Poor first half sinks Nuggets

Otago Nuggets guard Nikau McCullough looks to drive as Nelson Giants guard Alex McNaught guards...
Otago Nuggets guard Nikau McCullough looks to drive as Nelson Giants guard Alex McNaught guards during last night’s National Basketball League season opener in Nelson. PHOTO: SHUTTERSPORT
There were obvious danger signs as Trey Mourning let his first shot fly.

The Nelson Giants import coolly swished a three-pointer from the top of the arc, kick-starting a performance that dismantled the Otago Nuggets last night.

Mourning poured in 25 first-half points on nine-of-12 shooting, including four three-pointers.

He finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds, condemning an import-less Nuggets team to a 88-69 opening night loss in the National Basketball League.

Little went right for the Nuggets in the first half, and the Otago side’s lack of firepower — which will arrive with the import trio next week — was evident.

They trailed 33-16 at the first break and 51-30 at halftime, hampered by a dysfunctional offence and the inability to slow Mourning — the son of NBA great Alonzo Mourning.

That bleeding stopped in the third quarter, before Sam Timmins came to life in the fourth.

The star centre struggled to finish inside through the first three quarters, but he found his touch late to pull the Nuggets to within eight down the stretch.

He finished with 18 points, while new point guard Nikau McCullough top-scored with 21.

But it was the lacklustre first half that undid the Nuggets.

Turnovers plagued the performance — including 14 in the first half — and the ball movement that departed point guard Richie Rodger was key in facilitating last year was missing.

At the other end the Nuggets defence lacked early.

They gave Mourning too much space on the perimeter — particularly after he showed he could hit early.

Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere acknowledged Mourning had been outstanding, although felt the team did a better job containing him in the second half.

He added the team did well to come back, although admitted its rough start let it down.

"I thought the Giants came out and really played some great offence early on," he said.

"It wasn’t until the second half that we sat down and got some stops that we started to feel comfortable in the game.

"Once we got some stops our offence started taking care of itself. I think it was tough start, there’s a few pieces we want to work on before we play the Rams."

He felt the team had generated enough good shots, but had been unable to connect on them.

"We were getting good looks, we just weren’t knocking them down. I think that comes from a bit of first-game jitters. It’s something we’ve been doing quite well, we shot the ball well in the pre-season games.

"Obviously on the big stage tonight, we just couldn’t get it done. I think the key thing is hats off to Nelson. They got off to a great start and we look forward to welcoming them to our place."

The Nuggets play the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch at 5.30pm tomorrow.


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