NBL Showdown 2020: Tailenders Auckland Huskies close gap on field with win over Otago

When the revamped NBL Showdown was first mooted, with a draft to distribute talent equitably around the teams, 'parity' was a word bandied about freely.

Sure enough, as week three dawned on Auckland's Waitakere Trusts Stadium, the competition's slow starters continued to make up ground on early frontrunners, with Auckland Huskies securing a scrappy, but much-needed 81-69 win over Otago Nuggets.

Led by teenager Taine Murray's 19 points, the newest team in the league showed they were slowly developing the chemistry that may yet see them challenge for the title next month. 

The Huskies captured first momentum in the contest, when Marvin Williams-Dunn, Leon Henry and Izayah Mauriohooho Leafa connected from long distance early, but midway through the second quarter, Otago drew level off a dunk from Akiva McBirney-Griffin.

Henry, Leafa and Murray sparked a 13-2 that thrust Auckland to a double-figure advantage before halftime, and they consolidated their lead with the opening seven points of the third period.

Consecutive three-pointers from Tohi Smith-Milner propelled them 16 points clear early in the final stanza and while the Nuggets nibbled away at the margin down the stretch, they were never quite able to bridge it.

Murray's two-handed flush with a minute remaining sealed the deal for the Huskies.

In a game where the teams shot a combined (and anaemic) 35.8 percent from the field, the Rosmini College forward efficiently converted 7/13, including 3/6 from the arc.

Henry (11 points/14 rebounds) and Smith-Milner (17/10) both compiled 'double doubles' - there were more than enough rebounds to go around - while Leafa had 12 points and six steals.

Top draft pick Jordan Ngatai again paced the Nugs with 19 points, but shot 5/22 from the field, while Josh Aitcheson (10 points/10 rebounds) was the other significant contributor.  

If shooting accuracy was an issue, so too was ball retention - both teams had more turnovers than assists, providing coaches Kevin Braswell and Brent Matehaere plenty to labour in video sessions.

After losing their opening four games, the Huskies (2-4) are now just one game out of second spot on the table, with Canterbury Rams (3-3) looming on Thursday.

Otago (3-3) were one of the last teams to lose their unbeaten start, but have now lost three of their last four and lock horns with Manawatu Jets (3-3) on Saturday.

Auckland Huskies 81 (Taine Murray 19, Tohi Smith-Milner 17, Izayah Mauriohooho 12, Leon Henry 11) Otago Nuggets 69 (Jordan Ngatai 19, Josh Aitcheson 10)  

NBL Showdown 2020: Tailenders Auckland Huskies close gap on field with win over Otago