NBL Final Four Preview
Tagged in: NBL
Only one more sleep to go before the TAB Final Four begins in Wellington, starting with the James Blond Pirates against the Telecom Business Hub Jets, followed by the HBS Bank Hawks versus the Wellington Saints
The Pirates have had a major transformation from the year before where they finished second to last (5-11).
The additions of last year’s Most Valuable player Alex Pledger, and the last two season’s Finals MVP Lindsay Tait, have helped the Pirates finish the regular season with a 13-3 record.
Former Waikato Pistons guard Hayden Allen also joins the Pirates, to go with NZ Breakers’ veteran Dillon Boucher, which arguably forms one of the best kiwi line ups in the NBL history.
Add in two quality imports in Melbourne Tiger Ron Dorsey and former Georgia Tech University star Ismail Muhummad and you have the highest scoring team in the league, that averages nearly 100 points a game.
The Jets have also put together a strong line up with returning players Nick Horvath and Jeremiah Trueman, and import guard Chris Hagan, who has come into the team in the latter part of the season averaging 18.8 points, 9.3 assists and 3.5 steals in four wins.
Probably the Jets biggest acquisition of the season is former league MVP Josh Pace, who has had success wherever he has played, making the playoffs with the Nelson Giants and the Bay Hawks.
Pace has won the NBL scoring title for the first time in his career this season averaging 23 points per game.
Jets also boast the league leading rebounder in Horvath who has averaged nearly 16 rebounds a game.
Pledger and Horvath will be the match up to watch out for as they have been the two best forwards in the NBL for the last few seasons, each winners of the rebounding title.
Despite the Pirates playing their first ever playoff game, the roster is stacked with playoff experience with 16 NBL titles won between the players compared to the Jets who have two.
Jets will be making their 7th playoff experience and will be attempting to make the final for the second time in franchise history (1992).
The HBS Bank Hawks have had their best regular season in franchise history with a 13-3 record to finish top in the league.
They will play the Wellington Saints for the fourth straight year in the playoffs, and will have plenty of motivation as the Saints have eliminated them three straight times.
Last season the Hawks lost 106-97 in the Grand Finals to the two time defending champs, but were without inspirational leader Paora Winitana who does not play on Sundays.
It will be the same situation for the Hawks, should they make the finals, but they will have Winitana for this game.
Hawks have retained the majority of their roster from last season, with the additions of import Kareem Johnson who was a member of the Saints last year, and Hawke’s Bay local Everard Bartlett, who returns after a season with the Pirates.
Under defensive minded coach Paul Henare, the Hawks are hold their opponents to the lowest amount in the league (81.9), but they also have the best field goal percentage (48.6) and are the most unselfish team (19.1 assists).
2012 has been an up and down season for the Saints who had to win three of their last four to scrape into the playoffs and keep their hope of a three peat alive.
Auckland Stars are the only team in NBL history to win three consecutive titles (1995-97).
Casey Frank and Troy McLean are the only starters left from last year’s team, but they have had some handy additions to the squad, such as Arthur Trousdell and Jeremy Kench.
2008 Most Valuable player Jason Crowe has joined the Saints to fill the void missing from the departure of Lindsay Tait and has had a solid season leading the league in assists (8.7) and second in steals (2.9).
This season the Saints do not have a flash record against the teams in the top four, with only one win out of six games, which was a 88-73 win over the Hawks.
Hawks have the best record out of the top four with five wins and one loss.
Saturday, May 26
Semi Final One
James Blond Auckland Pirates v Telecom Business Hub Jets, 6pm
Referees – Melony Wealleans, Gavin Whiu, Shane Nikora
Semi Final Two
HBS Bank Hawks v Wellington Saints, 8.30pm
Referees – Dallas Pickering, Gavin Zimmerman, Yalla Edwards