London Lions 115-91 Manchester Giants (28-20, 46-54, 77-64)
Copper Box Arena March 3rd 2019
London Lions used a strong second half performance to overcome Manchester Giants, Live on BBC Sport.
The Lions completed a weekend double to move to 17-2 ahead of next Sunday’s BBL Trophy Final, while the Giants are now at 10-11.
The Lions had already defeated the Giants twice in League meetings and knocked them out of the BBL Trophy Semi-Finals.
The home side had the better of the early exchanges and despite a short lived Giants lead, the hosts looked comfortable against their northern opposition.
Justin Robinson and Brandon Peel had their customary good starts for the Lions both putting up good points in the opening ten minutes. Peel was his usual dominant self inside getting 11 points on the board whilst Robinson shot excellently from outside sinking two threes and three free throws.
Mike McCall Jr was the best of the Giants player in the scoring department netting 8 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.
The second quarter started well for Manchester as they got the game 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. That lead lasted seconds as a long lob pass from Jordan Spencer was emphatically thrown down by Ladarius Tabb.
The 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 6 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 saw 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 18-34 with the Giants using just six men the whole first half, with Mike 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 4 fouls. 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 Jordan Spencer has either been assigned or is taking upon himself. The way Spencer instructs his colleagues on the floor, with a confidence and assuredness, way beyond his years as a rookie guard on the team. He would dish out a season high 12 assists in the game.
Callum Jones showed his quality 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 it over using all his tricks and experience to keep a flagging Giants in the contest.
The Lions took over the lead of the game with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, 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 Lions 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 for the Lions forcing Danny Byrne into calling 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 on the floor and the Lions went into the final quarter leading 77-64.
With Clayton restored to the floor for the start of the final period the Giants got the first bucket of the quarter 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 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.
Willie Clayton eventually fouled out of the game for a completely unnecessary elbow on Kervin 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 Ladarius Tabb hit three dunk-contest worthy throwdowns to put an exclamation point on a big win for the Lions as they continue their quest for the title.
Key stat – London were unstoppable in the second half as they poured in an impressive 69 points in an offensive clinic as they pulled away to victory. The 31-10 third quarter decimated the Giants in the teeth of ferocious defence.
Game hero(es) – Six players hit double figures for the Lions including captain Joe Ikhinmwin with 11 points in 7 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.
Report; Darren Paul, Picture; Graham Hodges
Lions scorers – Peel 21, Spencer 19, Tabb 18, Robinson 17, Bristol 12, Ikhinmwin 11, Lockhart 8, Guede 5, Roberts 4, Larkai 0, Ekperuoh 0.
Giants Scorers – McCall 24, Butler 19, Jones 16.