BBL Preview: The Chase for 8th

It is hard to believe that today is the final day of the BBL regular season, but with just one matchday remaining there is unfinished business in the league with playoff positions to be confirmed and one playoff place yet to be decided.

The Bristol Flyers and the Plymouth Raiders will head into their final fixtures knowing that a Bristol win will settle matters once and for all.

Plymouth missed out on their opportunity to qualify for the postseason in their home arena last night with a big loss to the Surrey Scorchers. Plymouth was never really in the game aside from a 3-minute spell at the start of the game. Plymouth is in a funk, having lost their last 5 games. Their coaches know the importance of qualifying and the embarrassment that would be felt if they drop out of playoffs from their initially commanding position.

Plymouth Raiders @ Manchester Giants

5:00 pm Tip-Off

Plymouth head to the bottom placed Manchester Giants, who will want to finish their year with a win for their fans. The Giants played a tough game last night in Bristol, taking the game to overtime only to lose 89-81 to the playoff chasers.

Plymouth will be confident of a win against Manchester, a side they’ve beaten easily twice this season and a side that haven’t won since 5th February. As has been mentioned, the Raiders are in terrible form heading into today’s must-win game, however, they should have enough to beat the worst side in the division and get the final playoff spot.

Plymouth’s Cory Dixon, who is their most important player, scored 24 points last night and will be vital again in their fight for the 8th seed. 6’7″ forward John Barber scored a double-double last night, with 11 points and 13 rebounds, which he will be looking to reproduce this afternoon. Barber grabs a large proportion of his rebounds on the offensive end which is vital in getting second chance scoring, something that can tip the balance of a game on its own.

Manchester’s danger man is 6’3″ forward Jerelle Okoro, who leads the way in scoring for the Giants and contributed a big 18 points last night with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Harold Trobo also had a big game for the Giants last night with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists in the losing effort. Both these players will be targeted by the Raiders as key men to shut down.

Bristol Flyers @ Surrey Scorchers

4:00 pm Tip-off

The early clash is must win for the Flyers Fans. If they win, they’re in the playoffs with a better record than the Raiders, regardless of what happens in Manchester. The Flyers fans will have one eye on the Giants game hoping they can do them a massive favour and beat the Raiders, in the event of a Flyers loss.

The Flyers must play with the mindset: win or go home.

The Surrey Scorchers have wrapped up their postseason place with a commanding win over the Raiders, but they won’t be resting players or taking this game any more lightly. The Scorchers will see this afternoon’s game as an opportunity to give their home fans something to cheer about and to beat an evenly matched team at home to send them into the playoffs on a high.

The Scorchers play good team basketball and won last night’s game by winning the battle on the boards and smart shooting from 3 point range. The Scorchers grabbed an incredible 60 rebounds last night and shot 56% from outside the arc. The Scorchers had 22 free throws, demonstrating that they work hard in the paint and force teams into fouling them.

The Flyers needed overtime to overcome the weakest team in the BBL, and this will concern their fans and players even though they came away with the win. The Flyers outrebounded the Giants 73-50 with Leslee Smith finishing with a game-high 21 rebounds and 19 points in his double-double performance, making the offensive rebound and assist on the final play of the game.

Both sides demonstrate excellent ability inside the painted area, but the Flyers were wasteful last night from three-point range, a fact that will not have gone unnoticed by the Scorchers staff. They will see that a key to victory, to punish the Flyers when they miss from outside. To do this they will have to battle inside and on the glass.

Expect an incredibly tight and physical game with both sides giving everything they’ve got. Hameed Ali will be someone the Scorchers will look to shut down as he enters the game averaging 16 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists per game, Ali is the player that make the Flyers tick on offence. Stopping him will be the priority.

The Scorchers scored 30 points from their bench last night, whereas the Flyers bench contributed just 11 points, fatigue could become a factor late in the game for the Flyers, but they will push through that with a shot of the playoffs on the line.

Playoff Prediction

It would be almost unimaginable for Plymouth to not make the playoffs given the position they have been in all season, and given their opponent. The real decider, however, will be whether the Flyers can get past the Scorchers, and that isn’t something I can see happening.

Plymouth will make the playoffs thanks to the Surrey Scorchers. 

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