CANTERBURY Rams have started the season off on the right note with a thrilling four-point win against Otago Nuggets in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). The Nuggets were coming off an opening night loss, whilst the Rams were hoping to step up in front of their fans at Cowles Stadium. Both sides were missing some key personnel with with Rams yet to see imports Ryan Taylor and Sunday Dech as well as the talented Max Darling, whilst the Nuggets will gain Tahjere McCall, Todd Withers and Keith Williams.
CANTERBURY RAMS 21 | 13 | 23 | 22 (79)
OTAGO NUGGETS 16 | 17 | 20 | 22 (75)
Canterbury Rams held off several surges from Otago Nuggets to post a four-point win thanks to a 30-point performance from Joe Cook-Green. In a game where there was nevermore than a single-digit difference either way, the Nuggets actually got out to a strong start to lead by as much as eight points early in the first term, before the Rams finished the term strong to end up five points clear at the first break. The home team got it out to as much as nine points in the second term before the momentum swung back in the Nuggets’ favour, holding sway for the second half of the quarter. The Rams managed to maintain a lead at the main break, albeit by a solitary point in what was shaping up to be a thrilling finish.
Canterbury came out strong in the second half to lead by six midway through the third term, with the Nuggets briefly holding a lead late in the quarter. With 3:19 left on the clock, Joe Ahie nailed a three-pointer for the Nuggets to lead by a point, but once the Rams answered through Taylor Britt and Cook-Green, they were never headed. The Nuggets made a battle out of it in the second term, even drawing level at one stage, but were unable to regain the lead, and the Rams kept them at arms-length to record the 79-75 victory.
There was not much between the teams in terms of statistics, with the sides both shooting at 42 per cent from the field. The Nuggets were more prolific from two-point range (57 to 51 per cent), whilst the Rams nailed one more three-pointer (28 to 21 per cent efficiency). Remarkably both sides pulled down 41 rebounds, with the Nuggets marginally ahead in assists (16-14) and steals (8-7), as well as points in the paint (42-34). Overall though, the Rams ability to get the job done when it counted was important.
Cook-Green finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists, with Mike Karena strongly supporting with 19 points and eight rebounds. Britt had 12 points, six assists and four rebounds, whilst Hunter Adam pulled down seven boards to go with five points and two blocks. For the Nuggets, Sam Timmins poured on 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, whilst Nikau McCullough picked up 16 points, three assists and three rebounds.
Otago Nuggets will front up for their third game against reigning premiers Wellington Saints next Saturday, May 7, whilst Canterbury Rams face off against Auckland Tuatara on Sunday, May 8.