NZ NBL: Undefeated Wellington Saints face tough South Island trip
Marty Melville / Photosport
Tohi Smith-Milner and the Saints put their unbeaten game on the line this weekend with a tough away double program.
The Wellington Saints put their unbeaten 6-0 on the line this weekend with a formidable away brace. BRENDON EGAN reviews the main talking points ahead of the sixth round of the NBL.
The Saints Face Their Toughest Trial
The Saints have been the benchmark of the New Zealand NBL for the first five weeks, but face their most delicate mission this weekend. Wellington, who is 6-0, will travel south to face the scorching Southland Sharks in Invercargill on Friday night, followed by the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch 24 hours later. If the Saints can go 2-0 on their trip to the South Island, their title chances will only diminish further. When the Saints flip the switch, as they did in the second half against the Huskies on Friday, outscoring them 54-25 after holding a slim 53-51 halftime lead, they’re a force with which it is necessary to count.
Southern Showdown will be a treat
Saturday night’s Southern Showdown between the Otago Nuggets and the Southland Sharks in Dunedin was the makings of the round robin game. Southland enter week 6 with a 6-3 record, having won their last four games, while the Nuggets are 5-3 after going unbeaten on their road trip to Auckland last weekend. . Games between the Nuggets and Sharks always carry a lot of feeling and passion, and it certainly is another. It would be a surprise if the full sign did not display at the Edgar Center.
King of Cowles Stadium
US goalie Deshon Taylor scored a tear for the Canterbury Rams at their home at Cowles Stadium. Ever since exploding for 19 points in the fourth quarter against the Huskies in Week 3, Taylor has continued to enlighten Rams fans. He torched the Bulls for 33 points at Cowles the following week, and then on Sunday he helped help Canterbury secure a home win over the Hawks. Taylor scored a high 33 points on a 10/23 shot, while contributing with 10 rebounds and six assists in a fine overall performance. If Canterbury is to upset the Saints on Saturday, they’ll need Taylor to shine again.
Falcons must regain their spark
Preseason title favorites, the Hawks Bay Hawks, haven’t been at their best in the past fifteen weeks. With an exhausted squad, they suffered their first loss of the season to the Huskies a fortnight ago, then lost 0-2 on the road to the Giants and Rams last weekend. They are still in a good position at 4-3, but will be desperate to find their way back to victory this weekend. The Hawks are in a great place to bounce back against the Bulls on Friday, minus the exceptional Selby. On Sunday, they returned home to Pettigew Green Arena against the Huskies, who were mixed at 4-4 to start the season.
Hard blow for the Bulls
The Franklin Bulls’ top four prospects were shattered by star US goaltender Josh Selby forced to return home. Selby, who played 38 NBA games with the Memphis Grizzlies, suffered a hamstring injury against the Otago Nuggets last Thursday and was ruled out for the next four to five weeks. Due to the injury and Selby’s desire to make sure he could make a full recovery, the Bulls decided to allow him to return to the United States to be with his family. Selby’s injury is a hammer blow to the team with an average of 24.4 points per game (second in the NBL). He is also fifth in the Thing MVP ranking.
AT A GLANCE:
Thursday 7:30 p.m .: Giants v Jets at Trafalgar Center, Nelson
Friday 7:30 p.m .: Mountain Airs v Huskies at TSB Stadium, New Plymouth
Friday 7:30 p.m .: Sharks v Saints at Southland Stadium, Invercargill
Friday 7:30 p.m .: Bulls v Hawks at Franklin Pool & Leisure Arena
Saturday 7:30 p.m .: Nuggets v Sharks at Edgar Center, Dunedin
Saturday 7:30 p.m .: Rams v Saints at Cowles Stadium, Chch
Sunday 3 p.m .: Hawks v Huskies at Pettigrew Green Arena, Napier
Sunday 5 p.m .: Jets v Bulls at Fly Palmy Arena, Palmerston North
Ranking after the fifth week: Saints 6-0, Sharks 6-3, Nuggets 5-3, Rams 4-3, Hawks 4-3, Huskies 4-4, Giants 4-5, Bulls 3-5, Jets 1-6 Mountain Airs 1-6.
Thing MVP leaders:
Sam Timmins (Nuggets) 55
Hale Hunter (Giants) 54
Isaiah Moss (nuggets) 53
Dion Prewster (saints) 48
Josh Selby (bulls) 43