Kevin Braswell finally got the defensive performance he has been asking for all season.
Braswell's Wellington Saints crunched the Canterbury Rams by 23 points in an Easter Monday contest on the back of allowing just 79 points to the dangerous Rams offence.
Despite Rams import guard Jeremy Kendle (18 points, seven assists) doing some damage early on outside jumpshots, the Saints limited the transition points the men from Canterbury so regularly feast on. After weathering the early storm the Saints defence was locked in, allowing just 64 points in the 35 minutes of gameplay that followed Kendle's early onslaught.
The men from the capital confused their opposition with numerous different defensive fronts - extended pressure, zone looks and straight up man-to-man were all shown in the second quarter. The flustered Rams were unable to operate with any cohesion, often defaulting into Kendle and Marcel Jones (27 points, eight rebounds) pick-and-pop plays to try to keep them in the contest.
With the pace slowed, the reigning champion Saints were always going to be better off. Their ability to execute offensively in the half-court is what set them apart - even without league-leading scorer Corey Webster, lost for the game to a back injury in the second quarter.
Despite the game being played at a snail's pace in the second half, the Saints still amassed 51 points after the major break. Leon Henry was immense, bombing in an NBL record-breaking ten three-pointers as part of a 34 point, 11 rebound night and Shea Ili continued his maturation into the league's best local point guard, cutting the Rams defence up to the tune of 22 points and 15 dimes.
Braswell was happy with his charges effort on the defensive end: "Yeah, [defence] is something that we have been harping on all year. We're finally getting to the point where we're understanding that if we have a bad shooting night, we are going to need our defence to win games. We don't know when that bad shooting game will come - it may happen in the final game of the season, so the defence has to be locked in every night."
"It's hard because in the NBL you don't really have a pre-season, so we were trying things really. They burned us for one three against the press and we defended okay in our zone against a really good shooting team, not great but okay."
Braswell will be hoping to try some more things against another high-octane offence as Jeff Green's Supercity Rangers come to town Friday, while Mark Dickel will look to tidy things up before they face the Nelson Giants in Christchurch the same night.