The third seed Glasgow Rocks will head to the Copper Box on Friday night to face the 6th seed London Lions in the first leg of their BBL playoff quarterfinal.
The two teams met on the final day of the season up in Glasgow and it was the Rocks who were victorious 80-77, in a game the Lions had controlled until the final quarter. The Lions held a twenty point lead in the third quarter but would come undone by scoring just 9 points in the fourth. Outside of the final ten minutes, the Lions performed well, just as they have done in the final weeks of the season.
The Rocks have a historical advantage in this matchup, beating the Lions 41 times in 65 fixtures, but the Lions have won the only playoff games between the two clubs. The Rocks, also have the advantage in recent history having won 9 of the last 10 games and won the season series 2-1, with two home wins.
The Lions are confident entering the playoffs, happy with their performances at home in the run-in, with good wins against the Eagles, Riders and Phoenix. The Lions have not had a problem starting games but watched a number of fixtures get away from them in the third quarter, most notably against the Phoenix back in January. In recent weeks the Lions have played with a level of focus and aggression which has seen them maintain their effort through the third and fourth quarters resulting in solid wins. The team have spent the last month of the season preparing themselves mentally and physically for the playoffs, and Friday will be seen as just another step on their route to the o2.
The Rocks recent form is good winning four of their last five games. Glasgow rebounded from a terrible March in which they lost 5 out of 6 games, to finish the season strong. The Rocks have finished with two wins over Leeds, one over the Plymouth Raiders and Sunday’s defeat of London. Their last loss for the Rocks was away at Newcastle, a side they haven’t beaten in 19 attempts. Glasgow is one of the best defensive teams in the league conceding the second fewest points, a feature of their game they demonstrated to great effect on Sunday evening. Against the Lions, the Rocks exhibited very efficient scoring (51%) which bodes well as they make a run at returning the final, for the first time since 2003.
Glasgow is one of the best defensive teams in the league conceding the second fewest points, a feature of their game they demonstrated to great effect on Sunday evening. Against the Lions, the Rocks exhibited very efficient scoring (51%) which bodes well as they make a run at returning the final, for the first time since 2003.
Running the numbers
The Lions and Rocks are very evenly matched. The two are basically tied in many statistical categories, including total rebounds, assists, scoring percentage and assists. Glasgow is a better defensive team than London, in terms of points conceded and shot blocking,
Glasgow is a better defensive team than London, in terms of points conceded and shot blocking, however, the Lions outscore the Rocks by roughly 4.5 points per game but concede an average of 8 points per game more. This could be a difference maker in the series.
The Lions have as strong a starting five as anyone in the league, but their bench is ranked second to last in points scored (just 2 bench points vs Glasgow on Sunday). Glasgow, on the other hand, gets average scoring from their bench, another factor that could swing the tie in their favour. That isn’t to say the Lions don’t have talent on their bench, but that their second unit tends to support in other ways, with defence from Wells and the distribution of Lockhart.
The Lions are led by point guard Zaire Taylor, power forward Navid Niktash and dominant big man Rashad Hassan. Taylor is one of the best passers in the league but is equally capable of creating and making his own shot.
Niktash is the most exciting player to watch in the BBL. He is a stretch 4, which means he is able to score in the paint like a traditional power forward, but his excellent 3 point shooting draws the attention of the player guarding him, which can open up space for Hassan to operate in. Niktash is a capable scorer, rebounder and distributor of the ball, but he is also capable of racking up fouls and getting technicals through the intensity and edge with which he plays the game.
Hassan is a tremendous rebounder and scoring, averaging 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, but his numbers are only half the story. Hassan is a dominant finisher in the paint, as well as being a presence on defence. Hassan is 6’8″ but plays much bigger and has demonstrated a variety of range in his shooting.
The Glasgow Rocks are lead by Great Britain’s 6’10” Forward, Kieron Achara who is a triple threat combining scoring, rebound and assists, as well as some excellent defence. Achara ends the regular season with 505 points, 260 rebounds 91 assist and 57 blocks. The Rocks are lead by the backcourt duo of 6’0″ point guard Neil Watson and 2’5″ shooting guard Hayden Lecault who combined for 257 assists, with Watson leading the team in scoring with 521 points, with Lecault scoring 408. Both men pull down a good number of rebounds for the position, 96 and 135 respectively.
These three are a large portion of the Glasgow offence which is anchored by Forward Gareth Murray who averages 12 points per night on a team-high 63% shooting with 4 rebounds in 29 minutes a night.
This should be a tightly contested series, much closer than a 6 v 3 seed series would be expected to be. The recent matchups between the sides have been close, and despite the Glasgow advantage this season, London know things change in the playoffs and back themselves to make it to at least the next round.
Fans of both sides will be in for 80 minutes or more of fantastic playoff basketball in what could be the standout series of this round.