Pirates make meal of Sharks
Too big, too deep and too talented.
The Auckland Pirates gave compelling evidence why they are favourites to take out this year's National Basketball League title with a convincing 106-87 win over the Southland Sharks at the velodrome last night.
Auckland have been one of the teams to beat this season. And with New Zealand Breakers' stars Alex Pledger and Dillon Boucher rejoining the side after last week's Australian NBL title win, last night was always going to be a tough proposition for the Sharks.
Southland made a promising start and led 25-24 after the first quarter, but the Pirates' class shone through in the second.
With Sharks' big man Craig Bradshaw not seeing any court-time in the second quarter because of foul trouble and Southland fielding a thin bench with back-up guard Shaun Tilby out with a back injury, Auckland began to assert their authority.
Auckland raced clear of Southland in the second half, feasting off sloppy turnovers to score several easy fast-break baskets.
Auckland's American imports Isma'il Muhammad and Ron Dorsey put on a highlight show for the Sharks' fans, throwing down several dazzling slam dunks during the second half.
The Pirates' lead ballooned to 20 points early in the final quarter with the result never being in doubt.
Five Auckland players scored double figures, with Muhammad scoring a game-high 26 points on 12 of 16 shots, while also pulling in eight rebounds. Tall Blacks point guard Lindsay Tait shone with 21 points and seven assists, while last year's New Zealand NBL most valuable player, Pledger, was a beast inside, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds in just 14 minutes on court. Boucher scored only a point, but dished out eight assists to go along with his five rebounds.
Auckland won the rebounding battle 41-28 and outscored the Sharks 66-48 in the paint.
Sharks coach Richard Dickel acknowledged it was a difficult night for his side, but said they were their own worst enemy, coughing up 19 turnovers.
"We didn't help ourselves. Offensively, I thought we executed a lot better than we have all season. Defensively, we let ourselves down and also with turnovers," Dickel said.
"(The Pirates) are at a different level. When you've got a player like (Alex) Pledger out there, it makes all the difference."
American big man Larry Abney continued his strong season for the Sharks, posting 25 points and six rebounds, while compatriot Kevin Braswell fought hard with 22 points and six assists.
Auckland Pirates 106 (Isma'il Muhammad 26, Lindsay Tait 21, Brook Ruscoe 14, Alex Pledger 14, Ron Dorsey 10)
Southland Sharks 87 (Larry Abney 25, Kevin Braswell 22, Dion Prewster 12, Dan Peck 12, Craig Bradshaw 10)
Quarter scores: (Sharks first) 25-24, 45-55, 61-80, 87-106.