BBL Championship Preview: Riders vs Lions

The Riders take on the London Lions in the BBL Championship following a two-week break from action. 

This is the first time the Riders face the Lions since the BBL Cup final, where the Lions emerged 79-71 victors. The Riders brought the score back to four in the final quarter, but could not get over the hump after a late surge from Final MVP Sam Dekker. 

In their previous game, the Riders secured a dominant 105-91 win on the road against the Cheshire Phoenix. Kimbal Mackenzie went off for a Riders’ high 31 points in the victory, which is Leicester’s fourth on the bounce in the league. 

Marc Loving has led the scoring effort through the season, however, scoring 16.7 points per game in all competitions. He has averaged 22.7 points in his last three league games, establishing himself as one of the BBL’s elite scorers. 

Leicester has the second-highest-scoring team in the league, scoring 88.7 points per game on highly efficient numbers. The Riders top the field goal, three-point and free-throw percentage charts, scoring at the highest rate in the BBL. 

A win against London would be their first against the Lions on the season and would see them move six points behind the table-toppers. 

League-leading Lions

Sitting at the top of the BBL Championship table with a 20-2 record, and already having a piece of silverware in the cabinet this season, the London Lions have established themselves as the team to beat midway through the season. 

They have led through their defence, holding their opponents to under 70 points per game, and enter this one having won their last 13 league games. 

The Riders have run them the closest of any team in recent months, keeping the game to within four points in the final period in their last two meetings. However, the Lions have emerged victors on both occasions, led by one of the leading MVP candidates in Sam Dekker. 

The former NBA forward has put up 18.1 points per game this season, dominating in close to shoot 79% from around the hoop. He scored 22 points in the BBL Cup final, coming up big in the high-pressure moments. 

To get over the edge in this one, the Riders must keep Dekker from the hoop late on. 

Key matchup 

Lions’ British guard Luke Nelson has been on a tear in recent games for London, scoring 18.6 points per game. The 6’3” point guard showed off his scoring and playmaking skills, dishing nine assists in back-to-back games also. 

Nelson arrived in the capital this season with an established European pedigree, having played in the Spanish, German and French first divisions. He scored 8.3 points a game for Le Portel in France last season before signing his first BBL contract. 

Nelson has averaged 10.7 points a game for London this season, going on a recent hot streak. He’s red hot from three, shooting 38.5%, and has picked teams apart all season with his basketball IQ and passing ability. 

Facing him in the backcourt is Kimbal Mackenzie, in the form of his Riders career. He enters this one off the back of a 31 point game vs Cheshire, thriving in his starting role this year.

Mackenzie’s play this season earned him a spot on the GB roster, alongside fellow Riders Patrick Whelan and Aaron Menzies. He’s putting up 11 points per game, and plays a pivotal role in running the Riders’ offence. 

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 16 occasions this season, stepping up as a consistent starter.

The battle in the backcourt between these two intelligent guards will be a key factor in this clash. 

Where to watch

Tickets are selling quickly for this home fixture, so get them here to be in the arena!

If you cannot get tickets for this matchup, the game will be shown live on Sky Sports, and streamed live on the Sky Sports Youtube channel starting at 7:30 pm.