bay, the Giants will be hoping for more of the same from their prized off-season recruit. 


If you THINK the Rams have been getting better every outing this season THEN you need only look at the leadership captain Taylor Britt is bringing to the table as more proof in the pudding. The Rams took down the Tuatara in a cracking R11 game and it was Britt leading from the front in his battle with Corey Webster. The 27-year-old is in career best form right now and duly celebrated the Rams win with 25 points (at 66%) to go along with 6 assists. The 2024 champs are now the hottest team in the League with a 10-game winning streak in hand ahead of a massive showdown this Thursday night in Nelson against the G-men.


If you THINK the Nuggets aren’t yet back in the Finals 6 race THEN best you quieten down and take a seat in the back row. A 108-86 win against fellow top 6 contender Hawke’s Bay Hawks has catapulted the previously slumping Nuggets back into the thick of it. Even better, Ben Henshall and Kimani Lawrence both look to be back to their best coming into the stretch run. The Nuggets (7th) now face the Airs, Tuatara, Whai, Saints and Giants in the coming weeks as they look to claim a finals postion. 


If you THINK the Sharks are having a rotten season THEN spare a thought for the fans who, when on the verge of celebrating an upset win over the Hawks, had to witness a couple of poor turnovers and blunders in the final minutes that saw the Hawks overrun the hosts to win by the narrowest of margins, 100-99. Unfortunately, the Sharks only have themselves to blame for this loss, their 13th of the season, as they prepare to host the Taranaki Airs this round.


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