Lions dominant in 95-67 Christmas win over Raiders

The London Lions gave their fans the perfect Christmas present as they crushed the Plymouth Raiders 95-67 at the Copper Box Arena on Friday night.

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The Lions were without Momcilo Latinovic, but did have former Plymouth Raider and former NBA D-League player Cory Dixon in their starting five.

The hosts took a commanding 23 point lead into halftime over the Plymouth Raiders thanks to their hottest start to a game all season. The Lions held the Raiders to just 10 points in the first half as Joe Ikhinmwin got into his flow early scoring 15 points in the first quarter, draining three consecutive threes.

The Raiders struggled to get into a rhythm as team leader Neil Watson struggled from the field going scoreless in the first half missing all 7 shots, including 3 from deep, failing even get to the foul line. Zak Wells was subbed in early as Kinu Rochford picked up two fouls inside the opening minutes. Wells, whilst strong in the post doesn’t have the mobility up the floor of Rockford, and the Raiders struggled to transition from offence to defence and back again.

Roles looked to have been switched at the start of the second half as Plymouth started with four quick points and forced a turnover in the opening exchanges. Rochford showed Plymouth exactly what they missed with him off the floor early in the third as he converted on a three-point play as his spin move and make on the baseline led to a made free throw.

It looked like the Lions may have switched off a little after the break but that lethargy did not last long and the hosts were back in their offensive stride with Robinson, Dixon and Peel all playing some excellent basketball.

MVP candidate Justin Robinson had another excellent game demonstrating the full range of his talent with his peerless passing opening up the Raiders time and again finding Peel and Isenbarger. Coupling his passing with some excellent defending, ball handling and shooting from range he dominated the third quarter and snuffed out the Raiders fightback. Jack Isenbarger caught fire in the third burying a long two and back to back threes, the latter from downtown to extend the lead up over 30 points for the home side.

Neil Watson warmed up a little in the third quarter, but it was far too little far too late as the Stratford side dominated, thanks especially to the three ball but also to the offensive tenacity of Peel, who scored a great tip in on the buzzer at the end of the third quarter.

The story of the game was Cory Dixon making his London Lions debut and his return to the BBL against the club he played so well for last season. Dixon made an immediate impact on the side he joined midweek, scoring 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. It was impressive to see how quickly he was able to blend his game with that of his Lions teammates. This was seen with one of the best plays of the game as Dixon collected a rebound at the foul line and after a dribble step, he fed a crisp underhand pass to Peel who gladly dunked the basketball.

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Zak Wells had one of the Raiders highlight plays of the game, an athletic block against Jack Isenbarger before scoring on a three-point play, converting a free throw after making the bucket.

Jonathan James and Lamar Roberts both made a rare appearance for the home side midway through the final quarter as both teams traded buckets. James scored his first points of his BBL career thanks to a transition layup assisted by Roberts which demonstrated James excellent athleticism. James rounded off the win for the Lions with a Euro-step layup at the buzzer to cap off a fantastic team performance. Roberts’ first action in the game was flattening the 7 footer, Zak Wells, as the big man bagged himself two points.

The Lions did a great job sharing the points with four players in double figures and one player with 9 points. Brandon Peel scored a game-high 16 points at a fantastic 72% shooting and finishing with a plus/minus of 20 points. The ball was moving well from early on with the Lions notching an impressive 30 assists and pulling down 46 rebounds whilst the Raiders were only able to finish with 14 assists and 32 rebounds. Mortiz Laneggar had an impressive night dishing 10 assists and pulling down 7 rebounds leading the Lions in both categories.

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Jawad Adekoya was Plymouth’s standout scorer netting 15 points whilst Zak Wells, strong in the post, finished with 7 rebounds. Neil Watson, who struggled all night with his scoring came through with a team-high 4 rebounds.

The Raiders must wait now until the 28th of December to exercise the demons of tonight’s defeat as they host the 5-5 Worcester Wolves, whilst the Lions face a tricky road trip to Glasgow to face the third-placed Rocks on the 29th.

Andre Lockhart, a leader on and off the floor for the Lions was pleased with the win. “I think we executed well on offence in the 1st half, we moved the ball really well, sharing and getting others shots. Joe [Ikhinmwin] came in, gave us that energy off the bench with his scoring. But the guys really wanted to also win the game for Cory, being his first game against his old team.”

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