Injuries were the talking point of Round 12 of the National Basketball League, with the top three sides all handicapped by losses in personnel.
The first absence came before a ball was tipped, with the Pistons releasing Carl Krauser due to concerns over an ankle injury, with his replacement being former Australian NBL veteran Rashad Tucker.
The third point guard the Pistons have had this season fouled out in Waikato's 85-79 loss to the Taranaki MountainAirs but at least the two-times defending champions should have a fully fit side for their upcoming critical away double-header against the Nelson Giants and Waikato Saints.
Their rivals may not have the same luxury.
When Nelson defeated Wellington 80-65 on Friday night, the Saints lost the league's top scorer Eric Devendorf to a worrying ankle injury while Nelson's imported forward Michael Harrison also went down with an ankle problem and didn't suit up the following day when the Giants were upset 74-63 by the Christchurch Cougars.
Both sides will be desperate to get their key performers back fit to face the Pistons especially Devendorf, who will be out for revenge against his former side when the Saints host Waikato on Saturday night.
With the top four sides losing at the weekend, the top of the league didn't change a lot but the Bay Hawks and Cougars improved their playoff standings while the Harbour Heat's slump shows no signs of halting after getting beaten 102-97 at home to the Hawks.
Classy import Josh Pace got into a scoring competition with opposing point guard Corey Webster and while Webster finished with 40 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, Pace had the last laugh, netting 14/15 from the field in his 38 point haul while adding six rebounds and six assists.
Two of the league's most under-rated players played big hands in victories in Round 12.
Bay Hawks swingman Chris Daniel was on fire from downtown, sinking 6/6 from beyond the arc among his 22 points, along with seven boards, four assists and two steals.
In Taranaki, forward Aaron Bailey-Nowell had 16 points, three boards, four assists and five steals in 36 minutes as the hosts upset the league leaders.
Any chance these two may feature in Nenad Vucinic's next Tall Blacks squad?
Shocker of the Week: It's a tie this week Darryl Hudson and Tyler Amaya share the spoils. Hudson was the week's biggest surprise, going 1/12 from the field and having three turnovers and just 10 points as the Manawatu Jets slumped to an embarrassing 89-59 loss to the Southland Sharks.
Amaya had 11 rebounds and four assists for the Nuggets against the Jets the next night but his side needed more than 11 points (3/13 FG, 1/7 3pt) and four turnovers in 31 minutes if they were to win their first game of the season which they didn't, as the Jets triumphed 89-68 with Hudson bouncing back with a 20/7/7.
Stop Shooting!: As well as getting their first win of the year, the Jets get two other awards this week, after Kaine Hokianga went a close-your-eyes awful 1/14 (including 1/6 from beyond the arc) against the Sharks.
Round 13 draw (likely winners in CAPS)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS v Manawatu Jets, Friday
Nelson Giants v WAIKATO PISTONS, Friday
BAY HAWKS v Otago Nuggets, Friday
SOUTHLAND SHARKS v Harbour Heat, Friday
Wellington Saints v WAIKATO PISTONS, Saturday
Otago Nuggets v HARBOUR HEAT, Saturday
Taranaki Mountainairs v WELLINGTON SAINTS, Sunday
- Waikato Times
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