What We Learned: Round 3

Photo credit: GameFace NZ

Don’t Poke The Bear

You know that guy Corey Webster? Have you read his career stats? Have you seen him shoot the ball? If you answered yes, yes and yes … you will appreciate that poking this bear usually ends up with the antagonist coming off second best. The Rams were the recipients of another classic C-Web show during the second quarter of last Sunday’s game in Christchurch. The 35-year-old thrives off the banter as well, and he takes teammates along the for the ride with him. Together with Rob Loe, Tom Vodanovich, Reuben Te Rangi and co, the Tuatara dropped 47 points in one quarter - game over. And yes, it was Webster leading the way in a quarter that saw his team go on a 17/19 shooting streak.

Winning Time Is Golden Time For Nuggets

You have to admire the Nuggets. Three weeks in, three wins on the board. No fuss, just a workmanlike attitude and the results to show for it. Their clash against the Saints was a beauty. With 3-minutes to play the Saints led 95-94 but missed their next six shots. A Tohi Smith-Milner triple at the death flattered the Saints. The final minutes of the contest was all about the Nuggets as they got to the Chemist Warehouse stripe six times, landed two big triples, and delivered a dunk just for good measure.

Jets Hit The Ejection Button On Defence

At 1-4 the season is on the line for the Jets and a win in Nelson on Wednesday night is a must. If the Jets sink to 1-5, the reality is they will need to win about 10 of their remaining 14 games to make the playoffs, which is a very big ask. Two narrow losses at home (Airs, Hawks) haven’t helped their cause. The loss of Tyrell Harrison couldn’t have come at a worse time, and the Jets paid the penalty inside during round 3 where the Hawks and Bulls feasted. The Hawks dropped 58 points inside the paint in a 3-point win, while the Bulls scored a whopping 62 points inside the paint in their win against the undersized Jets. It’s alarming just how much the Jets are giving up inside, and a trend only they can stop.   

Saints Three-Ball Appetite Grows

The Saints love of the three-ball has been talked about quite a bit over the opening three weeks of season 2024, but their dependency was on full display in a 105-98 loss to the Nuggets. The Saints got off to a blistering start, dropping 65 points in the first half thanks largely to an impressive 14/22 shooting from beyond the arc. But the second half yielded just 33 points for the Wellingtonians as their outside clip dropped to just 5/19. Overall, from their 75 shots, 43 came from outside. That trend largely continued in a commanding win against the Sharks where 16/34 from long range landed, the 34 attempts coming from a game total of 68 FG attempts, again a 50% overall shooting clip from downtown. Next up is the Airs, who will surely push their defence up the floor in a bid to see if the Saints have a plan B.  

The Rollercoaster Effect

There is no denying that being the new kids on the block in a tight and tough competition like the Sal’s NBL is akin to taking a whirl on a rollercoaster. The Whai enjoyed a memorable start to the season with a win over the Hawks – happy days. But since then, the cracks have emerged against two very good teams in the Tuatara and Airs. Saturday’s trip to New Plymouth didn’t end well as the Whai were simply out-played and out-muscled by a bigger, quicker team. With the Sharks coming to town where does the ride go from here? Unprecedented highs or lows will come depending on the result. 

Talented Prospect Emerges

Nuggets young gun Ben Henshall is 19 years old. Let thank sink in for a minute. The Australian guard has rocketed to a season-start that has him sitting with averages of 26 points (at 54%), including 3.7 treys per game at 44%, along with 6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2 steals after three games. Henshall’s composure down the stretch against the Saints last Saturday night was that of an experienced campaigner well beyond his teenage years. Make no mistake, the Perth Wildcats will be watching on right now and will be grinning like a cat, only of the Cheshire variety. 

Sharks Lack Bite

A glaring issue for the Sharks emerged in their 75-100 loss to the Saints on Monday night. We know Alonzo Burton is missing, Brayden Inger is yet to arrive and an import PG is on the way, but we have to push that over to one side until they arrive. LaGerald Vick (32pts on 12/21 shooting) gets a pass mark, but from there the lack of help on the scoreboard was glaring. Cal McRae (8pts on 2/3 shooting) and Marcale Lotts (9pts on 3/10 shooting) were soundly beaten and need to do better – let’s see if they step it up this week against the Tuatara and Whai. With no other player in double-digits against the Saints it was a game that revealed the lack of scoring depth in orange this season.

Bulls Loaded With Options

Be warned, the Stockyard is brimming with fans, genuine excitement, and great game atmosphere. The Bulls look like they have a team capable of delivering this season. The scoring depth of Seb Gleim’s squad was on full display against the Jets in R3 with four starters ending with double-digit scoring and the team scoring at an impressive 55% shooting clip. With Dom Kelman-Poto, Jordan Hunt and Josh Scott to be added, the Bulls are only going to get better. Warning shots fired.  

Sleeping Giants No More

The Nelson Giants snapped back to life in R3 with a thrilling win over the Tuatara. How did they do it? The mercurial leader Sam Dempster was back and immediately lifted those around him, while a new import (Kobe Langley) was in uniform and helped beef up the back court. Plus, the ‘Double Dans’ went up yet another notch (Fotu and Grida) and continue to build a great rapport. With an import centre set to arrive this week, the Giants all of a sudden become a must watch team and, pound for pound, look a better, younger and more dynamic outfit than they did in 2022 when they finished the regular season in second place.

String Of Imports About To Arrive

A number of teams continued to play without a full quota of imports in R3, but all of that will change from as early as this week. The Giants and Rams are about to beef up, while the Sharks look set for a Josh Turner replacement in R5. The Bulls will actually drop an import (likely to be KC Nwafor) to fit in Josh Scott, while the news out of the Jets is they are searching madly for an import PG, but yet to land one. There was no better example of ‘missing talent’ last week than in Christchurch where the Rams succumbed top a lack of height against the Tuatara. That will be remedied this week against the Hawks when Lachie Olbrich (208cm) and KJ Buffen (201cm) suit-up for the ’23 champs.


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