Sam Thompson and Trey Mourning led the Mike Pero Nelson Giants to a guaranteed Top 2 spot on the Sal's NBL ladder with a win over a valiant, yet ultimately too undermanned, Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams.
In front of 4,500 people at Christchurch Arena the Rams had to meet the top team in the league without 3 of their 4 starters. Taylor Britt (Tall Blacks), Max Darling (Knee), Sam Smith (illness), and Sunday Dech (personal) were all missing for Judd Flavell's team, allowing extended opportunities for the likes of the impressive Walter Brown.
The Rams had a hot start, barely missing in the first 5 minutes, while the Giants were off with their first 5 shots, until Sam Thompson poured in the first 10 straight points for the traveling team. Thompson had 15 at quarter time, capitalising on the constant mismatches that the Rams availability problems created.
The Giants led by 3 at Half Time, and it seemed a matter of when not if they'd pull away and ultimately win, but to the Rams credit they kept themselves well in the contest until almost the very end.
Larry Austin Jr put the Rams on his back in the second half and continuously wowed the home crowd with lightening quick drives and finishes through heavy contact at the rim.
Ominously for the Rams, the Giants' MVP front-runner, Jarrod West, and their sharp-shooting captain, Sam Dempster, had been quiet in the first 3 quarters, but they exploded in the final term to seal the win for the Giants. West dropping 8 straight points to lock in a Top 2 spot for Nelson, and leave the Rams needing results to go their way to have any chance of being in Auckland at the Final 6 in August.
SCORE: Rams 81, Giants 74
Rams: Austin Jr 21pts 11reb 7ast | Brown 19reb 6ast
Giants: Thompson 27pts 8reb 5ast | Mourning III 22pts 12reb
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Rams - July 30 vs. Southland Sharks
Giants - Aug 2 @ Wellington Saints
Round 13 Sal's NBL Schedule