Efficient defence could hold key for Nuggets

There is something to that old saying that the best defence is a good attack.

For the Otago Nuggets, especially, the best attack starts with an exceptional defence.

Coach Brent Matehaere has made no secret of the fact the Nuggets are focusing on the defensive side of the ball this year.

It was an area they were still not happy with after the win over the Auckland Tuatara last week — they conceded 94 points.

As much as stopping their opponents from scoring, it also allows the Nuggets to get to where they thrive, on offence.

In the half-court, they are competent, although not lethal.

In transition, though, they are deadly.

Stopping a team in transition is hard enough. When you have got Sam Timmins throwing elite outlet passes and players who are excellent at getting to the hoop on the run, that becomes even tougher.

That means the Nuggets are more likely to score, allowing them to get back and set their defence, rather than having to play transition defence of their own.

It is here that this team has looked its best this season.

The hot start against the Wellington Saints came from getting stops.

The comeback against the Hawke’s Bay Hawks was generated by Timmins and Todd Withers deleting every offensive threat.

That allowed Keith Williams to get out and run, pouring in 19 points in a devastating display of turning defence into offence.

Last week’s best runs against the Tuatara coincided with stops, too.

In contrast, the Nuggets’ worst offensive displays coincided with their most lack-lustre defensive efforts — consecutive losses to the Taranaki Airs and Nelson Giants.

But the starting point for all of that is getting a stop at the defensive end.

As Otago prepares to play the Canterbury Rams at the Edgar Centre tonight, Matehaere said that remained a big focus, particularly with the Rams’ dangerous guard line-up.

"We feel Keith Williams is one of the best open court finishers in the league," he said.

"That’s something we try to accentuate in games. Obviously, turnovers were huge against the Tuatara. I think we created three or four turnovers going into the half.

"That certainly gave us a real momentum shift going into halftime and obviously we held it through to towards the end of the game. Those are really important aspects of offence.

"On the other side of that, your offence is important in terms of your defence — taking great shots, the right time, people in the right position to rebound, shots at the rim and so on.

"They may be the basics of basketball, but [so is] making sure you put your will on the game so you get those shots and you get those defensive stops so you can dictate the way you want to play."

The Nuggets will be without Nikau McCullough for a second game, as the star guard is away with the New Zealand 3x3 team.

However, they covered well enough for him last week.

New import Tray Boyd was a large part of that, the guard having 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

He will play his first home game tonight — one of six home games remaining as the Nuggets look ahead to the run into the end of the season.

The Nuggets are third-equal with six wins from their 10 games, while the Rams are one win back in a tie for fifth.

National Basketball League

Edgar Centre, tonight, 7.30pm

Nuggets: Sam Timmins, Todd Withers, Keith Williams, Tray Boyd, Josh Aitcheson, Matthew Bardsley, Darcy Knox, Jack Andrew, Joe Ahie, Robbie Coman, Max Pearce, Dallas Hartmann.

Rams (from): Taylor Britt, Sunday Dech, Joe Cook-Green, Max Darling, Mike Karena, Sam Smith, Hunter Adam, Matthew Moyer, Walter Brown, Kaia Isaac, Aidan Tongue, Larry Austin jun. 

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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