Airs provide benchmark for Nuggets

Brent Matehaere coaching the Nuggets at the More FM Arena on Tuesday.. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Brent Matehaere coaching the Nuggets at the More FM Arena. Photo: Gregor Richardson/file
Brent Matehaere and the Nuggets are smiling again but they can hardly afford to put their feet up.

The Nuggets have rebounded nicely from their five-game losing skid with back-to-back victories, including a convincing 108-86 win over the Hawkes Bay Hawks on Saturday.

That has them back to seventh in the National Basketball League with a 6-8 record and six games to play, starting tonight with a home clash against the Taranaki Airs, who beat the Nuggets 105-95 a couple of weeks ago.

"We’ve been making progress in terms of locking into what we’re trying to do as a group and our systems," Matehaere said yesterday.

"I think we made positive strides against the Airs, and we’ve obviously since had success in a couple of games.

"I think the Airs provide that benchmark. Now we get to see whether we’ve made significant improvements and can actually get over the top and beat them."

Taranaki are fourth in the NBL with a 9-4 record and have a nice lineup with few weaknesses.

Australian big man Sam Froling is second in the league in rebounding (11.8 per game) and third in scoring (22.7 points on 61% shooting), veteran guard Mitch McCarron leads the league in assists with 7.5, and well-travelled American power forward Elijah Minnie has the ability to get hot.

Throw in the Cameron brothers, Tobias and Flynn, the latter hitting three-pointers at a 42% clip, and the likes of Carlin Davison and Derone Raukawa, and there are threats all over the floor.

It is not like the Nuggets are firing blanks, though.

They just need to throw a bit more at the Airs than they did in the away game.

"They’re an aggressive rebounding team, and we didn’t win the rebound battle, so I think that’s a focus," Matehaere said.

"They score by playing tough defence, and we need to take care of the basketball as well, so we have certainly learned some lessons and hopefully we will implement them."

There is little room for error for the Nuggets as the season enters the final stretch.

That has effectively been the case for two weeks, though, and Matehaere thinks they are ready for the fight with the playoffs looming.

"We’re well aware of the situation that presents itself.

"But if you focus on the basics and focus on what you can control, that’s the critical part of any sport."

"There’s an energy among the group. There’s something significant ahead that is within reach, and it’s about making sure we lock into those opportunities and make the most of them."

Nuggets guard Dontae Russo-Nance is listed as questionable for tonight’s game.

He rolled an ankle at training on Monday and will be assessed further today.


Edgar Centre, 7.30pm

Otago Nuggets: Jack Andrew, Kimani Lawrence, Ben Henshall, Dontae Russo-Nance, Darcy Knox, Zaccheus Darko-Kelly, Robbie Coman, Matthew Bardsley, Josh Aitcheson, Caleb Smiler, Matt Pyper, Michael Ruske.

Taranaki Airs: Carlin Davison, Sam Froling, Flynn Cameron, Elijah Minnie, Mitch McCarron, Tobias Cameron, Derone Raukawa, Quintin Bailey, Nico Hill.