If the Wellington Saints are going to lose a game this season then it is most likely to be this one.
The 12-0 Saints take on the Southland Sharks at TSB Bank Arena on Friday without influential forward Tai Wesley, who averages 17.2 points per game, but is away playing in Asia with his Australian National Basketball League team Melbourne United.
It is a big loss considering the strength of the Sharks' forwards Alex Pledger and Nick Kay. They average 15 and 13.8 points per game, and 10.4 and 8.7 rebounds per game, respectively.
The 9-3 Sharks are a well-rounded team, but that pair have been a big part of them winning their last six games in a row, with their last loss a 111-93 defeat to the Saints in Wellington on April 13.
Saints coach Kevin Braswell said their threats weren't limited to their forwards.
"The first time we beat them Pledger didn't play, but honestly the guy I think who's been playing the best for Southland now is Reuben Te Rangi. He's killed us both games and one of our focuses is ensuring he doesn't get going because if he gets going it's going to be a tough night."
With that being said, a big key to keeping their undefeated record intact would be minimising the Sharks' offensive rebounds.
"What their bigs do well is get offensive rebounds, that helps them win games more than anything. We have to be conscious of that and put a body on them."
It shapes as a big game for BJ Anthony, who started most games for the Saints last year, but has been pushed down the pecking order by the arrival of Josh Duinker, averaging 17 minutes and 7.5 points per game.
He started in Wesley's absence last week and should expect to do so again on Friday.
"This is a game for him that I'm sure he'll be ready for. He's had a hell of a career in this league, so it's just another game to him to be honest, but having started last week, after not starting in so long, will help him."
This weekend is a double-header for the Saints, with a trip to New Plymouth to play the Taranaki Mountainairs on Sunday afternoon. They then finish their season with four more road games.
Wesley is back in the country on Saturday, but is unlikely to start that game as well, Braswell said.
After Sunday's game the Saints can't bring in an import, but Braswell said he had no plans to do so.
"We're going to roll with the same team. It's a good chance this weekend for guys who haven't played a whole lot of minutes to get minutes.
"Damien Ekenasio will play a big role tomorrow [Friday], he's won a lot of titles in this league and is ready for any challenges thrown at him."
AT A GLANCE
What: National Basketball League, round 10
Where and when: TSB Bank Arena, Wellington, Friday 7pm
TAB: Wellington $1.22, Southland $4
Article and image courtesy of Stuff.co.nz