The London Lions defeated the Manchester Giants Friday night by a scoreline of 115-74 at the Copper Box Arena to kick off the second weekend of the BBL season.
The Giants, missing one of their star players Jerrelle Okoro, still suspended for a breach of club discipline and without Sam Lane through injury faced off, faced off against a full strength Lions side full of confidence.
The visitors started with great energy whilst the Lions were sluggish and repeated failures to communicate lead to missed chances and teammates clattering into each other trying to pull down boards.
The Giants 5-1 early lead was as good as it would get for the visitors as they were soon on the wrong side of a 13-0 run which set the tone for the rest of the contest. The Lions’ Cilo Latinovic was the standout star of the first ten minutes with 4 rebounds and 9 points from 3 made 3-point shots. Everything he touched seemed to go down as the Lions ended the quarter 29-15.
The second half started as the first had ended with the Lions adding on the points and the pressure building a 20 point gap for the first time in the contest but the Lions would respond as the hosts went flat. The Giants went on a solid 9-0 run to the clear frustration of Lions Head Coach Mariusz Karol who prides himself on his teams playing dedicated defence.
The Lions distributed the points well in the first half with three lions ending with 10 points (Robinson, Flannigan and Hall) and Latinovic on 9 points. The Giants were led by David Kadiri with 11 points with another 10 points from the entertaining Austin Rettig who has athleticism like I haven’t seen in the BBL before.
The second half saw the Lions kick up a couple of gears and the Giants fell away as the strength and depth of the Lions bench pushed them to 38 points in the third quarter. Danny Byrne, the Giants Head Coach allowed the game to carry out without calling timeouts like you might expect when a team is losing touch in a match. It felt like the Coach was wanting to get past this game and focus on their next outing against Newcastle on Sunday.
The second half was notable for the Lions players starting to get loose and enjoy their basketball. Demonte Flannigan and Justin Robinson were clicking and the game turned into a dunk contest with flashy alley-oop finishes and a fantastic one-handed tomahawk slam from Joe Ikhinmwin to the delight of what had become a very passionate crowd. The Lions Captain shared his feelings post-game “I really enjoy it when our team plays together and plays well and I thought’s what it was everyone was sharing the ball…I just really enjoy it.”.
Demonte Flannigan continues his incredible start to life in the BBL with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. “It is all about team chemistry me and my teammates, we’re getting to know each other more, the more we can do that the more we can play together and the more we can do the things we want to do out here. We got big plans… I love my teammates.”
The most notable event of the final minutes of the game was the BBL Debut for Jonathan James who came on for the final 2:11 in the game. His impact on the game was some nice defence and one assist, a made three in the corner by Andre Lockhart. Lockhart wanted to get James a shot but “I was just so open I had to take it!” “Jonathan is a very hard worker he’s here every day at practice, he’s always the last guy in the gym doing extra shots.” James was happy to get his first BBL game action, “Feels great, even though it was one minute, it was a good start for the season.” “I just wanted to get in the game, let the game come to you. Unselfish basketball is key.” On how he felt what the coach tapped him on the shoulder to get in the game, “It was good, it feels good.”.
The final score was 115-74 in favour of the Lions, Giants Head Coach Danny Byrne felt disappointment that the disparity in score was so high, “Pretty hard to swallow really, quite a humbling experience.” “we didn’t turn up for the game.” Byrne saw positives in the game though “offensively we don’t seem to struggle and we played about 8 good minutes on defence and the energy there is a positive.” Byrne felt the Lions are not 40 points better than his side and that was his biggest frustration, that they didn’t give their best account of their self.
The Lions head to Newcastle next Friday in their first big test of the new season. Head Coach Karol is focusing his training sessions on their upcoming opponent for the first time this year. “It is the first game we prepare exactly for this game. We have information, films and videos, we will know our players will know exactly how Newcastle play. “The Giants face the Newcastle Eagles this Sunday as they continue a very tough start to the season.