The Riders improved to 2-1 in the British Basketball League Trophy Group B last night with a 104-88 win against the Manchester Giants.
The victory puts them in the driving seat as Leicester looks to advance to the semi-finals in the Utilita Arena, Birmingham.
Here’s what we can take from the game…
TJ explodes with efficiency
The ever-reliable TJ Lall showed his ability to explode for big points last night and proved pivotal down the stretch.
The Canadian wing put 19 points and 5 rebounds on the Giants in 19 minutes of action, shooting 7-8 from the field and 5-6 from deep.
Lall drained two clutch threes when the game was tight in the fourth, building a platform for the Riders to see the game out from.
His size and strength down low provided much-needed resistance at the rim and on the glass, and his game-leading index rating of 27 demonstrates his impact on the game.
“I was getting open shots at the beginning, saw a couple of shots go down and kept shooting,” said Lall post-game.
“TJ is an excellent player,” added Head Coach Paternostro.
“He can play multiple positions and fill multiple roles. He doesn’t have to score. It doesn’t have to be about that for him. He can play defence, pass and rebound, so he’s a really valuable player for this team.”
Riders show their strength in depth
The Riders, having made two additions to their roster in a month with the arrival of Teddy Allen and Duke Shelton, flexed their strength in depth last night as they achieved a century of points.
Ten Riders saw court time, five of which scored in double-digits led by Allen’s 21, Lall’s 19 and Miryne Thomas’ 16 points.
Every Riders player finished with a positive +/- in the win, the most effective being Thomas, who finished with a +/- of 19 in a near-triple double performance.
This proved a significant advantage over a short-handed Giants team, who in the absence of leading scorer and GB international Jamell Anderson, fielded seven players for significant minutes.
Being able to transition seamlessly between the first and second unit is a strength of this Riders roster as the games progress.
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Duke impresses on debut
New Riders signing Duke Shelton impressed on his first Riders outing after joining the team only the day before.
In six minutes, the American forward put up 6 points and 6 rebounds, 3 on the offensive end. His energy saw him all over the offensive glass, making an impact where he could during his limited court time.
“I thought he was great today,” said Paternostro following Shelton’s performance. “He only practised with us for the first time yesterday, so he came into the game not knowing a lot of our stuff, but with his effort, he deserved more minutes than I gave him tonight.
“He’s something we haven’t had with his athleticism and ability to run from the centre spot. He did a good job tonight.”
Allen’s infectious impact
The Riders are 5-2 in all competitions since the arrival of CEBL Teddy Allen, who has led the team in scoring in every appearance so far this season.
This time, it was 21 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals, which led all scorers in the game.
He has sparked life into the team, who are playing with confidence as they look to attack the month of January and lift the Trophy in Birmingham.
Lall, who played against Allen in the CEBL this summer as he suited up for the Niagara River Lions, complimented an overlooked aspect of Allen’s game: his defence.
“He’s helped us a lot defensively and takes the pressure off our defence on the other end with his scoring,” said Lall. “He makes our team way better.”
Win, and we’re in
The Riders’ 2-1 record in Group B means a win next week in Newcastle will most likely be enough to see Leicester through to the semi-finals in Birmingham.
The Newcastle Eagles take on the Bristol Flyers on Friday evening, and a win would also give them a 2-1 record entering the faceoff against the Riders.
This would mean a win would see both teams through, creating a knockout environment in the clash between the two long-standing rivals.
For Leicester, regardless of permutations elsewhere, the focus is on the win on the road. With nine days between the Giants and Eagles games, they can rest up and prepare for the showdown.
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