Giants blow lead in third quarter
It's not brain surgery, rocket science or quantum physics. The Fico Finance Nelson Giants have a very simple prescription ahead of them with four games left in the National Basketball League season.
An 86-79 road loss to the league-leading Bay Hawks in Napier was a setback but, for coach Liam Flynn and his team, there are four weeks to prove they deserve to be in the playoffs. If they can't front up, then they probably don't belong in the final four.
"If we're good enough, we will get there," Flynn said.
"We have four games left, all at home, all single games, no double-headers and we are meeting the teams we are in direct competition with for places in the playoffs.
"It's the perfect measure of where we stand and how we are playing."
Based on the first half of Saturday night's game in Taradale, the Giants should be sizing up the Miami Heat rather than the Bay Hawks. But a third-quarter capitulation was an abrupt return to earth.
Flynn said Nelson's first half was their best of the season, a team-first Giants side making the extra pass and fashioning great plays against the well-drilled Bay lineup. They took a six-point lead into the major break, one quarter later, the Giants trailed by eight.
"Our lead disappeared in the first two minutes of the third quarter, we simply weren't ready to play the game at their level at the start of the second half," Flynn said.
"Instead of sharing the ball, it stuck in hands, we had defensive lapses and the guys went away from our systems.
"Once you get behind against a quality team, you burn up a lot of energy trying to get back on terms, energy that we should have been using in the last two minutes to push through for a win."
While basketball is a game of ebb and flow as teams get on runs that last for a few possessions, the Giants were guilty of allowing the Bay's runs to continue for too long.
"You want the perfect game but that's not realistic," Flynn said. "So you aim for the next best thing, which is to shorten the lapses and manage your way through them as quickly and painlessly as possible.
"That's the area we need to improve on this week."
Forward Jamal Boykin was a strong and steady contributor for the Giants with 25 points and 11 rebounds but high-scoring team-mate Josh Pace was reined in to the tune of nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Pace is a dangerous player in transition but, with the Giants conceding 51 points after halftime, there was little opportunity to run the ball back, with the game becoming a halfcourt affair.
Josh Bloxham made a welcome - and timely - return to scoring form with 15 points making 5-of-8 from the floor while Flynn was also pleased with the energy and impact provided by subs Chris Duthie and Sam Dempster.
Duthie and Boykin led a mini-bounce back in the fourth quarter while Dempster provided his usual hustle from the small forward spot.
"We are training really well, I am very happy with how the guys are approaching their work," Flynn said. "We aren't that far off the mark.
"Obviously, we would like to have more wins on the board but we have the chance in the next four weeks to really build on the way we are practising and carry that onto the court for four good quarters."
Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona returns to Nelson on Thursday and will suit up for the Giants' last four regular season matches, including Saturday's Saxton Stadium game against the Waikato Pistons from 7pm.
IMS Payroll Bay Hawks 86 (K Johnson 18, E Bartlett 16, D Scott 13, J Kenny 12, P Winitana 11, M Alexander 8, D Jones 5, A Haku 3) Fico Finance Nelson Giants 79 (J Boykin 25, J Bloxham 15, P Jones 12, J Pace 9, C Duthie 5, S Dempster 5, B Ruscoe 4, F Delany 2, G Riley 2). 1Q: 20-20, HT: 35-41, 3Q: 61-53, FT: 86-79.
The Nelson Mail