Airs show too much intensity for Nuggets

Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Perhaps it was the wake-up call the Otago Nuggets needed.

The team’s five-match winning streak was snapped in spectacular fashion last night.

The Taranaki Airs ran away 96-83 victors in New Plymouth, the Nuggets falling on the second night of their road trip. Perhaps that was behind the lack of energy.

However, since a dominant first-half run against the Manawatu Jets last weekend, this team has looked in cruise mode.

The Airs played well. But ultimately they out-worked, out-hustled and brought far more intensity than the Nuggets.

"We can’t use that as an excuse, we’ve just got to be better," Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere said of the road trip.

"I thought we got taken out of our game by them being really good offensively.

"They certainly got downhill and got to the rim a lot of times late in the game. That’s just not good enough.

"We’re meant to pride ourselves on defence and lock people up, and make sure we’re communicating. That didn’t happen."

The game remained in the balance heading into the final quarter, at which point Javonte Douglas took over for the Airs. The import forward had been struggling, before exploding for 19 fourth-quarter points, helping extend the score from 78-77 to a double-digit lead.

It was the decisive period, the Airs going off for 30 points in that final quarter as the Nuggets defence faltered.

Turnovers plagued the Nuggets and the inability to generate quality looks hindered them.

Tahjere McCall was virtually anonymous throughout the second half, while Todd Withers — despite bringing energy — struggled to connect on his shots.

Only Keith Williams provided a scoring threat. The swingman was a bright spot, finishing with 28 points, at times single-handedly carrying the load.

On the other hand, the Airs’ Anthony Hilliard showed far more quality in his 29-point haul, while young forward Carlin Davison had 16 points.

Matehaere admitted the Nuggets had not shot well — they hit just six of 29 from the three-point line — and that had prevented them taking advantage of the attention Sam Timmins was getting down low.

Ultimately it was a case of learning from the loss, otherwise the team would struggle.

In other games, the Hawke’s Bay Hawks beat the Nelson Giants 82-73, the Auckland Tuatara won 88-76 over the Franklin Bulls and the Wellington Saints edged the Manawatu Jets 97-88.

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