The group stages of the 2024 British Basketball League Trophy continue Wednesday night as the Riders welcome the Manchester Giants to the Morningside Arena.
Rob Paternostro’s squad split their two games in the competition so far, dominating the Bristol Flyers before a difficult trip to London a couple of days later resulted in a loss.
Leicester Riders vs Manchester Giants
Morningside Arena, Leicester
Wednesday, January 10, 2024
A Packed Schedule
The start of the new year continues in frenetic fashion for the Riders as the Giants’ visit marks a third game in six days.
Leicester’s bid for the League Trophy started perfectly on January 5 with a confident 95-74 win over the Flyers, Teddy Allen the ‘X Factor’ once again with a cool 30-point, seven rebound and seven assist showing.
Second-unit superstar Samuel Idowu also caught the eye, combining 15 points with 14 boards to post his first double-double for the Riders.
48 hours later, the squad found themselves facing a deep London Lions team in the Copper Box. The Riders fought hard, outplaying the home team in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t match London’s strength in the paint and roster depth which propelled them to an 89-74 win.
Despite the loss, Idowu continued his excellent start to 2024, bagging a second double-double in as many games. A certain quote about London buses comes to mind.
One major positive for the Riders is that they have maintained a positive points difference, which could prove crucial in a tough Group B, sending just the top two teams into the semi-finals.
Only the Lions remain undefeated, so victory over the Giants will put the Riders in great position to take the all-important second spot and put pressure on Friday’s clash between the Flyers and the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.
Expect the Riders to fire on all offensive cylinders this Wednesday as they face a Manchester squad with the leakiest defence in the League championship. Newcastle’s Jordan Johnson posted 30 points in their round one win over the Giants, so home supporters should be treated to another special night from ‘Player of the Month’ Allen, Kimbal Mackenzie and Idowu.
It wouldn’t be a surprise for Paternostro to challenge his team to a triple-digit offensive output against Manchester.
Wins are vital, but points differential could decide who advances to the semis.
Out for Revenge
Trophy games often carry an extra bite to them, but Wednesday’s visit of the Giants may bring even more spice as they try to avenge a first-round loss to the Riders in last year’s competition.
2023’s knockout format saw the Giants hosting Leicester in the first weekend of action, falling to a dominant Marc Loving display in an entertaining 114-107 game where both teams ended with a 30-point scorer.
Former Rider Loving dropped a 32/13 double-double and Tajh Green – who now suits up for the Eagles – posted an incredible 38 points and 14 rebounds, mainly fed by flashy point guard Rahmon Fletcher, who dished 14 assists on the night.
The road team clinched the win through efficiency from beyond the arc which outstretched the Giants’ defence and forced them to try and keep pace on just 28% three-point shooting.
Now, Fletcher has retired, and Green is shooting hoops in Newcastle, but the same defensive struggles remain.
The Giants do possess solid offensive weapons – Jamell Anderson, Nik Lewis and Evan Walshe – but if the Riders limit them to less than 80 points as they did on December 23, Manchester supporters may need to wait a little longer for revenge.
The 86-73 championship victory the Riders took away from Manchester towards the end of 2023 was largely due to accuracy from beyond the three-point line.
The big men cancelled each other out and may do again, so the key battle could come between sharpshooters Teddy Allen and Nick Lewis.
6’3” British-Canadian guard Lewis is a confidence shooter that maintains hot streaks longer than most in the League.
His usually high three-ball numbers are down this season – standing at just over 23% from deep – but if he drops a couple of treys in a row, he can take over a 10-minute quarter.
Lewis has made some huge contributions for the Giants this season, hitting the 20-point mark on five occasions including a red-hot 33 points against the championship-leading Lions.
Put simply: the Riders cannot afford to let Lewis get his eye in.
A player who knows all about heat checks is the Riders’ mid-season star, Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen.
Allen, who deservedly clinched December’s ‘Player of the Month’ after starting his Riders career off in style, brings sureness in spades.
A scorer more than a shooter, the former Winnipeg Bear has looked impossible to guard during his small sample of games, averaging over 26 points per game including totals of 30 and 21 in the Trophy.
The 6’6” combo-guard has also been deadly accurate from downtown, splashing threes at a 55% clip in the championship, his only blemish a 3-11 effort against London.
Allen versus Lewis is a tussle between two players that thrive on confidence. Whoever can maintain that for most of the 40 minutes will be key to victory.