It's been a long season, Lions have played 57 games across the four BBL competitions and their foray into Europe. Seven of those games have come against Sunday's BBL Play-off final opponents Leicester Riders an Nikhil Lawry's team will look to have the final say in a series that has seen the midlands team emerge victorious in five of the meetings.
The first four meetings of the season all came in the BBL Cup in the opening three months of the campaign.
Riders opened the competition with a one-point defeat against Bristol Flyers which proved to be crucial as Lions won the South Group of the competition. A 30-point night from Dirk Williams wasn't enough to prevent a 93-76 Riders victory when Lions traveled to the Morningside Arena in mid-October. Williams added six rebounds and four assists, while Isaiah Reese had 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists but 20 points from Greg Crandall paved the way for Riders' win.
With the Copper Box unavailable, Lions returned to Leicester a couple of weeks later for a showdown to decide top spot in the group but the loss of home court advantage proved no obstacle as the London side built on a strong second period to win 97-83. Lorenzo Cugini hit four triples on his way to a game-high 20 points, while Reese had eight rebounds, as many assists and five steals to go with his 17 points. Jordan Williams finished with a ten point, ten rebound double-double for Lions.
After the sides had occupied the top two spots in the group, and having safely navigated the quarter-finals, it was a surprise that they met again in what proved to be an epic two-leg semi-final.
A stunning comeback saw Lions keep their Cup hopes alive as Riders left the Copper Box with a 99-96 victory in the opening game. The hosts trailed by 23 with two minutes of the third period remaining before Justin Robinson’s drive to the basket sparked the comeback which saw the visitors outscored 31-11 in the final 12 minutes of the game. Dirk Williams had another big night for the Lions, missing just three of his 13 shots on the way to 24 points and three assists. Cugini hit four triples as he finished with 22 points and three assists while Isaiah Reese had five rebounds and as many assists to go with his 13 points. Captain Robinson finished with 12 points and four assists. Patrick Whelan led a balanced Riders offence that saw six players in double figures as he went nine-from-11 to finish with 25 points.
Another big second half comeback in the second leg wasn’t enough as Lions saw their hopes of a second straight BBL Cup final appearance end with a 79-74 loss in the second leg. Lions were again down by a big margin at half-time but despite outscoring the hosts 40-27 in the second half they came up short, with Riders winning 178-170 on aggregate victory. Reese led all scorers with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Dirk Williams had six assists to go with his 14 points and Lorenzo Cugini came off the bench to add seven boards and 13 points.
The sides didn't meet in the BBL Championship until early February and this time it was Riders who came from behind to win 80-67 at the Copper Box. The Riders scored 18 unanswered points in a nine-and-a-half minute spell across the third and fourth quarters to maintain their unbeaten start to the league season and inflict London’s third BBL Championship defeat of the campaign. Dirk Williams led the Lions with 16 points, while Lorenzo Cugini hit five of his eight three-pointers to finish with 15 points, but went scoreless in the second half.
It took only a week for Lions to get revenge as Reese poured in 23 points as Lions ended Riders’ unbeaten start to the BBL Championship season with a 79-77 home victory The American guard scored Lions’ final nine points of the game to end Riders’ 12 game winning streak in the league, adding seven rebounds and three assists. Josh Ward-Hibbert hit a season-high 15 points, missing a double-double by a single rebound, while Cugini added 11 points in just 17 minutes
The seventh, and final, regular season meeting between the teams came at Easter and it was a night to forget for Lions as they went down 103-67 at already crown champions Leicester Riders. The home side never looked back after a 33-15 first period as they gained revenge for that first league defeat of the season on them. Three-point shooting was the big difference between the sides with Lions connecting with only seven of their 33 long range efforts, while Rider buried 16 of their 29 shots from outside the arc. Cugini led a Lions side missing Justin Robinson and Dirk Williams, finishing with 16 points in 22 minutes, while Reese added 13 points and six assists.