BBL Championship Preview: Riders vs Eagles

The Riders are back in action with the second game against the Newcastle Eagles in three days. It is a chance to bounce back for Leicester, who fell to the Eagles on Friday 92-85 on the road. 

Riders’ season so far

Leicester enters this game off back-to-back losses, losing to the London Lions before the Newcastle Eagles. They possess a 16-8 record, sitting third in the league standings, six points from second place. 

They held a 20-point lead against the Eagles, but a second-half comeback saw the North Easterners take the win. Zach Jackson led a late effort to take the result, but the Riders fell short in the final seconds. 

Read our full report here. 

Marc Loving leads the Riders this season with 15.9 points and 6,1 per game, playing at an elite standard on both ends. Leicester is the league’s most efficient team in field goal, three-point and free-throw shooting, making the most of their offensive opportunities.  

The Morningside Arena has proved a fortress for the Riders this season, going 9-2 in their building. A win in this one would snatch back momentum for Leicester, as they start a two-game home stand. 

Eagles’ season so far

The win against the Riders was massive for Newcastle, as they fight for the final playoff spot in the BBL Championship. They improved to 7-17, three wins from the eighth-placed Sheffield Sharks. 

They shot the lights out from deep last time out, going 41% from deep led by three off the bench from Jermel Kennedy, Their second-half comeback was led by an explosion from Kyle Johnson, who led the game with 21 points. 

But it’s Javion Hamlet who leads them on the season with 20.2 points per game, the former G-Leaguer ranks second in the BBL’s scoring charts in his second pro season. 

Hamlet attacked the rim relentlessly in his previous game, shooting 10 free throws in the contest. Newcastle ranks second in free-throw percentage this season behind the Riders, making the most of their charity shots.  

Back-to-back wins against the Riders would be a monumental momentum shift in the Eagles’ season. 

Key matchup 

The battle between Zach Jackson and Kyle Johnson proved pivotal in the previous fixture between the sides and is likely to play a key role in this one. 

Johnson’s 21 points were his sixth 20-point performance of the season, and enter this one on a run of hot form, putting up 19.3 points per game in his last four. 

The 6’6” wing is a 14-year veteran and has played across Europe and Canada in his professional career. Johnson spent three seasons in Iceland before landing in Newcastle and scored 12 points per game last year. 

In 2017, Johnson’s scoring prowess was on full display as he dropped a 51-point performance in the Canadian NBL, the most points scored in a game in league history. 

This season, Johnson is scoring 14.9 points per game on 47.4% shooting and grabbing 5.2 rebounds per game. 

Facing Johnson on the wing is Kansas-born Jackson, who led the attempted charge back into Friday night’s fixture with seven points in the final period. 

He’s the Riders’ second-highest scorer on the season, putting up 15.8 points per game on 55.8% shooting. Jackson is red-hot from deep, hitting 43.1% of his three-point attempts while playing elite defense on the other end. 

Jackson is a third-year Rider and has made improvements each season. This has shown up in the box score, as the fourth-year pro is scoring six more points per game than in his first BBL season. 

The 6’6” small forward is one of the BBL’s best scorers, able to get it done on all three levels. He shows up in the biggest moments for Leicester, so expect a good showing in this get-back game for Leicester. 

Where to watch

Tickets for this fixture are available here

The game tips off at 4 pm and will be streamed on the BBL Official Youtube channel, starting at 3:45 pm.