Mountain Airs cling to slim NBL playoffs hopes

TONY BIRD
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2013
Link Abrams
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
MOST CONSISTENT: Veteran Taranaki Mountain Airs forward Link Abrams easily gets to the basket during the national league game against the Manawatu Jets.

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They may be desperate, but the Taranaki Mountain Airs have not given up hope of making the National Basketball League playoffs.

Good Home Mountain Airs coach David Bublitz confidently said a win tonight against the Waikato Pistons at New Plymouth's TSB Stadium would help kick into life his side's playoff chances.

"It's definitely not out of the question [a playoff spot]," said the head coach on the eve of tonight's game.

"We've got eight games left and I think we need to win six of those to get a spot."

The Airs have been on the receiving end of a tough early season draw and this week's double header - the Airs play the Nelson Giants in Nelson tomorrow night - is their fourth in five weeks.

"It's pretty exhausting to be honest," Bublitz said. "This one is the last one and then we're on once a week, which will be nice."

After a two-game winning streak early this month the Mountain Airs have lost three in a row by an average margin of nearly 20 points a game.

Last weekend's losses on the road against Southland and Otago were particularly disappointing, Bublitz said.

He blamed a lack of defensive concentration, resulting in the Airs giving up too many easy points. "It seems to be a five-minute lapse in concentration somewhere during the game, which we leak 10 or so points and then we're chasing.

"We've just got to make sure we don't put ourselves in that situation any more."

Veteran forward Link Abrams has been the one consistent player on the Airs' roster this season. The 39-year-old is averaging nearly 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Mountain Airs will get few better opportunities to get back on winning track than tonight.

The Waikato Pistons are 0-6 so far this season and the young side are struggling to foot it with other teams in the league.

The Pistons are the only team without a win, and they need to increase their scoring - they are currently last in the league at 78 points per game.

A desire to field a number of young local players and a limited budget meant the Pistons were unlikely to be a force this season, and the early swap of imports also set back their development.

They're shooting a lowly 41.6 per cent from the field, 27.5 per cent from beyond the arc and also hurting their chances with an anaemic and inexcusable 59.8 per cent from the free-throw line.

But they do have it over Taranaki - having beaten the Mountain Airs in eight of their past 10 encounters.

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AT A GLANCE

MOUNTAIN AIRS v WAIKATO PISTONS 7pm, today TSB Stadium New Plymouth

- Taranaki Daily News

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