NBL Showdown: Taranaki Mountain Airs too good for Nelson Giants, reclaim share of lead

GETTY IMAGES Mika Vukona made his presence felt but it wasn't enough for the Giants.

Taranaki Mountain Airs have reclaimed a share of the Sal’s NBL Showdown competition lead but it could only last 24 hours.

The Air’s have beaten the Nelson Giants 102-95 at Trusts Arena on Wednesday evening to join the Manawatū Jets and Otago Nuggets on 16 points at the top of the table.

With the Jets and Nuggets clashing in the second game on Thursday night, the Airs will need to produce another win over the Franklin Bulls in Thursday’s opening game to ensure they have a share of the lead heading into the weekend.

Marcel Jones scored 23 points for the Airs against the Giants and the excellent Shane Temara produced 20 points.

Derone Raukawa was hounded by the Giants defence but still produced 15 points and 11 assists while the ever-improving Denhym Brooke (10 points) and Mitch Dance (13 points) were also in good touch.

For the first time this season, Giants coach Mike Fitchett was able to start his Tall Blacks trio of Mika Vukona, Josh Bloxham and Mike Karena and despite the loss, the Giants will take confidence from a spirited and improved display.

The Giants were well served by Tom Ingham (24 points), Nic Trathen (20 points), Karena (18 points) and Dane Brooks (12 points).

Vukona was all action recording eight points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals.

The seven-point winning margin did not tell the story of a tight fourth quarter.

Vukona’s battle with Jones was an absorbing sideshow as the Giants closed to within one (84-83) with four minutes remaining.

The Giants missed a couple of golden opportunities to go ahead and Kenneth Tuffin made them pay from beyond the arc.

Again Vukona dragged the Giants to within one but just as an upset looked possible Jones stepped up with a long two to extend the Airs lead to 91-88 with 2:11 to play.

Brooke landed a corner three and when a Giants baseline inbounds went astray Jones and the hard-working Brooke were finally able to end the Giants resistance.

The Giants slip to 4-9 while the Airs improve their record to 8-5.


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