BBL Championship preview: Riders vs Scorchers

The Riders return to league action, hosting the Surrey Scorchers in the BBL Championship. The game tips off at 7:45 pm, on Friday 3rd Febuary.

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Leicester enter this one off the back of the BBL Cup final, where they fell just short against the London Lions. It was a four-point game late in the fourth quarter, but the Riders could not get over the hump against a talented Lions team, losing 79-71. 

Zach Jackson led the team with 16 points and four rebounds, going 2-4 from deep.

Read our full report here.

The Riders have three scorers putting up 15 points per game this season, Jackson, Patrick Whelan and Loving. They are led by Loving, who puts up 16.1 points per game in all competitions.

Loving’s play has helped Leicester to third in the standings, with four games in hand on second-placed Bristol. They possess a 13-6 record after beating the Cheshire Phoenix 100-82 to start a three-game league home stretch. 

The Riders are the most efficient team in the BBL, shooting the best field goal and three-point percentage in the league, leading to the second most points. They’ll look to continue shooting the lights out to bounce back in this one. 

Scorchers heating up?

Despite their 2-17 record leaving them bottom of the BBL Championship table, the Scorchers have played teams close throughout the season, unable to convert performances to wins.

11 of their losses have been within 10 points, most recently a 97-92 loss to the Manchester Giants. Josh Steel’s three with 24 seconds remaining cut it to a one-possession affair late, but the Giants’ made their free throws to secure the win.

Ryan Martin led Surrey with 22 points and six rebounds. The GB big is the Scorchers’ fourth-leading scorer with 11.8 points per game this season and has added physicality and size to a guard-heavy roster. 

But it’s one of their guards, Padiet Wang, who has led their scoring this season with 12.2 an outing. Wang was lights out in the previous meeting between these sides, scoring 18 in the first half. 

He will hope for another offensive explosion to help his team past the Riders. 

Key matchup 

GB guard Andrew Lawrence has continued to impress for Surrey this season, during his second year in the BBL. The 6’1” two-guard is scoring 10.9 points per game, shooting a red-hot 38.5% from three. 

Lawrence is an eight-year pro, having played at the top level of European basketball, in Spain and France’s top division. He put up six points per game in Spain for Acunsa Gipuzkoa, playing 23 games. 

Lawrence is having joy attacking the hoop this season, shooting 70% from in close. He comes off the back of a 16-point showing against the BBL’s best defence, the London Lions, and now faces another GB talent in Patrick Whelan. 

Whelan, like Lawrence, is playing in his second straight season for his team. He led the Riders in scoring last year and has continued his hot form into 2023. He’s scoring 15.3 points per game, and is one of the BBL’s top three-point shooters, making 45.5% of his shots from behind the arc. 

Whelan received his first GB call-up last March, and earned a spot on the Eurobasket 2022 roster, after being named to the BBL Team of the Year last season. He’s one of the BBL’s top talents on both ends and will prove a challenge to Lawrence’s offensive skillset. 

Where to watch

The game will be streamed live on the British Basketball League Youtube channel, starting at 7:30 pm.