With a place in the 2023 EuroCup playoffs officially clinched and solidified, the remaining three European games give the London Lions the opportunity to move up the Group B standings.
As their destiny is not totally in their hands yet, the Lions will use today’s clash against their Greek rivals Promitheas Patras as a step towards climbing the group to gain a more “favourable” match-up in the first forthcoming post-season.
“We would like to get into the highest seed possible. Hopefully, we can get into that seed, but we know it's going to be tough.”
- Head Coach Ryan Schmidt.
The 3-time British Basketball League Coach of the Month also pointed out that the Lions need to control the controllables and, thus, not worry about how the rest of the group is performing.
“The only thing we can control is our performance and the result that we have; we can’t really worry about what the rest of the group is doing.”
If the playoff were to start today, the Lions would play second-placed Group A Spanish outfit Joventut Badalona. However, a higher six-place finish could mean a possible first-round clash against Group A’s four-time Italian League (Lega Basket Serie A – LBA) champs Reyer Venezia.
“Regardless of where we end up in the seeding, we know we’re in the playoffs. We’re just trying to be consistent. We want to be trending in the right direction and trending upward and playing our best basketball.”
“Regardless of our match up, in a competition like this in the format where it’s a one-game win-and-go home, we just have to continue playing winning basketball.”
Reyer Venezia is currently third in Group A and is in the midst of a poor run of form, having lost three of their last five EuroCup games and four out of their last five domestic LBA games.
Coach Schmidt went on to lament the importance of staying focusedand NOT looking too far ahead.
“Sometimes, when people try to predict what their matchups are going to be, it can come back and bite you a little bit. So, our focus is to continue to improve and get better on both ends.”
The last time the Lions and Promitheas engaged in an Anglo-Greek EuroCup contest, the Londoners arose the 76-77 victors. Sam Dekker recorded a game-high 20 points, whilst Josh Sharma and Kosta Koufos fended off Promitheas with six combined blocks.
At the time, the Londoners condemned the Western Greece-based club to their fourth loss of the EuroCup regular season and a 4-4 record. However, today Promitheas, having won four of their last five games and sitting one place above London, are playing with a renewed and intensified energy level not seen earlier in the season.
Promitheas cannot be underestimated, especially after holding the fourth-place team Buducnost VOLI Podgorica to just 72 points in one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Although Promitheas will be without the 23.4 points per game of Joe Young, who left the team in January to sign for Italian club Napoli, their scoring charge will be led by Arnoldas Kulboka and Joe Thomasson.
The guard-forward duo lead Patras in the scoring column with 15.4 and 14.0 points per game, respectively, and will threaten London’s famed defensive wall. However, Promitheas generate the fourth lowest assists in the EuroCup at 16.1 per game. As a result, this causes Patras to rely on a lot of isolation actions which 2-way tyrants Miye Oni and Mo Soluade will be looking to take advantage of.
Promitheas also struggle on the boards, grabbing the third-lowest rebounds in the competition at 22.9 per game. The Greek outfit gave up nine second-chance points in their recent loss to Turk Telekom. This will be an area the Lions will be looking to expose Patras as the team grabs the third-highest rebounds in the EuroCup at 27.5 per game.
London, currently sporting a two-game winning streak, has held their last two opponents to 66 and 76 points, respectively. Coach Schmidt discussed the importance of the Lions’ reignited defensive efforts:
“I’ve been really happy with how we have played on the defensive end in the EuroCup and domestically. Going back to the Slask Wroclaw game, I thought seeing Jordan Taylor and Miye Oni to be able to be those guys that stepped up and contributed on the defensive and offensive ends was great for us.”
Miye Oni and Josh Sharma will anchor the Lions' defensive efforts against Promitheas. Oni leads the team in steals per game (1.4 – tied for 10th overall in the EuroCup), and Sharma leads the team in blocks per game (1.4 – tied for 2nd overall in the EuroCup).
The lions’ scoring efforts will be led by Sam Dekker, the third-highest scorer in the EuroCup at 18.4 points per game. Skipper Aaron Best and Tomislav “Zuba” Zubčić will complement Dekker’s paint point production with their well-respected ability to knock down shots from long-range (39.3% and 38.2%, respectively).
This will also be a battle of two different offensive philosophies. Promitheas’ iso-heavy, 3-point dependant offence versus London’s ball-sharing, heavy-duty paint-points production. The Lions record the 9th most points (per game) inside the arc in the EuroCup (17.6), compared to Promitheas’ (16.1 points per game – 17th in the EuroCup). However, Promitheas’ are the 9th best 3-point shooting team in the competition 9.9 3-point makes per game compared to the Lions’ 7.3.