The London Lions Put Up Gallant Fight, After Tough First Quarter, But Ultimately Lose 89-78 to Joventut Badalona.
Tomislav Zubčić’s 19-Point Performance Unable to Stop London from Being Knocked Out of the 2023 EuroCup Playoffs
The Lions' historic run in the 7Days EuroCup came to a frustrating but courageous end at the hands of Joventut Badalona, losing 89-78 to the Catalonian side.
Tomislav Zubčić led his comrades with 19 points which he complimented with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. The Croatian forward shot 66.7% from inside the arc but struggled, as did the rest of the Lions, from long range (33.3%) and at the free-throw line.
The game got off to a horrendous start for the Londoners as they found themselves 9-0 down 92 seconds into the game. That one-minute and 32-second time span saw the Lions concede three back-to-back triples at the hands of Guillem Vives and Joel Parra before Zubčić recorded London’s first points on the board from the free throw line (9-2).
Undeterred, stretch big Henry Ellenson pilled more misery on the Lions with Badalona’s fourth triple earning his team a 12-2 lead. Although Sam Dekker and Jordan Taylor helped shave some points off the Catalonian lead (12-6), the Londoners continued to struggle to defend the 3-point line conceding yet another long-range shot (15-6).
The two sides exchanged open-play buckets and shots from the charity stripe until Miye Oni and Taylor closed out the first chapter on a positive 4-0 run to help the Lions tip the momentum in their favour.
Joventut Badalona dominated the boards during the first quarter, taking full advantage of London’s lack of inside physical presence. As a result, the Lions were out rebounded 12-5 and were subsequently stopped from gaining second-chance opportunities at the rim.
The EuroCup opponents opened the second period with a foray of buckets that eventually saw the Lions cut the Badalona advantage down to just four points (24-20). However, Badalona’s defence remained composed, forcing the Lions into isolation plays resulting in several contested shots. Badalona’s lockdown defence was so smothering that London could only record one assist throughout the first half.
A 10-3 Catalonian run ensued soon after Mo Soluade gave the Lions their 20th point, resulting in Badalona taking an 11-point lead (34-23) into the four minutes of the quarter. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse when 2019 NBA Draft pick Kyle Guy made his way into the paint to extend Badalona’s lead to 16 points (39-23).
Visibly frustrated by Joventut’s latest brace, the Lions' players returned fire with their own 6-0 run to close out the half. Zubčić grabbed an offensive board off Oni’s missed 3-point shot and was fouled, attempting to cash in on the second chance opportunity. Best followed this up with a layup off the back of a forced over turnover, and Taylor completed the 6-0 run connecting on all three free throw shots after being fouled, taking a 3-point shot from the corner (39-31).
London’s second-half fightback was anchored by Aaron Best, who scored all but two of his 18 points after the halftime break. Though he struggled from the charity stripe (2/5 – 40%), the guard shot efficiently from inside the arc, connecting on 83.3% of his attempts and 50% of his shots from long-range.
London and Badalona exchanged buckets to open the third quarter. This back-and-forth resulted in London cutting Joventut’s lead down to seven points. Unfortunately for the Lions, the Catalonian side kept them at bay, scoring and bullying their way to the free-throw line via several dubious calls (55-42).
Back-to-back buckets from Vojtech Hruban and Best shaved the difference back down to eight points (55-47), but once again, Badalona kept the Londoners at bay from the charity stripe.
London cut the advantage back to single digits (59-54), only for Joventut’s Guillem Vives to extend the lead back, once again, to eight points (62-54). The Catalonian advantage fluctuated between six and eight points for 40 seconds until Zubčić closed the period with a layup (64-58).
A 10-0 fourth-quarter opening surge helped Badalona blow the lead wide-open (74-58). Lions’ fans, both at home and at the Palau Olimpic De Badalona, were made to wait until the 06:14 mark of the period to see London score their first and second points of the quarter.
Dekker and Taylor eventually helped to knock the margin down to eight points, only for Joventut’s two big men to stretch the surplus back out to 12 points (80-68). Badalona continued to dump the ball in the paint for their big men to take advantage of, which the Lions ultimately struggled to overcome. As a result, both Ante Tomic and Henry Ellenson found themselves at the free-throw line extending the lead. Guillem Vives got in on the charity stripe opportunities to put the game out of the reach of the Lions (89-78).
Jordan Taylor, who was held scoreless (and shot-less) in the first quarter, eventually pocketed 14 points for the Lions during his 28 minutes of court time. The lead guard scored nine points from open play and picked up five additional points at the free-throw line en route to his points total.
Badalona’s stifling defence kept Taylor’s usual high-volume assists tally to just one handout. This, unfortunately, played a huge part in suppressing London’s high-IQ half-court offence to a lot of isolation ballhandling.
Joventut’s physical defence against Sam Dekker made it difficult for the talisman to go to work in the paint, and when he could get loose, he could only connect on three of six shots. As a result, Dekker, ailing from a recent ankle injury, stepped outside the arc but to no avail, missing all four of his heavily contested 3-point shots. The forward finished the game with eight points, one rebound, one assist and two steals.
Miye Oni recorded five total assists, two steals and eight points. Although he knocked down all three free throw shots, Oni found it difficult to get it going from open play, knocking down just two of his six attempts. Vojtech Hruban led the bench with seven points, to go with two rebounds, one steal and one assist.