The Riders gave their fans an early reason to celebrate the holiday period with a confident 86-73 win over the Manchester Giants in round 15 of the British Basketball League Championship.
Teddy Allen continued his dream start to Leicester life with his second game-leading scoring performance, following up his 32-point debut with 21 points and six rebounds on the road.
Leicester forced tough shots and double-teamed the Giants’ key weapons down low, resulting in a low 22% three-point percentage and 22 turnovers.
The Riders, led by Allen and Kimbal Mackenzie, shot more accurately from deep and from the foul line – 48 of the away team’s points coming in those areas.
Coach Rob Paternostro will also be pleased with how his team spread the scoring; Allen’s 21 points backed up by three other Riders hitting double-digits.
Mackenzie and quick forward Miryne Thomas dropped 16 points each, while TJ Lall scored 11 hard-earned points on his way to a plus/minus of 17.
Quick hands from Allen saw him add to his scoring totals with five steals, Thomas and bench big man Samuel Idowu getting in on the act with four and three takeaways, respectively.
Speedy shooting guard Evan Walshe top scored for the home squad with 18 points from the bench, as star duo Jamell Anderson and Nick Lewis had quiet nights by their standards, contributing 15 points each.
Tonight’s victory for Leicester sees them take back-to-back wins heading into Christmas, improving their record on the season to 9-10 and pushing them within touching distance of the top four.
The game started in disjointed fashion, with both teams committing early turnovers but also failing to capitalise on opposition mistakes.
A Thomas two-handed dunk – something that is becoming a familiar sight to Leicester supporters – opened the Riders’ account, but offensive play remained muted in the opening five minutes.
Paternostro soon introduced new star Allen to the Manchester crowd and his impact was felt immediately, the 32-point debutant bringing impetus and focus when on the ball.
The shooting guard’s presence also opened space on the floor for his teammates, allowing captain Mackenzie to stroke home the Riders’ first three-pointer and workhorse Lall to score two with a nice finger roll.
A couple of buckets from downtown kept Manchester in touch, but seven first-quarter fouls gave the Riders plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line.
The opening ten minutes predictably finished with a score from ‘Buckets’ Allen, who hit high off the glass to give the Riders a narrow, one-score lead.
After a short break, the teams entered the court for the second quarter and – after a surprisingly subdued opening stanza – the scoring began to accelerate.
Buckets from former Riders Anderson and Walshe were answered by a smooth Allen three-ball, and with the Riders’ continuing to force fouls, the contest became a back-and-forth affair.
It continued in that fashion until the final minute of the half, which saw Leicester ride the momentum of a clutch Jaren Holmes trey to build an eight-point halftime lead.
Solid play on the defensive side of the ball – including a huge block by the athletic Thomas – gave Lall a chance to finish at the rim and saw Allen (12 first-half points) stroke home another triple.
More good defence from Thomas stunted the Giants’ attempt at a final first-half bucket, and the teams entered the locker rooms with the score at 41-33 in favour of the Riders.
The second 20 minutes began with a quickfire six points from the home team, Legend Robertin and Anderson entertaining the crowd with some spectacular plays.
The Riders soon stopped the bleeding, though, Holmes hitting a pair of important free throws followed by a run of five points from Mackenzie that stretched the lead to double-digits.
Leicester’s defence also started to clamp down, forcing the Giants into the low post to meet a defensive wall of Mo Walker and Idowu.
Dangerman Anderson couldn’t beat the consistent double-team, and Manchester were struggling on 43 points deep into the half.
An eye-catching alley-oop from Austin Lawton gave the home crowd something to celebrate, but once more, a deep three from Lall staunched any thoughts of a Giants run.
The Riders continued to pour on the points to end the quarter with pretty three-balls from Allen and Mackenzie, and Blake Bowman showed some shifty footwork down low to hit a nice layup.
Key Manchester man Anderson finally began to make his mark on the game during the opening minutes of the first quarter, but a tricky finish by Holmes and yet another silky triple from Allen saw the Riders boasting a 16-point lead.
As the clock wore down, the Riders were helped by clutch scoring from Mackenzie and their 79% free throw shooting, negating Manchester’s attempt to set pulses racing with a Walshe-led comeback.
A final layup from Thomas ended the game, giving the Riders a deserved win.
Leicester is back in action on December 28, hosting the Bristol Flyers as they look to get back to a .500 record.