The Wellington Saints have mustered up enough points in the second half to overcome a plucky Nelson Giants team, winning a scrappy Sal's NBL game 82-71. Both teams shot poorly, but in the end it was the performances of dual bigs Nick Kay and Rob Loe that got the Saints across the line.
A tight first quarter set the tone for a tough opening half, the 18-15 score at the end of the opening period signalling one of Wellington's lowest scoring quarters in quite some time. By midway through the second period the home team had pushed to a 7-point lead and the Saints were shooting at a lowly 37%.
Importantly for the out-of-sorts Saints, the last two minutes of the first half saw them go on a 7-0 run to tie the contest up at 34-34.
Rhys Vague (11pts) and Nick Kay (10pts) were the only players on the court to reach double-digits in the first half, while in an interesting stat the Saints went 0-10 from beyond the arc in a rare run of misses.
A 7-0 start to the third quarter by the Saints, including their first triple, upped the ante and put the Giants under extreme pressure as Coach Fitchett was forced to call a time-out inside 90-seconds of play.
The quick break and re-alignment worked as the home team came back onto the floor and went on their own 7-1 run to close the scores again, however as rotations started midday through the third the Saints started to show their depth as Sunday Dech in particular wrested control back the way of the visitors.
The 28-13 third period blew the game open, the Saints heading to the break ahead of the last with a commanding 62-47 lead.
With a quarter to play the Saints maintained a defensive edge forcing the Giants into a number of ball-handling errors, most of which proved costly. As hard as they tried at their own defensive end to slow the Saints, the Giants gave the ball back too easily on too many occasions.
A couple of late triples by the Giants dragged the margin back to 10pts with a little over two minutes to play, giving the vocal home crowd a reason to find some voice.
The Saints held firm for an 82-71 victory. In the end the only main concern to come out of the game was Jordan Ngatai, who subbed out late limping and will be monitored closely during the coming week.
Nelson Giants 71 lost to Wellington Saints 82
Giants - Dan Grida 17pts, Jordair Jett 15pts, Rhys Vague 11pts,
Saints - Rob Loe 21pts & 10rbs, Nick Kay 19pts & 10rbs, Reuben Te Rangi 15pts.
Stats That Matter - a defensive tussle, both teams struggled with their shot (Giants 40% / Saints 43%), while collectively both teams struggled from the arc going at 11/48.
TAB MVP Votes - Rob Loe (Saints) 9, Nick Kay (Saints) 9, Sunday Dech (Saints) 5, Dan Grida (Giants) 3, Rhys Vague (Giants) 3, Jordair Jett (Giants) 1.
Sunday June 2 - Hawke's Bay Hawks vs Taranaki Mountainairs @ 3pm
Sunday June 2 - Manawatu Jets vs Canterbury Rams @ 4pm
Sunday June 2 - Supercity Rangers vs Southern Huskies @ 5pm