Third seeded Otago knocked over the second ranked Nelson Giants 89-74 in Friday’s semifinal – setting up a grand final against the Auckland Tuatara on Saturday at Eventfinda Stadium (7.30pm start).
Otago took out the Covid-19 inspired NBL Showdown in 2020, beating the Manawatū Jets in the final, but have never made the big dance of a full season NBL competition.
A first-time champion will be crowned with the Nuggets never having won the NBL and the Tuatara in their first season competing in the league as a new entity.
The Nuggets’ victory was built around their clinical defence and rebounding, dominating the Giants on the glass and forcing them into an uncharacteristic sloppy showing.
Nelson would have been bitterly disappointed by their sub-par performance, saving one of their worst efforts of the season for last.
Otago’s win means the NBL's top two seeds have been eliminated in back-to-back nights in the semifinals with the Taranaki Airs edged in overtime by the Tuatara on Thursday.
Nelson battled to get into their rhythm all game long and were well below their best with Otago taking away their strengths on the offensive end.
Fresh off 30 points in the win over the Hawks, American point guard Tray Boyd was strong again with 20 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.