Nuggets treating final like any game

It will be a match unlike any other the Otago Nuggets have played.

But that is not how they are treating it.

The team is trying to keep things as normal as possible heading into the first final in the franchise’s history.

It plays the Manawatu Jets at 7.30pm in Auckland for the National Basketball League title.

That comes after a 97-79 win over the Canterbury Rams in Thursday’s semifinal.

A win would be a remarkable result for a side that had not played since 2014 and three months ago was not even going to be playing this year.

The Nuggets take a good record into the game.

They topped the table and have beaten the Jets all four times they have met this season.

Finals can be different, although the goal was to make sure this one was not.

"Basically, game preparation has to be the same and nothing changes," Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere said.

"Obviously [Thursday], there was a certain edge about the fellows in the changing room.

"It’s just about embracing that edge and just playing with freedom.

"I think we really did that to start the game and we took the game away from Canterbury early.

"You’ve just got to keep on doing those same things."

The Nuggets have excelled with their range of threats and exceptional ball movement.

On Tuesday it was big man Jordan Hunt — who had 33 points on 14 of 22 shooting and 10 rebounds — who did the most damage.

But it also has two of the league’s top players in Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny, who are equally capable of taking over a game.

The Jets, who beat the Taranaki Mountainairs 105-95 in their semifinal, have a similar variety of quality players.

Forward Tom Vodanovich was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and brings all-round class.

Taane Samuel and Hyrum Harris are both potent front court threats too, while Jayden Bezzant adds quality to the back court.

Matehaere was aware of that and he was not reading anything into past results.

"The score starts at 0-0 at tip-off.

"We’ve just got to go out and make sure we impose our style of play on the game and try to prevent the Jets from doing their style of play.

"That’s the key.

"They’re a good side, they’ve got a lot of weapons we need to be concerned about, but so do we.

"It’s going to be a great game."


NBL Showdown Final

Nuggets v Manawatu Jets
Auckland, tonight, 7.30pm
Otago Nuggets: Jordan Ngatai, Jarrod Kenny, Jordan Hunt, Kane Keil, Josh Aitcheson, Benoit Hayman, Darcy Knox, Richie Rodger, Sam Aruwa, Akiva McBirney-Griffin, Jack Andrew, Matt Bardsley.
Manawatu Jets: Tom Vodanovich, Hyrum Harris, Jayden Bezzant, Taane Samuel, Nelson Kirksey, Nick Fee, Haize Walker, Ashton McQueen, Matangirei Hipango, Tia-Toa Temata-Frost, Kalib Marsich-Mullins, Josiah Laracy.


Nuggets v Jets
Played: 52. Won: 25 Lost: 27
High score: 130 (Nuggets, 2020)
Low score: 63 (Nuggets, 2004)
Nuggets biggest win: 36 (2020)
Nuggets biggest loss: 24 (2012)
Highest individual score: 46 Leonard King (Nuggets, 1995) ×2

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