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Nuggets deny Giants, stay in playoffs race

The Otago Nuggets have remained in the National Basketball League (NBL) playoffs picture with a crucial road victory.

Import guard Zaccheus Darko-Kelly produced his best game of the season as the Nuggets scored an 88-79 win over the Nelson Giants at the Trafalgar Centre on Friday night.


Darko-Kelly finished with 34 points (11/20 FG, 5/12 3pt, 7/9 FT), 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals as he played all 40 minutes of the upset win.

The Nuggets pulled within one game of the Giants in the race for the sixth and final playoffs berth with one week remaining.

The Giants, Nuggets, Tauranga Whai and Bay Hawks, all separated by a game-and-a-half, still have visions on the No 6 seed.

Along with Darko-Kelly, fellow American Kimani Lawrence kept Otago in the race, with 22 points (8/12 FG, 5/13 FT), five boards, three assist and two steals, while Kiwi centre Jack Andrew had 13 points (6/9 FG) and eight rebounds.

Zaccheus Darko-Kelly Otago Nuggets basketball
Zaccheus Darko-Kelly exploded for 34 points for the Otago Nuggets. PHOTO: NBL

For the Giants, Australian forward Dan Grida put up 28 points (8/17 FG, 2/5 3pt, 10/15 FT), seven rebounds and two steals, and Tall Blacks squad member Dan Fotu had 20 points (7/20 FG, 2/4 3pt, 4/6 FT), nine boards and three steals.

The Giants controlled the first quarter, leading by as many as five, before the Nuggets made a strong charge to go up by eight during the middle stages of the second period.

A 14-0 run straddling the halftime break saw the Giants turn an eight-point deficit into a six-point lead, but it was short-lived as the Nuggets scored nine straight points.

Otago, who scored 48 points in the paint, put together a 14-3 run to go ahead by nine early in the fourth, then Darko-Kelly hit back-to-back threes to clinch the win.

The Nuggets (7-12) close out the regular season against the Franklin Bulls (11-7) next Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Giants (8-11) can secure a playoff spot with a Road win over the Taranaki Airs (13-5) next Sunday (tip-off 6.30pm).

Otago Nuggets 88 (Zaccheus Darko-Kelly 34, Kimani Lawrence 22, Jack Andrew 13) Nelson Giants 79 (Dan Grida 28, Dan Fotu 20). 1Q: 21-21, HT: 48-49, 3Q: 65-62


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