The London Lions recorded a massive 111 – 88 victory over a rotated Leicester Riders team in the Copper Box on Sunday. The Lions were dominant on rebounds and played with intensity and aggression throughout in a win that will send a statement to the rest of the league as they warm up for the playoffs.
The Champions Leicester Riders enter the Copper box with a rotated squad, leaving some of their biggest players to rest over the Easter break, instead relying on youth.
The first quarter of basketball ended with a Niktash buzzer beater and a ten point Lions lead 29-19. The Lions were the more aggressive of the two sides at the start of the game, with Hassan scoring the opening basket just seconds after the tip which he won and fed back to Zaire Taylor. The Lions conceded 8 fouls in the quarter, which will be a concern for the Lions coaches, but their post defence, in particular, was excellent, lead by Hassan. The Lions lead the quarter in three points made, with Navid Niktash very effective from beyond the arc. The Riders were effective when they were able to get open looks on the perimeter created by Washington and Clark demanding double teams inside.
The second quarter was slow to get started with the Lions conceding 5 fouls within 4 minutes, but a quality quarter of basketball was able to break out. The Lions maintained their aggression on both ends, exemplified perfectly by Taylor diving for a loose ball allowing Lockhart to complete the play with a long 3 pointer. The Lions look at their best with Taylor and Hassan on the floor, Deuce, dominant in the paint and Taylor able to create opportunities through his hustle and passing. Navid Niktash had an enormous half of basketball netting 20 points, shooting 8-16, with 4-6 from 3 point range. He scored his twentieth points with a massive one-handed dunk. The Riders, however, were able to narrow the gap down to just 3 points, quietly, through the free throws gifted by the 18 fouls conceded by the Lions.
The Lions opened up to a 13 point lead in the third quarter, playing more disciplined basketball and working hard to create easier opportunities for points. Zaire Taylor was once again key especially creating opportunities in transition for the Lions to score. Taylor’s best play of the half was a steal at midcourt which he sprinted up the court for the easy layup in a period of big plays by the Lions. Wells had an excellent quarter despite picking up his third foul cheaply, he was useful on offence and pivotal for the Lions on defence with some important rebounds and a monster block on Broughton. Wells was important for limiting the effectiveness of the Riders fast breaks, which are a huge part of their play.
The Lions started the fourth quarter with an 82 to 65 lead after the focused effort of the third. The Lions maintained their drive and focus on both sides of the ball, with excellent defensive and offensive effort. The three ball was flying from Owumi and Taylor in the third, as well as more grown man basketball from Hassan and Wells under the basket. Kevin Moyo played significant minutes in the second and fourth quarters creating problems for the Riders with his speed and excellent ball handling. When Moyo drained a 3 in the final minute the crowd and bench erupted, showing how well he is thought of in London. The Lions put 100 points on the board through a Hassan reverse layup, as the home side ran riot sending a statement to the rest of the league.