BBL: London Lions 97 Manchester Giants 71
PUBLISHED: 10:01 29 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:01 29 April 2018
London Lions secured a top-three BBL finish for the first time in their history with a comfortable win over a lacklustre Manchester Giants side at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday night.
The Lions will be able to make second place if they beat Cheshire in the final game of the regular season.
While the Lions will be pleased with the victory, helping both league position and the building of momentum going into the play-offs, it was a game that produced few highlights and certainly won’t be going down as a BBL classic.
Manchester, who’ve only won four games all season, chose not to bring three of their best players, leaving their bench woefully short handed.
The Lions meanwhile struggled to keep he enthusiasm going for a game they never looked in any danger of losing.
There were good performances, though, with Joe Ikhinmwin playing with a fire that has been seen time and again over his captaincy, powering up the court to set up golden opportunities for teammates.
The same applied for Jerelle Okoro who, with the game well and truly won going into the fourth quarter, was still putting in a shift, playing hard for every possession.
The starters also produced some good numbers, with Justin Robinson putting up 21 points and Brandon Peel being just one point shy of a double-double (nine points and 18 assists). Cory Dixon joined Ikhinmwin with 15 points.
The game would start off in a fairly quiet way, with Manchester going up by two points, their biggest lead of the game with fewer than two minutes gone.
A Dixon jump shot tied the game, before the Giants took back the lead for the last time with over half the first quarter still to play.
The Lions would then go on to have a three-point party, with Robinson making three, Paul Guede making two and Okoro getting one to give London a 16-point lead with just under a minute to go in the first quarter.
Guede and Robinson also teamed up for a superb bit of under the basket action, with Guede making a beautiful fake and pass to set up Robinson with a three, underlining just how much quality this Lions side has.
A further two-point shot from Jon Thompson would see the Lions go into the second period with a 36-18 lead and, if truth be told, the game already won.
The Giants spent the second half desperately trying to eat into the lead, but it wasn’t going anywhere.
Two Okoro free throws with six minutes remaining would see it extended to 20 points and then to 23 with four minutes remaining, thanks to a Peel shot from long range.
The Lions were finding it easy and frustrating at the same time and the Giants had the better of the remaining minutes of the half, but it meant nothing as, with just six seconds remaining in the half, Peel dunked to put the lead back up to 19.
The extreme lack of depth to the Giants bench eliminated any chance of a comeback and two points from Andre Lockhart – who took a nasty hit to the eye earlier in the game –saw the lead reach 26 as the third came to a close.
The fourth would be a much closer affair, with both teams netting 18 points, as the Lions went down the gears.
As the game ended, Jonathan James made the exclamation point dunk to give the Lions a 26-point victory.
After the Lions make the journey to Cheshire, thoughts will turn to play-off action, with the first home game being at the Copper Box on Sunday May 6. Tip off is at 4pm.