BBL: London Lions 115 Manchester Giants 91
PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 March 2019
London Lions used a strong second-half performance to overcome Manchester Giants at the Copper Box Arena on Sunday.
And that allowed them to complete a weekend double and move to 17-2 ahead of next Sunday’s BBL Trophy Final, while the Giants are now at 10-11.
Lions had already defeated the Giants twice in League meetings and knocked them out of the BBL Trophy Semi-Finals.
And the home side had the better of the early exchanges and despite a short lived Giants lead, looked comfortable against their northern opposition.
Justin Robinson and Brandon Peel had their customary good starts for the Lions, with both putting up good points in the opening 10 minutes.
Peel was his usual dominant self inside, getting 11 points on the board whilst Robinson shot excellently from outside to sink two threes and three free-throws.
Mike McCall Jr was the best of the Giants player in the scoring department netting eight first-quarter points for a side who were struggling to get open looks, with the Lions playing their customary high-intensity defence.
Lions led 28-20 at the end of the first quarter but the second quarter started well for Manchester as they got to within one against the rotating Lions.
England international Callum Jones tied it up with a three-point play, finishing through contact and making his freebie at the line.
Paul Guede would get the game tied at the line himself before Ingus Bankevics drained a corner three to give the Giants the lead.
It lasted only seconds as a long lob pass from Jordan Spencer was emphatically thrown down by Ladarius Tabb.
Lions were beginning to get frustrated as fouls were getting called with some regularity, in fact the half would end with 13 fouls to the home side and just six to the Giants.
Kervin Bristol felt he didn’t get the call when a Giant hauled him down and was given a technical foul before Vince Macaulay’s bench suffered the same fate from crew chief Keith Williams for arguing the call.
The Lions were on the wrong end of things in the second being outscored 34-18 with the Giants using just six men for the whole first half, with McCall Jr playing the full 20 minutes and contributing 16 points on 6/8 shooting.
Spencer got the second half started with a three-pointer for the Lions as they ran their starting five, with Flo Larkai in place of Bristol who by now had been assessed four fouls.
And the Lions closed the gap down to three points thanks to another three from Spencer and a drive.
An intriguing element of the game was seeing how much more leadership and responsibility Spencer has either been assigned or is taking upon himself. The way he instructed his colleagues on the floor, with a confidence and assuredness, was way beyond his years as a rookie guard on the team and he would dish out a season high 12 assists in the game.
Callum Jones showed his quality in the second half, making some chances look regulation as he fought hard to extend his side’s lead.
Having grown into the game Jones worked hard to try and take over using all his tricks and experience to keep a flagging Giants in the contest.
Lions took over the lead of the game with five minutes to go in the third quarter, as a bad pass to Jones was picked off by Robinson who made no mistake and Spencer would hit a long two-pointer to sneak his side back in front.
The hosts were playing solid basketball with high energy getting the crowd on their feet, especially when Lamar Roberts grabbed a rebound from Willie Clayton and ran the whole length of the floor and scored to make it an 11-point lead and forcing Danny Byrne to call a timeout.
With Clayton off the floor on his fourth foul, an energized Lions went to town, with Peel and Tabb flourishing with greater space and time and the hosts went into the final quarter leading 77-64.
With Clayton restored for the start of the final period the Giants got the first bucket but that would be as good as it got for the visitors.
The fourth quarter was like the fast and furious movies, a fast-paced caper with plenty of action by fan favourites which saw Joe Ikhinmwin and Andre Lockhart playing the leading roles.
Ikhinmwin, looking energized and excited to be playing after some injury problems, scored one of the plays of the game when putting Vlatko Granic in a spin cycle and finishing at the rim before exploding for an 11-point final quarter to put the game beyond doubt.
layton eventually fouled out of the game for a completely unnecessary elbow on Bristol after a fantastic physical battle in the low post which saw both guys playing hard-nosed hoops. As Clayton made his way to the bench Byrne couldn’t believe the call.
The final few minutes of play became a dunk show for the Lions as Tabb hit three dunk-contest worthy throwdowns to put an exclamation point on a big win as the leaders continue their quest for the title.
Lions were unstoppable in the second half as they poured in an impressive 69 points in an offensive clinic and pulled away to victory.
The 31-10 third quarter decimated the Giants in the teeth of ferocious defence and six players hit double figures for the Lions including captain Ikhinmwin with 11 in seven minutes off the bench.Peel led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Spencer handed out 12 assists to go with 19 points in the win.