BBL Championship Preview: Riders at Lions

The Riders will play the second game of their southern road trip on Friday as they tip off against the championship-leading London Lions.

Leicester hopes to continue a late-season winning streak with victory over the Lions, who recently lost to a Bristol squad that the Riders beat handily last week.

Riders’ Season So Far

After a three-game week in which the Riders scored victories over Bristol and Plymouth (twice), they have had the luxury of a full week of practice to get ready for London.

Last week’s results should ensure confidence and morale is high throughout the squad, and the 99-85 triumph over the Patriots on Sunday afternoon demonstrates that.

Now sitting at 21-9, the Riders knew that defeating Plymouth would keep them in the driving seat for second place with the Flyers.

Zach Jackson led the scoring for the second time in as many games, dropping 24 points in a smooth display where he shot 100% from the free throw line.

The Patriots are one of the more foul-heavy teams in the championship and Jackson took advantage, hitting all eight of his FT attempts.

Patrick Whelan supplemented Jackson’s scoring efforts with a hard-earned 15, and Jubril Adekoya had a nice night of his own.

Standing out every time his trainers touched the pine, the strong forward flashed his way to seven points, five rebounds and two assists.

Lions’ Season So Far

The London Lions’ season has undoubtedly been a success.

With last week’s win against Surrey, the Lions clinched the league title, currently holding a 10-point lead after amassing an impressive record of 27-4.

Despite the deserved accomplishment, London come into their game vs Leicester off the back of a loss – an 87-82 defeat at the hands of the Bristol Flyers.

In an exciting game that needed overtime to decide a winner, London went back and forth with the hometown Flyers before fading in the last minutes of OT.

American guard Jordan Taylor was the pick of the London players, knocking down six shots on his way to 19 points.

Taylor was a bright spark in an uncharacteristically disjointed display by the Lions, who were dominated on the glass, allowing the Flyers to snag 54 rebounds.

London are the best rebounding team in the BBL, so expect that issue to be fixed when they meet the Riders this Friday.

Much like their hustle to get to a missed shot, the Lions put everything into forcing the opposition to work hard on the offensive side of the ball.

London are the best in the BBL at getting a hand in the eye-line of scorers, currently boasting the lowest FG% against them for both 2-point and 3-point shooting.

The Riders know that clever off-the-ball movement and crisp passing will be crucial if they want to unlock London’s defence.

Key Players

If Leicester want to stop London, they need to limit the effectiveness of their ball distributors.

The previously mentioned Jordan Taylor and his British fellow guard, Luke Nelson, are two of the most prolific in the BBL when finding the killer pass.

The two backcourt generals are respectively dishing out 8.64 and 8.17 assists per 40 minutes which is good for second and third in the championship.

This combination of vision, passing ability and the movement of the shooters means that lockdown on-ball defence is crucial.

If the Riders can direct Taylor and Nelson into trouble, they have a chance of stopping the pass before it has left a hand.

One player the Riders can lean on when they need a key defensive stop is 6’1” guard, Carrington Love.

The American is currently pilfering 1.46 steals per game and is one of the best at picking his opponent’s pocket in the league.

Love has been a hugely influential presence for the Riders over the past couple of weeks, churning out energetic performances full to the brim with flashy assists and tenacious defence.

He and the rest of the Riders will have to be at their defensive best if they want to slow the Lions’ ball movement and force low-percentage shots.

The prospect of second place in the championship will be more than enough motivation to hit that goal.

Where to watch

The game will be streamed live on the BBL official youtube channel, starting at 7:15 pm.