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NBL Finals: Pistons v Saints

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June 28, 2010
Saints Erron Maxey and Pistons Thomas Abercrombie (Photosport)

Saints Erron Maxey and Pistons Thomas Abercrombie (Photosport)

Waikato Pistons will look to win their fifth NBL Championship when they host the first final of a best of three series against the Exodus Saints who are a familiar opponent when it comes to finals having met each other four times since 2001.

History has been in favour for Waikato who won the 2001 and 2008 championships against the Saints and has only lost to them once in a finals series (2003).

One former Waikato player who was a major part in all their championships is Tall Black legend Pero Cameron who ironically will be on the opposite team as Head Coach of the Saints in his debut season. Cameron played over 150 games for the Waikato franchise beginning his career their back in 1992 as a young 17 year old.

2009 coach of the year Dean Vickerman is in his second year with the Pistons, beginning his coaching in the NBL back in 2002 for the Saints. Vickerman has amassed a 31-7 record with the Pistons in two seasons, including the 2009 championship.

2010 could also be the year that the Pistons win a three peat, which they had an opportunity to do back in 2003 only to fall short in a 97-88 overtime loss to none other than the Saints. The only player that is left from that Waikato team in this year’s Pistons side is Puke Lendon who will have to play a big part in this year’s finals with the injuries of Mike Homik who will not be playing and Tony Ronaldson who has a knee injury that may keep him out.

Lendon was the named the Most Valuable Player in the 2008 finals series against the Saints and had a season high 14 points this year against them in Round13.

If Ronaldson does not play it will be a severe blow to the Pistons who have relied on his leadership and ability to spread the floor with his outside shooting. The former Australian Boomer has averaged 14 points in the two games against the Saints and has shot the ball at 67% from the outside in those games.

2008 was exactly the same as this year, Saints winning the regular season and Pistons placed second.

In that finals series the Pistons won Game One in Te Awamutu 95-78 and then Game Two 84-79 at TSB Arena which is only one of three losses the Saints have had there since then.

When it comes to form the Saints have been on a roll of late winning 12 of their last 13 games, including two against the Pistons. The last time the two teams met was only a couple of weeks ago when they played in the final round of the regular season to decide who would win the regular season.

Saints won in an unlikely 78-74 game in which they were down as many as 15. Pistons were without their big man Alex Pledger and their import Rashaad Tucker who suffered an injury in the first half.

Hayden Allen top scored for the Pistons in that game with 15 and was also the top scorer in the Pistons 74-62 semi final win over the Fico Finance Nelson Giants with 28 points.

Allen and the Pistons will look to put the defensive clamps on Lindsay Tait who had a game high 22 in the win over them and has played some of his best basketball against Waikato averaging 20 points and 10 assists in the two wins.

Saints will be quietly confident having beaten the Pistons without the league’s leading scorer Eric Devendorf who has yet to play his former team that released him mid season. Devendorf scored a league high 49 points on debut for the Pistons in their opening round win over the Giants and has gone on to average 25.6 points per game shooting the three pointer at a 59.6%.

Since the departure of Devendorf, second year swingman Thomas Abercrombie has lifted his game offensively averaging just over 20 points a game, also leading his team in assists, steals and blocks. The 2009 forward of the year will again be odds on favorite to win the award again and is a top candidate for the Most Valuable player award.

Abercrombie is averaging just under 17 a game against the Saints this season and has had some good battles against a Tall Black team mate Leon Henry who has had his best season in the NBL starting in all of the Saints games averaging 10.3 points.

In a three game series with no rest in between the games bench of both teams could be the difference and for both teams they have experience with Lendon, Ray Cameron and Gerard Bowden for the Pistons and for the Saints the likes of Troy McLean, George Le’afa and Damien Ekenasio who were all in the 2003 Saints championship teams and between them have nearly played a combined 600 NBL games.

In the Semi Final win against the Hawks bench played a major role for the Saints with their import Erron Maxey who had 24 points, scoring 12 in the final period. Maxey is very familiar with his role off the bench having won the sixth man award in the Australian League last with the Gold Coast Blaze.

Since 2007 when the three game finals series began none have had to go to a third game, therefore the odds are grossly against the team who loses game one.

2010 Bartercard NBL Grand Finals Media Guide (572 KB) pdf

NBL Finals

Game One

Tuesday, June 29
At Hamilton Boys High School, Hamilton

Waikato Pistons v Exodus Saints, 7.30pm

Live on Sky Sport 3
Referees – Tim Brown, Dallas Pickering, Gavin Whiu

Game Two

Wednesday, June 30
At TSB Bank Arena

Exodus Saints v Waikato Pistons, 7.30pm

Live on Sky Sport 3
Referees – Tim Brown, Dallas Pickering, Andy Thackray

Game Three (If Needed)

Thursday, July 1
At TSB Bank Arena

Exodus Saints v Waikato Pistons, 7.30pm

Live on Sky Sport 3
Referees – Tim Brown, Dallas Pickering, Andy Thackray