When the New Zealand basketball season started, The Waikito Pistons sprinted to the top of the standings and, led by leading scorer Eric Devendorf, seemed primed to end the year with the best record and top seeding in the playoffs.
The regular season ended last week and unfortunately for the Pistons, they finished second in the standings. The team they lost the lead to, in the final game of the season, was the Exodus/Wellington/Whatever Saints. A team that featured a scrappy, American scoring machine known as...Eric Devendorf.
The Saints dethroned the Pistons in the final game of the season to take the No. 1 seed in the NBL playoffs, which begin Tuesday. While Eric was able to watch his former squad, which dumped him halfway through the season for reasons supposedly unrelated to his late-night kerfuffle, he was not able to help lead the Saints on the floor. Devo is still recovering from an ankle injury.
The Pistons fought valiantly, even without some of their own star players. One of which suffered a tough-yet-curiously-described-injury during the game.
Already forced to meet their fellow title favourites without 2.1-metre tall centre Alex Pledger, who was ruled out through concussion, the Pistons lost import guard Rashard Tucker to a knock halfway through the second quarter.
You just hate to see a case of "the knocks" ruin a perfectly good basketball game.
The NBL playoffs are a single-elimination tournament consisting of six teams (try again next year OceanaGold Nuggets), with the No. 1 Saints and No. 2 Pistons getting first-round byes. The Saints await the winner of the Nelson Giants vs. Southland Sharks and will play on Friday. Of course, as far as we're concerned, we don't want to see anything other than a Saints-Pistons rematch in the finals, this time with a healthy Devo throwing down 40 points on his former employers.
Saints' coach Pero Cameron remains cautious yet hopeful that Devo will return in time for Friday's game.
"We'll see," Cameron said. "I want him to play because he's a great player and I think he fits into the team really good. Hopefully. he can, we'll see in our next training at the weekend."
I have never been, and almost certainly will never be again, so psyched for the New Zealand National Basketball League playoffs.