Facing the Bay Hawks in Napier would not be everyone's choice of a confidence builder, but Chris Tupu cannot wait for tomorrow.
The Fico Finance Nelson Giants head coach is buoyed by the spirit he saw in his side last week, when the Giants came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Southland in extra time in the Bartercard national basketball league.
While the Nelson win was not flashy, at least the home team showed some spunk.
Facing the unbeaten Hawks on the road is going to test the depth of that spunk, though.
"It's exciting to be heading up there to see what we can bring to the game," Tupu said.
"We are under no illusions about the job in front of us but there are challenges in every game we play and we can't run away from them."
At least Nelson will travel north with extra reinforcements. Mike Harrison's team has been eliminated at the semifinal stage in the Cyprus league and he was due to arrive in New Zealand today. The Giants are also hopeful the New Zealand Breakers will release point guard Josh Bloxham for the trip to Taradale.
In their absence, though, Ben Wright, Sam Dempster, Gareth Dawson and Darryl Jones had their numbers called often by Tupu.
"Those boys didn't just get playing time, they had to actually perform for us against Southland," he said.
Having applauded the heart shown after the major break, Tupu wasn't sugar-coating the first half last Friday, when Nelson conceded 37 points in the first quarter and 59 in the half.
Defensively, the Giants appeared clueless.
He said a failure to adhere to anything resembling the game plan should have spelled defeat, if not for the spirited fightback.
"We met none of our targets in that first half," he said.
"But there was some determination and attention to detail in the second half that at least saw us put pressure on Southland.
"For the first two quarters, they didn't have anything to deal with at all ... we were handing the game to them."
Any repeat of that early effort will see the Giants treated roughly tomorrow.
Hawke's Bay are deep, versatile and confident.
Forwards Kareem Johnson, Galen Young, Ben Hill and Morgan Natanahira would not look lost at a sumo tournament, while Jarrod Kenny, Everard Barlett, Alonzo Burton and captain Paora Winitana make up a high-quality backcourt.
"We know the job ahead of us," Tupu said.
"They are competing at a high level and we are in the early stages of our team development.
"We gained some experience and some confidence in the win last Friday but we won't be able to get away with starting in such a poor way this weekend."
Harrison will be used in spot duty after travelling around the world and getting just one shooting session with the Giants before tomorrow night's game.
However, he has spent the off-season guarding a talented 2.13-metre centre at his own club training and has been a defensive stopper with AEK Larnaca.
Any help he can offer Nelson at that end of the court tomorrow will make him a welcome addition at Giants HQ.
- © Fairfax NZ News