The London Lions continued their great run of form with a commanding victory over the Leicester Riders, 93-72, at the Copper Box Arena on Sunday.
Both sides entered the game missing players due to England duty, the Lions down their captain Joe Ikhimnwin, and Riders missing captain Andy Thompson and Shane Walker.
The Lions entered the contest on a four-game winning streak, whilst the Riders have lost just three games all season.
London started the game very hot, on both sides of the ball with Corey Dixon dominating Harrison Gamble on offence whilst new signing Jonathan Thompson handled Gamble on the defensive end. With Gamble, a productive player for the Riders, stifled, the Lions were able to exploit their advantage and finished the first term up 23-11.
The Riders came back at London, as everyone in the arena expected, with last year’s BBL Playoff Final MVP Pierre Hampton scoring a quick six of eight points to bring the gap down to single digits. The Lions kept their composure and rallied back to post another 21 points of their own to keep a healthy eight-point advantage over the visitors at the half.
Corey Dixon had a tremendous game and first half in particular scoring 16 points in the opening 20 minutes and pulled down 8 rebounds. Dixon would finish the game with 20 points and 10 boards, whilst Brandon Peel, Mr Consistent for the Lions, scored yet another double-double finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The third period settled the tie in favour of the hosts’ thanks to a strong offensive from the Lions. Dixon and Peel both bagged buckets at key points but back to back threes from Paul Guede pushed the lead out to 18 points and killed off the Riders’ comeback. Justin Robinson top scored in the contest with 25 points and added four assists.
Robinson, a front-runner for league MVP, has the knack of playing quietly exceptional basketball and today was no exception as the London point guard didn’t put a foot wrong as he led his side to a statement victory.
The final term was incredibly scrappy as the one-sided contest came to a close. Riders Coach Rob Paternostro found himself ejected for two technical fouls as the two sides exchanged trips to the foul line. The Lions held a 19 point advantage heading into the final ten minutes and never looked like giving it up, allowing Lions Coach Vince Macaulay to sit some of his key men and play the recovering Lamar Roberts and the young Jonathan James in the dying minutes.
Lions Assistant Coach Laurent Irish thought defence was the key to the victory. “[The win] feels very, very good. Our defence [was key in the win], we had them down to 50 points at the end of the third which was very very good…defensively we were all over them.”
Vince Macaulay, Lions Owner and head coach shared his assistant’s feelings on the game “that was a big win but we feel like that’s what we are supposed to do really…We felt once we got together and we’re all well and healthy we could take care of anybody and we proved that this weekend.”
Riders new boy Chris Tawiah had an impressive game for his new side scoring 8 points, from 4 of 5 from the field including some spectacular two-handed jams, one which nearly brought down the basket. Tawiah returns to England after playing in Europe and is a great addition to an already strong Leicester Riders side who are two wins away from retaining their BBL Championship.
“It’s always nice to play in front of your own people. I had some family members and friends watching the game so it was nice to play in front of my own people. What I can bring to this side is…hustle, presence inside, running the floor, chasing off the boards, being a presence on offence and defence and making it hard for the opposition bigs to play.
Tawiah is embracing playing for the Riders, “This is a really exciting experience to be on a team that is two games away from winning the league title. For me, it is really exciting and encouraging to be on new grounds I’ve never been on before.”
The London Lions continue their hectic schedule with the much anticipated, almost sold-out clash with Vytautas BC of Lithuania, where LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball ply their trade in the Big Baller Clash in London on Monday. The Lions return to championship play on Wednesday as they host the Plymouth Raiders and welcome back former Lion Zak Wells whilst the Raiders face their former player in Corey Dixon.
All Photos used in this article by @CarolJMoir