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First quarter charge takes Rams to win

The defending National Basketball League (NBL) champion Canterbury Rams appear to be finding their rhythm.

The Rams won their fourth straight contest, a comfortable 96-85 win over the Otago Nuggets at Christchurch's Cowles Stadium on Thursday night, improving to 5-2 and moving into the league's top-four.

American forward MJ Walker led a balanced Rams offence with 18 points (6/17 FG, 5/12 3pt) and three assists, while Tall Blacks guard Taylor Britt produced 17 points (7/10 FG, 3/4 FT) and five assists in just 20 minutes.

The Rams had three other double-digit scorers, with Australian big man Lachlan Olbrich going for 13 points (4/12 FG, 5/6 FT), 16 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, import forward KJ Buffin 13 points (5/16 FG) and 11 boards, and Kiwi guard Kaia Isaac 10 points (3/5 FG, 2/4 3pt), seven assists and two steals off the bench.

Tall Blacks forward Walter Brown had nine points and six rebounds, and 3x3 Tall Blacks Aidan Tonge eight points for the home side.

Former Tall Blacks guard Tai Webster became the first player this NBL season to reach the 40-point milestone, scoring an efficient 40 points (18/25 FG, 2/5 3pt), to go with three assists and two steals.

American forward Kimani Lawrence finished with 18 points (8/14 FG) and four boards, while Australian guard Ben Henshall had six points, seven rebounds and two steals.

MJ Walker Canterbury Rams NBL basketball
MJ Walker hit five triples in his team-high 18 points for the Canterbury Rams. PHOTO: NBL

Canterbury trailed after the Nuggets scored the game's first basket but the rest of the first period was all theirs.

From tied at 7-7 midway through the quarter, Judd Flavell's side scored 11 straight points, then 12 straight later, part of an overall 26-3 stretch to lead 33-10 at quarter-time. Brown and Taki Fahrensohn had six points each during the run.

Webster took it upon himself to bring the Nuggets back into the game, opening the second quarter with eight straight points. The Nuggets went on a 15-0 run and eventually got within six. Webster scored 14 points in the quarter, but the Rams still led by nine at halftime.

Otago never got closer than that, with the Rams stretching their lead back to 22 points midway through the fourth, before the Nuggets ended the game on a 13-2 run.

Next up, the Rams (5-2) host the Taranaki Airs (4-2) next Thursday night (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Nuggets (3-3) return welcome the Nelson Giants (2-4) to Dunedin's Edgar Centre on Sunday (tip-off 3pm).

Canterbury Rams 96 (MJ Walker Jr 18, Taylor Britt 17, Lachlan Olbrich 13, Kenyon Buffin Jr 13, Kaia Isaac 10) Otago Nuggets 85 (Tai Webster 40, Kimani Lawrence 18). 1Q: 33-10, HT: 50-41, 3Q: 77-61


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