Saturday night gives the Riders a chance to give fans an early present for the holidays with a win in Round 15 of the British Basketball League Championship.
Coach Rob Paternostro’s squad travel northwest to face the Manchester Giants, who sit eighth in the standings with a record of six wins and thirteen losses.
Leicester Riders at Manchester Giants
National Basketball Performance Centre, Belle Vue Sports Village, Manchester
Saturday, December 23, 5:00pm
A New Star
Since the Riders’ impressive 96-90 victory over the Caledonia Gladiators last weekend, all the talk and excitement has been focused on the performance of new signing, Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen.
Making his British basketball debut, the 6’6” combo guard set fire to the Morningside pine, dropping 32 points – including five buckets from three-point range – pulling down six rebounds, laying on three assists and finishing the game with a plus/minus of ten.
Allen showed confidence from deep, aggression when finishing at the rim and an uncanny ability to slice to the basket with finesse and style.
Despite a three-month gap between his British Basketball League debut and MVP season in the CEBL, ‘Buckets’ came ready to put on a show and to live up to the extensive hype surrounding him.
The Arizonan’s influence also impacted the play of his teammates, most notably Kimbal Mackenzie and experienced big man Samuel Idowu.
The Riders’ captain had one of his best shooting displays of the season – hitting 19 points at a FG% of 63 – and Idowu controlled the low post, scoring 14 points and building a game-high plus/minus of 11.
Now, for Allen and the Riders’ squad, it’s about riding the wave of momentum into 2024 and finishing Championship play on top before the Trophy competition commences.
That starts with Manchester.
Struggling for Consistency
November 17 saw Brian Semonian’s Giants’ squad score an impressive road victory in Bristol – just Manchester’s third of the season – and it looked like they would turn a corner.
In the ensuing weeks, the Giants’ play has improved, however they have been unable to put consecutive wins together, alternating wins and losses in the last eight games.
Most of Manchester’s problems have come on the defensive side of the court as they currently sit last in points conceded per game and defensive rating at 91.1 points allowed and 114 defensive rating.
The Riders have been one of the better offensive teams in the League, and – with the introduction of Allen – away supporters should expect plenty of points to fall.
Manchester can put up big numbers of their own though, with weapons like the free-scoring Jamell Anderson and long-range sniper Nick Lewis leading the scoring charts.
The deadly duo collectively contributes over 30 points per night for the home team and the Riders need to be constantly aware of their positions on the court.
Rangy guard Lewis particularly catches the eye, putting up six deep balls a game as one of the most prolific three-point shooters In the BBL.
Preventing the Canadian from getting hot must be a priority for Paternostro.
There are a number of exciting matchups to look forward to across the court, but perhaps the most fun contest will be between rookie Rider Jaren Holmes and former Rider Evan Walshe.
Walshe is a speedy guard that can finish athletically around the rim and is dangerous on the fast break.
Riders’ fans will know how effective the Brit can be at bringing energy off the bench and changing the game with attacking intent and positivity.
After impressing with the Surrey Scorchers, the guard spent two seasons with Leicester before joining the Giants this season, currently dropping nearly ten points per game in his new home.
Much like his opponent, Holmes predicates his game on speed and athleticism, often with a show of strength thrown in for good measure.
The wing player – who is as effective beyond the arc as he is near the rim – has been ever-present for the Riders this season, scoring 13.6 points per game including a high of 28 against the Eagles.
Holmes has been knocking on the door of a 20-point performance during December, and with the Giants’ defensive record, look for the former Iowa State star to hit that mark on Saturday.
Want to see the Riders in action?