The Riders were unable to make it a three-game winning streak after a tight 87-81 loss to the 11-11 Bristol Flyers in round 16 of the British Basketball League Championship.
Rob Paternostro’s team remains seventh in the standings with a 9-11 record and hopes to finish the year with a win against the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks in two days.
The home team outscored their opponents from three-point range, and strong first-half defence held the Flyers to just 33 points, but a record-breaking game on the offensive glass by Brad Greene willed the visitors to victory.
The powerful centre put up a 19-point, 17-rebound double-double, which included a franchise record of 14 offensive boards.
The Riders spread scoring nicely, with five players dropping double-digit point totals, led by 17 from Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen who started the game on the court for the first time.
Forwards Miryne Thomas and Samuel Idowu both gave good accounts facing up to physical inside play from the Flyers, scoring 10 and 11 points respectively, and Kimbal Mackenzie hit some clutch shots down the stretch to keep the Riders in touching distance.
The Flyers’ Greene was supported by second-half scoring runs spearheaded through Trejon Jacob and Kedrian Johnson, who dropped 18 points apiece, largely helped by the second chances provided by their double-double machine.
The opening minutes of the game began with rare inaccurate shooting by the Riders, who missed their first four attempts allowing the Flyers to build an early six-point lead.
Visiting power forward Rowell Graham-Bell made space for a couple of buckets early, but the Morningside Arena didn’t have to wait too long before Teddy ‘Buckets’ gave fans a reason to cheer.
The wing forward hit high off the glass to open the Riders’ account before casually pulling up from three and draining the game’s opening triple.
The home side’s defence soon started to cause the Flyers problems too, big centre Mo Walker standing up well in the paint against the hulking Greene, forcing missed shots that regularly allowed the Riders to spring a fast break attack.
Excellent defence led to the most eye-catching moment of the quarter, Walker jamming home in transition after a spectacular block by lengthy forward Thomas.
Thomas then splashed from deep to give Leicester the lead and complete the mini-comeback, but tenacious offensive rebounding from the Flyers’ front court (they finished the half with seven) saw them take advantage of the second chances to head into the second quarter with a two-point lead.
The second ten minutes tipped off with a clash of styles, as the Riders’ speed faced off against the Flyers’ size.
Both teams found increased success on the offensive side of the court, but it was Paternostro who appeared the happier as his small second unit built a multiple-shot lead.
High-flyer Blake Bowman led the way, finessing a tough step back jumper before displaying his famed euro step to hit a transition layup. Bowman’s buckets came either side of a picturesque Sechan Russell three, and the Riders were gaining momentum.
A Leslie Smith ‘and one’ slowed the home side’s roll for a minute, but a classic Conner Washington three and a beautifully destructive TJ Lall dunk kept the scoreboard ticking in Leicester’s favour.
The Riders’ defence caused nine first half turnovers for the Flyers and, coupled with good ball movement on the other end of the court, the lead grew.
A late dry spell allowed Bristol to close the gap, but another three from Teddy ‘Buckets’ and a tough layup by captain Mackenzie pushed the Riders to a 38-33 half-time lead.
The defence limited Bristol to a scoreless half from three-point range, and the home fans knew that a better shooting percentage from Leicester would give them a great chance at victory.
The third quarter began with Allen in heat check mode, stringing his 12th point to open the half before another transitional three found its mark.
The Flyers would develop effective offense of their own though, Jacob heating up after a cold first half assisted by Greene’s insatiable appetite on the glass.
The 6’11” big man’s quality play was only trumped by the 16 third quarter points for the red-hot Jacob.
The Riders needed to halt their opponents’ momentum, and a strong rebound from Idowu who put back the easy layup did the trick.
Still, 31 third quarter points from the Flyers catapulted them into a four-point lead, with a lot to do for Paternostro’s squad heading into the closing stanza.
Lall got the Riders off to the perfect possible start, facing up to the much larger Smith to finish at the rim. Idowu soon followed suit and when Jaren Holmes hit his first big three of the night, Leicester retook the lead.
A momentum-stealing takeaway and jam from Holmes saw the home side on a 9-2 run, forcing the Flyers to take a timeout and rethink.
Kapoulas’ squad did manage to swing the pendulum back in their favour, going on a nine-point run of their own, although a crucial five points by captain Mackenzie kept Leicester in contention.
More glass-eating from Greene saw him break the Flyers’ franchise record for offensive rebounds in a game, and the Riders were facing a five-point deficit with 90 seconds left.
A timely block by Idowu gave the home crowd hope, but a couple of calls that went the Flyers’ way allowed the visitors to ice the game.
The Riders return to action on Saturday, hosting the Sheffield Sharks in their final game of 2023. Get tickets here!