In a clash of two unbeaten teams, it was the Canterbury Rams who stayed that way, going three from three to start the Sal’s NBL Showdown with a 112 - 101 win over the Taranaki Airs at Trusts Arena tonight, in a game that was in the balance for most of its journey.
Both sides have looked impressive in the opening rounds of the competition and the game did not disappoint as a contest, delivering an entertaining and at times high-quality game of hoops so early in the revamped NBL, with Rams point guard Taylor Britt stamping his class on the contest again as he went within one assist of a rare triple-double.
The battle of the point guards did not take long to heat up either, with Britt ending the first quarter with 13 points and 5 of 5 from the line as he continued to drive to the rim, while Derone Raukawa was also on fire for the Airs with 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting.
Marcel Jones was having an influence for the Airs despite being in early foul trouble with three against his name inside the first quarter. Coach Courtney rolled the dice though and it paid off, with Jones finishing the half with seven points, five boards and three assists in 16 minutes.
Level at 56 at the main break, it was the Rams who dominated the third quarter to lead 81-73 with ten minutes to play, with the Airs their own worst enemies as they continued to foul, putting the Rams into the bonus with less than five minutes of the quarter played.
That was one of the talking points on the night, with the Airs committing 27 fouls to the 15 of the rams, putting the Rams on the charity stripe 26 times (they made 21), something that Doug Courtney will no doubt address in the post-game debrief.
The final quarter saw the Airs make a run at the Rams, with Marcel Jones big on the boards and Ken Tuffin stepping up on offence, the margin never got out of control. But just as the Airs thought they were in the contest with just over three minutes to play, it was Mac Stodart and Sam Smith shutting them down with massive back to back three’s that essentially ended the contest.
Britt was again amongst the best on show, with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, as he proved a constant menace driving to the hoop. He received great support from Sam Smith (23 points) Tom Webley (12 points) and Mason Whittaker (12 points), while Alex Talma had a busy night in the paint with an 11-point, 10-board double-double.
For the Airs, Raukawa couldn’t get going in the second half, finishing with 23 points, while Jones posted an impressive double-double of 19 points and 14 boards despite those early fouls. Tuffin ended with 14, but the Airs just didn’t go deep enough to stay with the Rams.
Both rosters will be happy with their form however this early in the competition, knowing that there is more improvement to come over the next four weeks ahead of the business end of the competition.
Final Score: Canterbury Rams 112 Taranaki Airs 101
Talking Points: The battle of the point guards did not disappoint, as Britt and Raukawa lead their sides brilliantly with Britt one assist away from a triple-double; Rams depth proves a difference as they stay unbeaten; heavy foul count goes against the Airs as discipline lets them down.
SKYCITY MVP Votes:
Taylor Britt (Rams – 10), Derone Raukawa (Airs – 7), Sam Smith (Rams – 7), Marcel Jones (Airs – 4), Kenneth Tuffin (Airs – 1), Ben Carlisle-Smith (Rams – 1).