LIKE IT or not, to make basketball playoffs teams need to be able to reach for just about every implement in the NBL tool box when the honeymoon starts dissipating from pre-season romanticism.
Blame NBA star Stephen Curry for making shots from the carpark look sexy but that doesn't mean jokers in the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) are going to consistently ape him on the courts here with success.
The harsh reality is anytime shooting guards fail to find love with the rim it's going to make for some grim reading in the weekly NBL statistical invoice.
Dribble, pump-fake defenders and shoot at your peril because overwrought coaches will impress the need to swing the ball around like a hot potato chip until it is cool enough to chew.
But, surely, the only acceptable currency must be the old-fashioned two-pointers and, as if it ever was a factor, guards can still sport a snazzy hairdo while executing them.
It does take a little more time to drop twos but space starts opening up in the passing lines even though it encourages the not-so-funky zonal bunker mentality.
The paint becomes a bloodier warzone as players attempt baskets with oncoming traffic but it becomes an opportune time for brutality to have a chance at eclipsing silky skills of the Curry variety.
Enter blokes of Morgan Natanahira's mould in the IMS Payroll Hawks roster who can make a difference.
The 24-year-old bench forward, who has returned to roost with the Liam Flynn-coached Hawks after heading south with former coach Paul Henare two years ago, is in the equation against Zerofees Southland Sharks in a 7pm tip-off today in round nine before hosting Manawatu Jets in a 3pm tip-off on Monday.
"My role is to bring energy off the bench and rebound on the court," says Natanahira, who missed Henare's roster because of uncertainty over whether he was going to play this winter.
After twisting his knee in a playoff match for the Hawks against the Wellington Saints three years ago in the capital, the player has grappled with his injury demons after two surgeries.
"My knee is stable now but explosive speed and jumping are not quite there yet," he says, frustrated but happy to be on the court again after just two games for the Sharks last season and watching them create history in 2013 in Napier, nailing their maiden NBL crown.
"My leg will never be the same again so I'm still working on it - that's all I can do."
However, less haste seems to be working for Natanahira.
His round-eight statistics show he shot at 57.9 per cent in 15 minutes of court time.
More importantly, he didn't flirt with the hoop from outside the arc.
His no-frills two-point statement is up there with Hawks imports Suleiman Braimoh (60.4) and Zack Atkinson (58.8) who played 31.9 and 26 minutes, respectively.
Natanahira's figures are keeping the other guards in check - co-skippers Paora Winitana (48.3 per cent/29.6min), Jarrod Kenny (45.5/33.3), Alonzo Burton (52.6/18.3), Luke Aston (40/18.6) and Anamata Haku (50/15.9).
At face value, figures can be manipulated to suit anything nowadays but it's a fairly pixelation-free snapshot of where they are at.
No doubt the players bring other qualities to the roster to justify more game time but the two-point mantra, ear-deafening live commentary aside, impresses the need for sharper passing rather than endlessly throwing the ball towards the glass with the probability of scoring on a scratchy card at a lottery outlet.
Quick hand-eye skills of the Curry-in-a-hurry variety will indubitably do Flynn wonders for his stress levels but there's no harm in winding down the shot clock to have a better look at the hoop.
Besides, the roster is locked and the time to run experiments on who can drop from downtown is fast running out, especially with bench point guard Marco Alexander returning tonight after his hip was not coming right after surgery.
The Sharks are on a 7-3 six-game winning streak and come here as favourites after beating the Hawks 82-71 in Invercargill in the South Island double-header in round seven.
The Hawks, at best, are yo-yoing through the season, 4-6 with a win on either side of three losses in their last five outings.
They also have lean picking at home - just two wins at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale.
An eye must wander over the NBL standings where the Sharks bring up the playoffs peloton with 14 points, behind Nelson Giants, the Saints and the Waitakere Rangers setting the pace.
The Hawks are in sixth place on eight points and any losses from here on will, post round-robin play, prompt the soul-searching what-if scenario.
Natanahira says Southland have a few big-game players in Tai Wesley, veteran Kevin Braswell, Shea Ili and Duane Bailey.
Throw in Aussie import and player of the week Todd Blanchfield and the penny drops.
Incidentally, all of the above shoot 46.7 to 68.4 per cent from inside the arc.
"They have a lot of experience and do a good job of staying composed so you can't rattle them," Natanahira says, but adds the Sharks are beatable.
For the Hawks, their Nigerian power forward is breaking out in a double-double allergic reaction but all that will come to nought in the collective if they don't claim a "W" tonight.
"We start very slowly so we find ourselves on the back foot," he says, mindful they did rally late against Southland on the road but came up shy.
Natanahira says Bay-born Henare is a "great coach who brings a lot of energy and gets the most out of his players".
The Hawks will scrutinise the Sharks' weaknesses to negate their strengths but Flynn always encourages consistency and that is something Natanahira can't put his finger on.
Taking each week as it comes is on the agenda because looking too far ahead is a futile exercise.
"We have to build on our weaknesses to keep our season alive," he says.
He plays down talk of payback time after losing 109-90 to the Jets in round five here.
"If we beat them on Monday, then we'll be 2-1 up against the Jets in that series," says Natanahira, as teams play some sides three times this winter to make an 18-match league.
ROUND 8 DETAILS
At Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North: Breakers Manawatu Jets 93 (Dion Harris 20, Jordan Ngatai 19, Brook Ruscoe 18) Zerofees Southland Sharks 106 (Adrian Majstrovich 24, Tai Wesley 24, Kevin Braswell 18).
At Otara Rec Centre, Auckland: James Blond Supercity Rangers 96 (Reuben Te Rangi 24, Tom Garlepp 23, Casey Frank 15) IMS Payroll Hawks 87 (Suleiman Braimoh 25, Paora Winitana 21, Zack Atkinson 14).
At Saxton Stadium, Nelson: Mike Pero Nelson Giants 76 (McKenzie Moore 20, Phill Jones 11, Deronn Scott 11) Wellington Saints 85 (Torrey Craig 22, Lindsay Tait 16, Dion Prewster 15).
At TSB Stadium, New Plymouth: Augusta Airs 105 (Aaron Fuller 30, Chris Hagan 29, Brad Anderson 18) Zerofees Southland Sharks 109 (Todd Blanchfield 37, Tai Wesley 19, Adrian Majstrovich 17).
At Cowles Stadium, Christchurch: Canterbury Rams 75 (Richie Edwards 18, Marques Whippy 17, Ethan Rusbatch 11) IMS Payroll Hawks 84 (Suleiman Braimoh 24, Zack Atkinson 16, Jarrod Kenny 11).
37pts: Todd Blanchfield (Sharks) v Augusta Airs.
16 rebounds: Zack Atkinson (Hawks) v Rams..
11 assists: Jarrod Kenny (Hawks) v Rangers.
6 steals: Jermaine Taylor (Rams) v Hawks.
4 blocks: James Hunter (Jets) v Sharks.
Player of the week
Todd Blanchfield (Sharks):
Stat line: 37pts (13/20 FG, 8/14 3pt) and nine rebounds in the 109-105 win over the Augusta Airs. Australian Blanchfield is round eight king for his performance against Taranaki. The versatile guard scored a PB 37pts and is second in the league in scoring, averaging 25.4pts a game. Blanchfield has been instrumental for the Sharks who have the longest active winning streak in the league at six.
Last night's game: Jets 88 (Dion Harris 19pts, Jordan Ngatai 18pts, Brook Ruscoe 17pts) Giants 105 (Josh Duinker 26pts, 11 reb; Alistair Granger 12pts).