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Championship Preview: Riders vs Flyers

The Riders’ penultimate game of 2023 sees them host the 10-11 Bristol Flyers, the first contest of a three-game stretch in the Morningside Arena.

Thursday night’s tilt gives Rob Paternostro’s squad the chance of a three-game winning streak, and victory could see the Riders leapfrog their visitors in the British Basketball League championship.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders vs Bristol Flyers

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Thursday, December 28, 7:45pm

Get tickets here!

A Strong End to the Year

After a tricky start to December – three tough losses to the top two teams in the league – the Riders have picked up their play, downing the Caledonia Gladiators 96-90 before a double-digit win in Manchester.

The introduction of Teddy Allen has energised the entire roster, and performances on both ends of the court have risen as a result.

Leicester’s offence remains one of the most potent in Britain, highlighted by a field goal efficiency of 46.9% and 38.2% accuracy from beyond the arc.

Since Allen’s debut, the Riders have married their efficiency with production from three-point range, outshooting both the Gladiators and the Giants from deep.

The American has taken the plaudits – averaging 26.5 points per game – but the play of Kimbal Mackenzie was also key to the Riders’ improved fortunes.

Leicester’s captain steered his team to victory in both games by taking responsibility in clutch moments, knowing when to drive to the basket for a quick two or stopping and popping in all areas of the court.

The point guard’s leadership has been evident in the last few weeks, and it will be needed again on Thursday night in a tough game with the Flyers.

A Tough Flyers Stretch

Bristol’s 76-66 loss in Sheffield on December 22 was the Flyers’ seventh in their last ten games, dropping them down the British Basketball League standings with a below .500 record.

Andreas Kapoulas’ team struggled for consistent offence against the stingy Sharks, being held to just 11 points in the first and third quarters.

The Flyers – as has been the case for much of the season – dominated the offensive glass, snagging 15 offensive rebounds, but a 32% field goal percentage hampered them.

Field goal percentage is something Thursday’s visitors have wrestled with throughout the season, currently sitting near the bottom of the league on 41.5%.

The majority of the Flyers’ ten wins have come from out-hustling their opponents on the boards. Skilled big man Brad Greene and lengthy forward Raphell Thomas-Edwards are two players home fans need to look out for, the hardworking duo combining for an average of 17 rebounds per game.

Their physical play in the frontcourt gives dangermen like Trejon Jacob extra chances to hit buckets.

The quick wing player dropped 23 points on the Sharks, carrying his team’s offence by combining athletic inside moves with touch from three-point range.

The Flyers may not have the most feared offence in the league, but letting a player like Jacob get hot could be a losing strategy for the Riders.

Key Players

Jacob may have taken charge against the Sharks in round 15, but the juiciest matchup on Thursday night may come between big men, Brad Greene and Samuel Idowu.

Greene, who joined the Flyers from Austrian outfit OCS Capital Bulls this season, is a hulking 6’11” centre who possesses moves in the post that bely his size.

The Californian is averaging a near double-double, sinking 12.5 points per game and pulling down 9.6 rebounds per game, illustrating his dominance in the paint.

Greene’s finest outing came a couple of weeks ago against the in-form Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles as he put up a 27 and 14 double-double to lead the Flyers to a dominant victory.

Facing the former Irvine Anteater from the bench will be the rangy Idowu.

Idowu is an experienced front-court baller who has grown into the season, providing a defensive wall in the paint and an ability to score in the post, off the dribble or from deep range.

The fourth-year veteran gives up some size to Greene but makes up for it with tenacity, shown in a ten-rebound performance against the Giants, and a season-best 18-point showing against Cheshire in November.

Greene and Idowu may not share the court at the opening tip-off, but Riders’ fans can expect a titanic battle when they do.