BBL Championship preview: Riders vs Flyers

Friday will see the Riders finish March with a crucial clash against the second-place Bristol Flyers.

The Morningside Arena will host the second of a two-game home stand as the Riders look to build on Tuesday’s victory over the Plymouth City Patriots.

Riders’ Season So Far

The win was the Riders’ 19th of the season in the BBL Championship, keeping them fixed in third place in the standings and now within reaching distance of Friday’s visitors.

Leicester consigned Plymouth to a fifth straight loss, but the game was never a foregone conclusion.

The Patriots mounted a spirited fourth-quarter comeback and the 92-89 scoreline perfectly reflects the competitiveness of the contest.

Marc Loving and Kimbal Mackenzie typically topped the Riders’ scoring output, dropping 24 and 23 points respectively. Loving especially had his stroke going, hitting 61% from the field including six from downtown.

Zach Jackson also had a nice night with an energetic 18 points, but it was two late plays on the defensive side of the ball that clinched victory for the Riders.

Holding a tenuous one-point lead with less than a minute to go, the Riders needed a stop. Up stepped Jubril Adekoya, one of Leicester’s most tenacious stealers of the ball.

The strong forward shot out a quick hand and pilfered possession away from the Patriots’ guard, forcing the away team to foul.

A couple of clutch Mackenzie free throws and a last-second block by Loving put the seal on an entertaining game.

No doubt more of the same will be needed to stop a high-flying Bristol team.

Flyers’ Season So Far

The Bristol Flyers have been one of the best teams in the BBL this season and travel to Leicester boasting a 21-9 record.

They sit a narrow four points above the Riders in the table, the proximity between the two teams adding extra spice to Friday’s contest.

Mixed results in recent weeks have seen the Flyers go 3-2 in their last five meetings, both losses coming against a Manchester Giants squad that fell 104-84 to the Riders in February.

Bristol’s latest game ended in a 39-point win however, the Flyers prevailing over Leicester’s Tuesday night opponents riding a strong 23-point show by guard, Tevin Olison.

A dangerous three-point threat when on the left side of the court, Olison is averaging 9.58 PPG and shoots a respectable 82% when he gets to the free-throw line.

Despite the single-digit PPG average, Olison can rack up buckets, as shown by his dominance over Plymouth.

Leicester will want to keep him in check as they did when the teams met on January 6.

Key Players

The Flyers are the least accurate team in the BBL when shooting, currently hitting 43.58% of their shots.

What they lack in efficiency, they make up in scoring chances.

Bristol attempt 69.82 field goals per game, second in the BBL. The key to this plethora of shots is their ability on the offensive glass – the Flyers are the only team to have snagged over 400 offensive rebounds this season.

The driving forces behind Bristol’s thirst for second chances are forward Thomas Bell and Flyers veteran, Malcolm Delpeche.

Both Bell and 6’8” center, Delpeche, sit in the league’s top 10 in offensive rebounds per game, pulling down 2.34 and 3.03 respectively.

This front-court hustle gives extra opportunities to players like top-scorer, VJ King, who is a force when driving to the basket.

Tasked with boxing out Bell and Delpeche will be the interchanging Darien Nelson-Henry and Aaron Menzies.

As a result of swapping in and out at the center position, the two big men don’t trouble the BBL’s top 10 in defensive rebounds per game.

However, they rise up the statistics table when the criteria is changed to DREBs per 40 minutes.

Nelson-Henry and Menzies grab 7.87 and 9.78 DREBs per 40, the 7’3 Brit placing second in the championship in that metric.

While players like Jackson, Mackenzie and King may grab the post-game headlines for their ability to sink the rock, the battle of the frontcourt may be the true area where this game is won and lost.

Where to watch

The game tips off at 7:45 pm on Friday 31 March. Get your tickets here!

Alternatively, it will be streamed on the BBL Official youtube channel from 7:30 pm.