Tough finish to season lies ahead

A tough run-in awaits the Otago Nuggets.

The side is well positioned 10 matches into its National Basketball League campaign.

A six-win, four-loss record leaves it tied with tonight’s opponent, the Hawke’s Bay Hawks, in third, although the Hawks have a game in hand.

However, the draw gets a lot tougher for its final eight games.

The quality of the league should improve too, as players begin filtering back from the Australian NBL.

After tonight’s road match against the Hawks, the Nuggets will face the Nelson Giants in Nelson.

They then have three home matches in a row, against the Franklin Bulls, Auckland Huskies and Hawks.

A daunting Friday-Monday road trip to face the Southland Sharks and Wellington Saints follows, before they finish with a home match against the Rams.

It is not to say the Nuggets are not capable of getting wins among that.

It is just a far tougher run than the first 10 games.

The Hawks boast a talent-laden roster and now have Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Hunt back, making them every bit as intimidating as they seemed when they were instilled as the pre-season favourites.

The Bulls and Huskies games are both ones to target, although both will likely be stronger than when the Nuggets last played them too.

Franklin has the potential to get back injured forward Matt Freeman, while last year’s league most valuable player Tom Vodanovich is back from the Sydney Kings for Auckland.

The Sharks and Saints have both proven classy and, while beatable, both would be classed as very good wins if the Nuggets did topple them.

Canterbury was a class below the Nuggets on Thursday night.

However, it has injured duo Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, as well as Australian NBL duo Taylor Britt and Max Darling, to return.

If they can do enough before they get back, that group is very capable of turning the Rams into a title-contending team.

That leaves the Giants in Nelson, perhaps one game for which the Nuggets will have a little extra motivation after losing to the side in overtime at home.

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