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Rams topple Tuatara in NBL playoffs preview

The Canterbury Rams have jumped the Auckland Tuatara to go to the top of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Inside dominance and the clutch play of Kiwi point guard Taylor Britt helped the defending champion Rams to an 86-83 win over the stacked Tuatara at Auckland's Eventfinda Stadium on Sunday afternoon.


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Britt, a recent Tall Black, scored a game-high 25 points (10/15 FG, 5/6 FT), four rebounds and six assists but it was his two baskets in the low-scoring final five minutes that earned the Rams the road victory.

Tied at 80-80, NZ Breakers development player Max Darling put Canterbury up with two free-throws, before Britt made it a four-point game with a jumper with 2:38 to play.

Cam Gliddon, who led the Tuatara with 19 points (7/13 FG, 2/7 3pt, 3/3 FT), six boards and two steals, hit a three to close within one, then Britt hit another jumper, the game's final points, with 55 seconds remaining.

After Rob Loe hit a hook shot with 5:06 left to put the Tuatara up 78-77, and KJ Buffen drained a three with 4:50 remaining to retake the lead, the two teams combined for just four field goals the rest of the way.

Taylor Britt Canterbury Rams basketball
Taylor Britt scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Canterbury Rams to victory. PHOTO: NBL

The Rams enjoyed a 49-35 rebounding and 46-30 points-in-the-paint edge, thanks to the play of Australian centre Lachlan Olbrich (14 points (6/17 FG) and eight rebounds), Darling (11 points (3/5 FG, 2/3 3pt, 3/4 FT) and KJ Buffen (11 points (5/8 FG) and 10 boards).

Behind Gliddon, Reuben Te Rangi had 17 points (6/11 FG, 2/5 3pt, 3/5 FT), Corey Webster 16 points (6/14 FG, 2/6 3pt), seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, and Tom Vodanovich 15 points (6/14 FG, 3/9 3pt) and six boards.

In a game that had 17 lead changes and 10 ties, the Tuatara hit two triples to open the game but the Rams led by six early in the second period. The Tuatara dominated the second and led by 10 early in the third quarter, before the Rams answered with a 12-2 run to tie it up.

In Week 12, the Rams (11-2) head to Nelson to face the Giants (6-8) at the Trafalgar Centre on Thursday (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Tuatara (12-3) play the Tauranga Whai (5-9) at home on Sunday (tip-off 3pm).

In Sunday's late game, the top-six Franklin Bulls got all they could handle before seeing off the lowly Manawatu Jets 99-92 at Palmerston North's Fly Palmy Arena.

After Kahlil Whitney hit a three to give the Jets an 89-87 lead with 3:45 to play, the Bulls hit three straight buckets through Sam Timmins, new import Lee Skinner and Luther Muhammad to lead by four.

Jets leading scorer Mustapha Heron (35 points (12/20 FG, 4/9 3pt, 7/8 FT) and four boards) closed the gap with two free-throws, but Tall Blacks forward Ethan Rusbatch clinched the win with a jumper and two freebies.

Muhammad finished with a team-high 26 points (12/20 FG), eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals, while Timmins finished with 22 points (11/15 FG), nine boards, four assists and two steals.

Luther Muhammad Franklin Bulls basketball
Luther Muhammad put up 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Franklin Bulls. PHOTO: NBL

Rusbatch provided 19 points (6/14 FG, 5/11 3pt) and two steals, Skinner 14 points (6/13 FG), 10 rebounds and three steals in his second NBL game, and Isaac Davidson 12 points (4/11 FG, 3/3 FT) and six boards.

Kiwi forwards James Moors and Liam Judd backed up Heron, Moors going for 19 points (6/14 FG, 2/4 3pt, 4/6 FT) and nine rebounds, and Judd at 16 points (7/13 FG, 2/7 3pt), five boards and two blocks.

Earlier, the Jets led by six early in the second quarter but Franklin dominated the period to go ahead by 10. Manawatu slowly ate into the lead, eventually drawing level and taking the lead midway through the fourth.

Next week, the Bulls (9-4) travel to the Capital to battle the Wellington Saints (10-4) on Sunday (tip-off 6.30pm), while the Jets (1-13) are on the road against the Rams on Saturday (tip-off 4pm).

Canterbury Rams 86 (Taylor Britt 25, Lachlan Olbrich 14, Max Darling 11, KJ Buffen 11) Auckland Tuatara 83 (Cam Gliddon 19, Reuben Te Rangi 17, Corey Webster 16, Tom Vodanovich 15). 1Q: 23-21, HT: 42-51, 3Q: 68-69

Franklin Bulls 99 (Luther Muhammad 26, Sam Timmins 22, Ethan Rusbatch 19, Lee Skinner 14, Isaac Davidson 12) Manawatu Jets 92 (Mustapha Heron 35, James Moors 19, Liam Judd 16, Kahlil Whitney 12). 1Q: 20-24, HT: 50-44, 3Q: 73-68


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