BBL Championship Preview: Riders at Phoenix

The Riders head to Cheshire to take on the Phoenix in the second game of their weekend doubleheader. 

They enter the game off the back of a home 104-84 against the Manchester Giants on Friday. It was a resounding win, with the Riders in full control throughout. They shot 58% from the field and 45% from three, scoring 30 points in the third quarter to blow the game open. 

READ MORE: Riders record big win at home

Their scoring was typical of the Riders’ season so far, as they are the league’s most efficient scorers. They lead the BBL in field goal, three-point and free throw percentage, and they rank second in the league in scoring putting up 87.5 a game. 

As he did against the Giants, Marc Loving leads the way on the season with 16.2 points per game. The Ohio-born forward is putting up career highs in points, assists and rebounds, stepping up into a leading role. 

The Riders possess a 15-6 record, good for third in the BBL Championship standings with three games in hand on the second-placed Bristol Flyers.

 Back-to-back wins in this weekend’s doubleheader will see them put the pressure on the Flyers as they look to climb the standings to close the year. 

Phoenix- Season so far 

The Phoenix currently sit midtable in the BBL Championship, after a recent road loss against the Caledonia Gladiators left them under .500 with an 11-12 record. The score was 83-78 in Scotland, despite a 26-point effort from point guard Marcus Evans. 

American guard Larry Austin Jr. has led them through the season with 16.2 points per game, an improvement on the 14.4 points he averaged last season with the Phoenix. On the other end, they lead the BBL in steals, playing aggressively on defence. 

The Phoenix find themselves in the midst of a Cup run, having reached the semi-final of the BBL Trophy. There, they will face the Sheffield Sharks as they look to retain their silverware from last season. 

Until then, the Phoenix looks to level their season record at 12-12 with a win against Leicester, their first since March 2021. 

Key matchup 

The Phoenix’s leading scorer, Larry Austin Jr., topped his team’s points column with 19 last time out against the Riders. He went 8-13 from the field and dished four assists in an attempt to get his side back into the game.

READ MORE: Riders win big against Phoenix 

He’s averaged 20.4 points per game over the last nine league games, Cheshire going 5-4 in those fixtures. Austin Jr. has scored a season-high of 27 on two separate occasions this season, most recently in December vs the Gladiators. 

Last season, he scored 23 points in the BBL Trophy final against the London Lions, earning the Final MVP for his efforts. He has been a major piece since his arrival in Cheshire and will be a tough defensive task for Riders’ point guard Kimbal Mackenzie.

Mackenzie’s play this season has earned him a spot on the GB roster, alongside fellow Riders Patrick Whelan and Aaron Menzies. He’s putting up 10 points per game and enters this one off the back of a 16-point effort vs the Giants. 

The 6’1” guard is a Bucknall graduate, who averaged 17 points per game as a senior. He’s scored in the double digits on 15 occasions this season, stepping up as a consistent starter. 

However, his role on the defensive end against Austin Jr. will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this one. 

Where to watch

The game will be played at the Cheshire Oaks Arena, tipping off at 5:30 pm. 

It will also be streamed live on the British Basketball League Youtube channel, starting at 5 pm.