The Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets are on the board for season 2022 and couldn't have asked for a more impressive showing to chalk up win number one, downing the Wellington Saints 83-61.
With a trio of international inclusions - Todd Withers, Keith Williams, Tahjere McCall - the Nuggets got down to work early, opening a 25-15 lead during an opening quarter highlighted by fumbles as a number of new faces on both teams tried to settle in.
The Saints, who suited up import Mike Smith and leading Kiwis Taane Samuel and Jordan Ngatai for their first game of the season, struggled to find their groove at both ends of the floor and found themselves playing catch-up throughout.
Despite some better signs from the visitors late in the second quarter, the Nuggets' defence stood up time and time again, while offensively they just had too many open looks for the Saints to cover.
Though Sam Timmins was held to just 6-points in the first half, he came alive and fed off his teammates in the second half to end with a game-high 26-points, while Williams dropped 15-points for the winners in his first outing as a pro.
The good signs for the Nuggets were many. They had 15 steals, shot at a 53 per-cent clip and enjoyed 28 points off the bench, but it was their power inside that proved a significant difference with 60 points coming from inside the paint.
And while McCall came off the bench in this game for the Nuggets, it won't be long before we see him slot into what looks like it could be one of the league's most impressive starting units.
The loss keeps the Saints at the bottom of the ladder, a rare sight, but Tom Vodanovich will soon join and they still have room for another import, so the horizon does have plenty of blue sky.
New point guard Mike Smith looked good across the first half before tiring out over the last 15 minutes, no doubt courtesy of a string of long flights mid-week.
But make no mistake, this game belonged to the Nuggets from start to finish and there was more than enough in the victory to suggest a big season is coming up for the 2020 Showdown champions.
SCORE: Nuggets 83, Saints 61
Nuggets: Sam Timmins 26 PTS | Keith Williams 15 PTS | Taj McCall 12PTS
Saints: Mike Smith 15 PTS | Taane Samuel 14 PTS | Jordan Ngatai 11 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Sam Timmins (Nuggets) - 10 votes
Keith Williams (Nuggets) - 8 votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 6 votes
Taane Samuel (Saints) - 3 votes
Tahjere McCall (Nuggets) - 2 votes
Jordan Ngatai (Saints) - 1 vote
Nuggets - May 14 vs Hawke's Bay Hawks
Saints - May 16 vs Auckland Tuatara
Round 2 Sal's NBL Schedule