The Mike Pero Nelson Giants are flying high at the top of the New Zealand NBL table.
The Nelson franchise enjoyed its tenth win of the season on June 22 against the Manawatu Jets and, thanks to their superior scoring differential, sit above the Wellington Saints who have also registered 10 wins.
As the business end of the season approaches, Nelson have announced themselves as serious title contenders after a horror run in 2017.
The Giants easily dispatched the Jets 90-71 to claim their tenth victory of the season.
Nelson were coming into the game without starting point guard Kyle Adnam, who was attending an NBA mini-camp with the Dallas Mavericks, and Mike Vukona (injured back).
Damon Heuir top scored for Nelson with 24 points which included a couple of back door alley-oop dunks which provided some excitement for the Whanganui crowd.
Finn Delany contributed 18 points, Jerry Evans Jr returned from injury to score 14 points, and, off the bench, Ali Granger chipped in with 12.
The Giants return to home court this Friday as they take on the Southland Sharks in their penultimate home game of the season.
They will then meet the Wellington Saints on July 21 in what is shaping up as a top of the table clash.
Giants captain Sam Dempster, who has been with the franchise for 11 years, says the team culture is the best it has ever been. “The culture is amazing and that’s a huge compliment to coach (Jamie) Pearlman.”
Sam says when the team first met the Taipans coach he said that culture was one of the things he prided himself on. “Jamie has instilled a lot of confidence and has brought in a lot of positive energy.” The veteran says, after a poor 2017, the side is a very good place.
“We have a good group of people behind us putting in a lot of work, Bill, Julie, Steve and the rest of the team have done an amazing job.”
Sam says the local players knew coming into the season that they had some real talent in the fold for the 2018 season.
He says, with the likes of Finn Delaney, Tohi Smith Milner and the three imports, (Aussies Kyle Adnam and Damon Heuir and American Jerry Evans Jnr) the local players knew they would have to lift to another level.
“I think we have done that and I’m excited to see what happens next.”
He says one of the highlights of the season has been the return of big crowds to the hangar. “It’s always awesome to play with a big crowd, you just can’t beat it.”
Sam says the large crowds this season have helped them through a number of tough games. “They really push us to our limits.”
With six games still remaining, the Giants forward says he is confident his side will be there at the business end of the season.
“We have got a pretty tough road ahead, but we never underestimate anyone and are always ready to go to battle.”
Tickets for this Friday’s match against Southland are available at giants.co.nz