Friday 7th April
Leicester Community Sports Arena
The BBL leading Leicester Riders host the fourth place Sheffield Sharks in the nationally televised (BBC) BBL game Friday night.
The Riders have beaten the Sharks twice this season heading into their final regular season matchup. The last meeting between the two in Sheffield in January ended with a four-point win for the Riders, 78-82. Malcolm Riley (Sharks) and Tyler Bernardini (Riders) were leading scorers bagging 20 a piece, in a game that the Riders won thanks to a very strong first half.
The Riders demonstrated in that win just how fast they can move the ball up the floor with tremendous range and accuracy of passing from their guards as well as the finishing ability of their forwards. The game was won by Leicester through their ball movement, with 27 made baskets coming off assists compared to just 15 from Sheffield who favoured the iso ball.
That game should serve as a warning for the Riders, however, who are just one win (and an Eagles loss) away from clinching back to back League titles for the first time in their history. The Sharks demonstrated they can go toe to toe with the Riders and are hoping to build playoff form during the run-in.
The Sharks are 4-2 in their last 6 entering after an 84-55 loss to the Rock, in which they comprehensively outplayed and the high scorer for Sheffield was Rembert bagging 13 points.
The Riders enter Friday night’s matchup off the back of a 4 point weekend. A big home win over the Plymouth Raiders by a final score of 88 to 71, Brandon Clark top scoring with 18 points on Saturday night. On Sunday the Riders travelled to Surrey and won by a scoreline of 85 to 71 with Drew Sullivan top scoring with 19 points off the bench.
Players to Watch:
Drew Sullivan #8, Forward, Riders
The British two-time league MVP veteran demonstrated just last week how he capable of running up a score. Averaging 10 pts, 5 boards and 2 assists a game, Sullivan is a team-first player who is dangerous in the paint and can throw down dunks with the best of them.
Taylor King, #33, Forward, Riders
The 6’8″ Duke Alumni is second in scoring for the Riders with 12.1 points per game. The stretch four has 3 point range, but his percentage from beyond the arc is down at 25% right now as he does his best work in the paint. Averaging 7.4 rebounds a night he leads the team on the boards and will be crucial to their hopes of clinching the title tonight.
Malcolm Riley, #25, Forward, Sharks
The 6’5″ forward is the active scoring leader for the Sharks averaging 15.48 points per night with 50% shooting, including an excellent 40% from the 3 point line. Riley is in the top 20 scorers in the league and can threaten from anywhere on the floor, but is particularly clutch shooting a midrange jumper, he is a player the Sharks will depend on for a win.
Tony Wroblicky, #20, Centre, Sharks
The 6’10” Centre out of Los Angeles had an excellent game the last time these sides met in January. In his debut season in the BBL Wroblicky has demonstrated very good scoring in the paint and at the line. He leads the team in rebounds averaging close to 9 boards per game, 2.45 of them at the offensive end. Wroblicky will be relied upon by the Sharks to make as many second chance opportunities as possible.
The Leicester Riders are the form team and I struggle to look past them on their own floor. The Riders enter knowing that a win tonight likely puts the title in their hands on their floor in front of the Nation, and this is a team that plays to the occasion.
It will likely be a close match with the Sharks needing a rebound in form from last week, but in the end, the Riders will likely be too strong and too driven to be stopped this evening.