The Riders are back on the road on Friday, heading to the North East to take on the Newcastle Eagles.
A win would improve the Riders to 17-7 on the season, bringing them four points off second place.
Riders’ season so far
The Riders enter this one in need of a bounce-back game after a difficult result against the London Lions in their previous fixture. It ended up 102-77 to the Lions, whose perimeter defence held the Riders to shooting 4-27 from three.
This snapped a four-game league winning streak for the Riders as they build form on the back end of the season. Positive results in this weekend’s doubleheader will go a long way to continuing the Riders’ string of good results.
Kimbal Mackenzie’s form has contributed greatly to the run. The point guard’s play earned him Molten BBL Player of the Month for Febuary.
He led the team with 18 points against the Lions, and dished seven assists as he ran the offence. This came off the back of a 31-point effort in a win against the Cheshire Phoenix.
Despite the Lions’ result, the Riders remain the BBL’s most efficient team, leading the league in field goal, three-point and free-throw percentage this season. They rank second in points per game, relying on their offensive firepower to win games.
Eagles’ season so far
Newcastle enters this one off the back of a heartbreaker, after they fell late to the Bristol Flyers. Newcastle was up 15 midway through the third quarter, but a late Flyers surge saw them take the lead with 30 seconds remaining, winning 68-66.
This left the Eagles with a 6-17 record, six points off the playoff places. The loss makes it four defeats on the bounce, as they hope to turn their form around to make a late playoff push.
Javion Hamlet is leading the charge for Newcastle, ranking second in the league’s scoring charts, putting up 20.5 per game. He led the game with 24 points against Bristol and has failed to score double-digit points just once this year.
The team have struggled to turn Hamlet’s scoring into consistent offence, however, putting up 79.9 points per game. They’ve shot the ball well from the free-throw line, ranking second in the BBL with 77.8%, so keeping Newcastle off the charity stripe should be a priority for Leicester.
Entering the game as one of the BBL’s most explosive scorers, Javion Hamlet is a danger man the Riders need to focus on in this one.
The second-year pro played in the NBA G-League for the Texas Legends last season, after shocking the basketball world in his final year of college. He led North Texas to a March Madness upset, putting up 24 points, 12 rebounds and five assists to send fourth-seeded Purdue home.
His play has translated seamlessly to the BBL, scoring 20.5 points per game on 47.9% shooting this season. He scored a season-high 34 points against the Caledonia Gladiators earlier in the year, and followed up his effort with 33 against the Manchester Giants in his next game.
Facing up against the 6’4” guard is Riders’ GB two-guard, Patrick Whelan. Whelan returned to action against the Lions after missing two games with a foot injury and enters this game scoring 14.8 points per game.
Whelan’s play was recognised last season with a place on the BBL Team of the Year, after leading the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game. His treble-winning efforts also earned a spot on the GB roster for Eurobasket 2022.
He’s one of the BBL’s hottest three-point shooters, hitting his deep shots at a 45.2% rate. He’s a lockdown defender on the other end, making him one of the league’s top two-way talents.
The battle between Hamlet and Whelan will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this one.
Where to watch
The game tips off at 7:30 pm and will be streamed live on the British Basketball Youtube channel, starting at 7:15 pm.