Key Matchups: Riders vs Giants

The Riders take on the Manchester Giants in their final home game of the 2023-24 British Basketball League season.

It’s an important weekend of action for the Riders in their final two games of the Championship, needing two wins to secure home court advantage for the postseason.

Here are the key matchups as the Riders take on the Giants…

Nicholas Lewis vs Kimbal Mackenzie 

The Riders will need to zero in on their opponent’s leading scorer this season, Nicholas Lewis. Lewis is putting up 14.9 points per game this season, 11th among all players, and comes into this one on good form. 

He has three 25+ scoring games in his last 10 appearances, his best outing being a 27 points, 7 assists and 4 steals game against the Cheshire Phoenix. Lewis played all 40 minutes for the third time this season in the game, putting a high workload on his back to carry the scoring effort.

The American is a shifty guard who makes his money driving inside, and can step back and take consistent twos from the midrange, finish at the hoop, or kick to teammates for open looks after the defence collapses. 

Lewis leads his team in assists with 4.5 per game, pulling the string while leading the scoring for the Giants. 

Looking to go back and forth with Lewis is Riders captain Kimbal Mackenzie, who is enjoying the best statistical season of his career. The Canadian is averaging a career high 13.2 points and 5 assists per game, and has led the team through the biggest moments of the season with his clutch play. 

He made a go-ahead and-one in the Trophy final four with seconds left, and took over late to see the Riders past the Caledonia Gladiators on the road. In the absence of Jaren Holmes and Teddy Allen, he played 45 minutes in a double overtime win against Plymouth City Patriots and hit the game-tying shot to send it to overtime.  

Mackenzie can match Lewis’ scoring and playmaking, making the head-to-head at the point guard position an interesting proposition going into the game with the Riders’ captain facing up against the Giants’ leading bucket getter. 

William Lee vs Miryne Thomas

High-flyer and former Riders William Lee patrols the sky for the Manchester Giants, making huge plays on both ends around the rim. 

The “Alabama slammer” is playing in his second season in Manchester having won the League in Leicester in 2021. 

Lee is best known for his aerial ability. The human highlight reel throws down monster jams and swats away shots emphatically on a game to game basis. But Lee has a versatile game, and can knock down shots anywhere on the court.

He’s scoring 13.4 points per game, and pulling down the third most rebounds of any player with an average of 8.3. From outside, the 6’9” forward is shooting 38.5% from three, the second best on his team. 

Meeting him in the frontcourt will be Riders forward Miryne Thomas, who has composed an electric highlight reel of his own in his rookie season. 

Putting up 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds, the Cleveland native has come up huge for the Riders this season to lead the team to wins. He has scored double digit points in six of the last eight League  games, including a 21 point and 15 rebound double double against the Newcastle Eagles. 

Thomas is always a threat above the rim, but defenders, like Lee, need to respect the three where he can get hot on any given night. Last month against the Patriots, Thomas went 4-5 from three on his way to 19 points in 22 minutes, demonstrating his threat from anywhere on the court.

The frontcourt matchup between the two athletic fours is sure to get fans out of their seats. 

Evan Walshe vs Jaren Holmes

Another former Riders, Evan Walshe, is enjoying his best statistical season of his professional career in his first season with the Manchester Giants. 

The Brit, who suited up in Riders red between 2021 and 2023, is putting up 11 points per game with the Giants this season. 

Walshe caught the attention of the League from the off this year by putting up 16.5 points per game in his opening two fixtures. He has taken over games for the Giants with seven 20 point performances to his name. 

The 6’4” wing is aggressive on offence. He’s quick to get his head down and drive to the hole, but has shown his ability to step outside and knock down shots to keep defenders honest, going four for five from three against the Plymouth City Patriots earlier in the month. 

Walshe’s real threat comes in transition, however, where his speed and aggression takes him coast to coast consistently for scores on the fastbreak. He shares this in common with Riders’ guard Jaren Holmes, who made his return from injury last time out. 

Holmes was an All-Star in his rookie season after graduating from Iowa State University. He has lit up the league with his energy and effort this season, and is the Riders’ second leading scorer on the season. 

Michigan-born Holmes is averaging 13.4 points per game this season, and his 1.3 steals per game has led to a multitude of fastbreak opportunities where he is extremely effective. His speed is transition and vision when driving at pace makes him a dual threat to score and pass, in the half court and on the break. 

The fastbreak battle between Holmes and Walshe will be fought at an electric pace, and paired with the highlight plays from Thomas and Lee, expect a flurry of highlights from the Riders final home game of the Championship season.