Basketball: Nuggets closing on unwanted record

Harbour Heat defender Dillon Boucher tries to block the shot of Otago Nuggets captain Sam To...
Harbour Heat defender Dillon Boucher tries to block the shot of Otago Nuggets captain Sam To'omata during the National Basketball League game at the Edgar Centre on Saturday night. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Can they do it? Yes, they can.

The Otago Nuggets are just four losses away from a winless season.

Based on Saturday night's 106-84 loss to the Harbour Heat at the Edgar Centre, the embattled franchise looks a good bet to join the 2009 Taranaki Mountain Airs and the 1998 Northland Suns as the only National Basketball League teams to go the entire season without a win.

The Nuggets have strung together 14 losses in their comeback season, extending their losing streak to 23 matches.

They have just four matches left to avoid the goose egg and three of those games will be played away from the team's home court.

Their best opportunity to post a win is probably against the Manawatu Jets in Palmerston North on Thursday.

The Nuggets back up the next night with a tough encounter against the Wellington Saints in the capital. They then play the Christchurch Cougars in Christchurch on June 10 before returning to Dunedin for their final match of the season, against the Hawke's Bay Hawks.

A lot of ink has been spent dissecting the Nuggets' performances.

Allowances have been made for what is a green and undersized roster. Barbs have been directed at the two American imports for less than impressive form. And even the rookie coach, Alf Arlidge, has put his hand up and acknowledged he has made mistakes.

Put it all together and you have a recipe for a 20-point hiding most weeks.

The Nuggets, though, showed some fight on Saturday, despite the 22-point margin. Tyler Amaya, who took a nasty blow to the face early on and briefly left the court with blood gushing from his nose, played with greater enthusiasm and accuracy, scoring 23 points and adding 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

But he blotted his copybook battling with the referees and ended up with a technical foul to show for it.

Fellow American John Barber jun had his best night in the Otago singlet, scoring 20 points and claiming 10 rebounds, and captain Sam To'omata chipped in with 14 points.

But the undersized Nuggets were powerless to stop Heat forward BJ Anthony and centre Rick Rickert muscle their way into the paint. Anthony, in particular, was impressive with 25 points and nine rebounds. Rickert scored 18 points and grabbed 11 boards, and guards Kavossy Franklin (24) and Corey Webster (21) revelled in the fast-paced game, posting 45 points between them.

Nuggets bench player Luke Aston drilled two three-pointers from out wide to help his side close the gap.

With the Nuggets trailing by nine at the first break, Amaya found his range with a long three-pointer and Barber showed good athleticism to swat away a Franklin lay-up. But a full court press from the Heat troubled the home side and the visitors forced consecutive turnovers to stretch the lead to 16 points by halftime.

The Nuggets stuck at the task in the third quarter but struggled to restrict Franklin, who lifted his tally from 6 to 20 with some superb shooting.

NBL - The scores

> Harbour Heat 106

BJ Anthony 25, Kavossy Franklin 24, Corey Webster 21

> Otago Nuggets 84

Tyler Amaya 23, John Barber jun 20, Sam To'omata 14

> Quarter 30-21, halftime 45-61, third quarter 64-89


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