Leicester Riders are set to resume their British Basketball League Championship campaign on the road against the Surrey Scorchers.
Here’s how the sides shape up…
Leicester Riders vs Surrey Scorchers
Surrey Sports Park
Saturday, February 3, 5:00 pm
Falling short in the Final Four
Last time out, the Riders bowed out of the British Basketball League Trophy in dramatic fashion to the Cheshire Phoenix.
Leicester were down 12 with 2:55 remaining in the game, before mounting a spirited comeback and take the lead with 20 seconds remaining.
But Cheshire’s Laquincy Rideau’s finish at the rim saw the Phoenix take back the lead with four seconds left, and Miryne Thomas’ Hail Mary three came off the rim to send the Riders home.
“That was a heartbreaker,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro postgame.
“I’m proud of how we hung in there and put ourselves in a position to win. It was a heck of a comeback but a disappointing way to go out.”
Despite Saturday’s loss, Leicester have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games in all competitions, seeing them capture some midseason form.
A 3-1 record in the Trophy group phase saw their play rewarded with a trip to the Utilita Arena Birmingham, where they were seconds from toppling the eventual champions.
The Riders currently possess a 10-11 record in the Championship following a 4-1 end to 2023. Their defence and rebounding, which were areas in need of improvement to start the season, became a strength during January.
“We’re taking defence personally,” said Riders forward Samuel Idowu before the Final Four.
“That’s from practice to in the games. We’re prideful in our efforts to get stops, so we’re happy to see it translate to the games. If we stay competitive, we’ll get results.
“Our rebounding especially has improved throughout the year, and we know how much that can control the game.”
Surrey looked set to progress to the Final Four after winning their opening two group games, but after suffering key injuries and running into two of the League’s inform teams in the Caledonia Gladiators and the Phoenix, they finished third in the group with a 2-2 record and failed to progress.
They now turn their attention to the League, where their 7-14 record leaves them in the final playoff place, with two games in hand from the ninth-placed Giants on the same amount of wins.
Surrey started the season 0-5, but responded with a 3-1 run and have picked up important wins throughout the year, including back-to-back victories against the Bristol Flyers in November.
They’ll look to continue to add to their wins collum on the back stretch and make their first postseason appearance since 2018.
Living by the three
Surrey live and die by the three-point line this season, jacking up the most attempts in the League this season with 30.9 per game.
While they don’t connect on the attempts at the most efficient rate, shooting 33.5%, when their shots are falling, the Scorchers become a difficult team to slow down.
The Riders can compete from three, and connect on their deep shots at the highest percentage in the League at 37.8%, so expect the trading of three-point bombs in this one.
Surrey’s three-point philosophy is led by two-time British Basketball MVP Justin Robinson, who takes a team-high 6.3 threes per game.
The 17-year pro enjoyed his best years in British basketball with the London Lions, winning League MVP in 2018 and 2019. He signed with the Scorchers this summer, and leads the teams scoring with 12.2 points per game.
The British point guard has been a lights-out three-point shooter throughout his career, averaging over 40% shooting in the last two seasons.
Meeting him in the backcourt will be Riders captain Kimbal Mackenzie, who comes into this game off the back of two lights-out performances.
In a win-or-go-home game against the Newcastle Eagles in the final round of the group, he led the team with 22 points in an important win.
He followed up with a monster fourth quarter against Cheshire, where he took a charge, hit a three and made a go-ahead and-one play with seconds on the clock to lead the comeback.
The back-and-forth between two of the League’s best point guards will be a can’t-miss action!
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