NBL Showdown: Auckland Huskies prove too tough for Otago Nuggets

Tall Blacks rep Taine Murray sealed the match with a baseline drive and dunk.


Tall Blacks rep Taine Murray sealed the match with a baseline drive and dunk.

The Auckland Huskies have beaten the Otago Nuggets 81-69 for their second win of the Sal’s NBL Showdown.

Swingman Taine Murray led the way for the Huskies with 19 points (7/13FG), while Tohi Smith-Milner had a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa had six turnovers but more than made up for those errors with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and six steals. Leon Henry was also prominent with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

It was an off-night for the Nuggets but they were well served by Jordan Ngatai (19 points), Jordan Hunt (12 points) and Josh Aitcheson (10 points and 10 rebounds).

* NBL Showdown: Franklin Bulls on the charge with four straight wins
* NBL Showdown: Otago Nuggets beat Canterbury Rams in southern derby
* Taranaki Mountain Airs take the shine off Otago Nuggets’ hot NBL start
* NBL Showdown: Auckland Huskies score first win of the season as they down Taranaki Mountain Airs

A lively opening quarter ended with the Huskies 23-18 ahead, Smith-Milner leading the way with seven points.

Nate Wilson provided one of the highlights of the tournament to date in the opening 90 seconds of the second period. The Huskies forward seized on a loose possession and threw the ball against the offensive glass before throwing down a two-handed dunk.

Young Nuggets centre Akiva McBirney-Griffin wasn’t to be outdone, throwing down a two-hander of his own to tie the scores (29-29). His duel with Wilson continued to entertain the good sized crowd that witnessed the Huskies take a 44-38 lead into the halftime break.

A Murray three took the Huskies out to a 13 points advantage early in the second half but the Nuggets soon closed to within six, at 51-45.

Another Huskies mini-run re-established the 13 points buffer and it was still 10 at the three-quarter mark.

The Auckland club opened up the biggest lead of the game (67-51) on the back of a brace of threes from Smith-Milner. Josh Aitcheson replied from deep and Ngatai converted an And-1 play as the Nuggets refused to go away.

When Jordan Hunt reduced the Otago deficit to 72-65 with four minutes to play Huskies fans were getting twitchy, with coach Kevin Braswell feeling the same way as he called a timeout.

A Henry three helped ease Huskies nerves and a Murray baseline drive and dunk sealed the deal.

The Huskies move to 2-4 with the Nuggets slipping to 3-3 for the season.

Final score:

Auckland Huskies 81 (T Murray 19, Smith-Milner 17/10r, I Mauriohooho-Le’afa 12/6st, L Henry 11/14), Otago Nuggets 69 (J Ngatai 19, J Hunt 12, J Aitcheson 10/10r, J Kenny 7)

Sky City MVP votes: Murray 7, Smith-Milner 7, Ngatai 7, Henry 5, Aitcheson 4.

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