London Lions 71-90 Leicester Riders

Leicester Riders pulled away in the 4th quarter at the Copper Box Arena last night, leaving the London Lions with it all to do in the return game tomorrow.

The atmosphere was building in the Copper Box as tip-off was delayed due to the late arrival of one of the referees making his way through the traffic for the West Ham home game.

Navid Niktash was first to concede a foul, sending Tyler Bernardini to the line for his only 2 points of the half. Kai Williams got the Lions up and running with a 3 from the wing, before Shane Walker replied in kind with a rare 3 of his own.

Niktash had the crowd on their feet with an emphatic dunk. Bernardini committed his second foul and vented as he sat down while Alex Owumi put the Lions narrowly ahead again with the and-1.

Conner Washington was off the bench to immediately sink a 3, before Rashad Hassan dunked to tie it at 10-10 in a thrilling start to the game.

Niktash with one foul and Hassan with two both sat down as the Riders put together a 9-2 run and Coach Lloyd called a timeout.

Zaire Taylor stepped up to get 2 from the line, before ex-Lion Drew Sullivan threw a pass into the Riders bench and Taylor pulled back another 2 from the turnover.

However, the referees were going to have their say after turning up at last and put the Lions in the penalty for a Joe Ikhinmwin foul on Andrew Thomson. The free throw line would prove to be the only distance he was comfortable from, going on to shoot 0/8 from the floor.

Niktash got 1/2 from the line before picking up his second foul, and Brandon Clark would also go 1/2. Taylor pulled it back to a 3-point game, but Sullivan scored a long 2 in the dying seconds.

The Lions were clearly missing Hassan as the Riders started the 2nd quarter with an 11-2 run.

Rob Paternostro called a timeout, after which things swung in the Lions’ favour with Hassan back in the game. Williams and Clark traded 3s before the Lions went on a 7-0 run to halve the deficit.

Riders forward Taylor King got his first 4 points of the game and the Lions went into another timeout down 12 with 2 minutes in the half to play.

Zaire Taylor laid up 2 and then brushed past Dele Alli to score from way downtown as the Lions ended the half behind by 7.

The Lions turned to their front court to start the second half as Hassan and Niktash combined for 10 points.

Niktash was there again with the fadeaway to make it a one-shot game.

Kai Williams got the crowd back on their feet as he shot a 3 to bring the score down to 2, as low as it had been since the 1st quarter.

However, the Lions couldn’t make another bucket and the Riders held a 6-point lead going into the 4th quarter.

Williams shot his fourth 3 of the game to start the 4th quarter, but from there the Lions would fall away.

The Lions just couldn’t get their offence going and an 8-21 final quarter was punishing for their efforts in pulling it back prior to that.

The Riders’ depth was highlighted as being a potential key to the game and so it proved. They were able to play a full-court press throughout with strong bench minutes keeping up their intensity. The Lions never actually got caught in the press but the constant pressure would undoubtedly have taken its toll on Taylor, Owumi and Williams just getting the ball over the half-way line. They dealt with this part well but weren’t clinical enough in taking advantage of the open Riders defence it left. The Riders were usually able to get back in position when the Lions didn’t move the ball quickly enough, meaning there were no easy buckets.

Point guard Brandon Clark – the only Riders player to get more than 30 minutes on court – ultimately took advantage of wearing down the Lions this way, with 6 of his 10 assists coming in the final quarter and he led his team in scoring with 21 points.

Starters Tyler Bernardini and Shane Walker scored just one bucket each and, although taking 16 rebounds, Taylor King didn’t seem so imposing on the game. It was the Riders bench who really came through for them. Eric Robertson scored 15, Drew Sullivan was 4/4 from the floor, and, despite being completely off with his shooting, the Riders were +22 with Andrew Thomson on court. Conner Washington also came up with 10 big points.

In contrast, the Lions had just 4 bench points and their starters 1-3 all played over 36 minutes each.

The 19-point scoreline gives the Lions an enormous task in the 2nd leg tomorrow, but they don’t have to look far for inspiration. The Worcester Wolves lost by the same scoreline in Newcastle on Wednesday, and a 31-32 opening quarter last night put them a further point behind. However, they pulled it out of the bag to send the game to overtime. Eventually, in the dying seconds of the additional 5 minutes, Eagles point guard Rahmon Fletcher won it with a pair of free throws.

However, pulling back such a lead on Leicester’s home court could be an even bigger task. Should the Riders prevail tomorrow, next Sunday at the O2 will be their first cup final meeting with the Eagles this season, and the first time the league’s big two have gone head-to-head in the play-off final since 2013 at Wembley Arena.

Box Score

London Lions @ Leicester Riders
Date: Sunday 7th May 2017
Tip off: 16:00
Competition: BBL Play-offs Semi Final 2nd Leg

? Live coverage

Bet 365 offers a sidebar-sized stream of most games. On some devices you can zoom in or scale your screen resolution. Registering and depositing a minimum of £5 is required, but it’s not necessary to lay down a bet to watch. A subscription for LiveBasketball.tv costs £8.99 a month, which also includes various world leagues and international competitions, all in HD. Neither service offers archive videos.The BBC is showing 24 BBL and 8 WBBL games this season online and on the BBC Sport app, also available afterwards on the iPlayer. Text updates can be followed using LiveStats.

Quick links: ? Address ∙ ? The venue ∙ ? Seating ∙ ? Tickets ∙ ? Food and drink ∙ ? Entertainment ∙ ? Public transport ∙ ? By car ∙ ? Parking ∙ ? Accommodation

? Address

Leicester Arena, 31 Charter Street, Leicester, LE1 3UD

? The venue

Opened in January of this year having been built at a cost of £4.5m and highly commended for being a strive forward for the BBL. Leicester Riders Foundation owns the Arena company, which has a 125-year lease on the site from the council, meaning the Riders teams have full access to their own facilities, unlike other BBL clubs who hire their home venue on matchdays. The Arena is also a truly purpose-built basketball venue and features permanent Riders branding on the seats and decoration around the building.

? Seating

Capacity: 2,400. Flip-down seating on all four sides of the court.

? Tickets

The London Lions make a small number of tickets available for away games, usually priced at £10 adults / £8 children. Your name will then be on the London Lions guestlist at the venue’s ticket desk, where they will issue you your ticket. Where seating is allocated, tickets bought through the Lions are usually grouped together behind the visiting team’s bench. Alternatively, you can buy tickets through the home team. Prices are a little more expensive this way.

? Food and drink

Hot dogs, nachos, Pukka pies and burgers are available inside the arena. Food and drink – including draught lager and local Everards Tiger Copper Ale, bottled lagers and Kopparberg cider – is available from the Granby and Victory bars found in the far corners of the arena. The Kevin Routledge Suite is advertised as being open before and after the game, with appearances from the Riders players, serving up more food and drink options, though may be restricted for hospitality use.

A number of Indian restaurants are available nearby.

The city centre is less than a mile’s walk away and now has a number of appealing food and drink options. The Criterion is a real ale pub with pizza kitchen (be warned of the wait during busy times), and nearby you’ll also find The Blue Boar and BrewDog. On the High Street, The Orange Tree and the Queen of Bradgate pubs both have more extensive food menus.

? Izzy’s vegan choice: The Orange Tree has plenty of vegan options on the menu. I recommend the southern fried tempeh & sweet potato stack burger. It’s also suitable for meat eaters and vegetarians. For other suggestions, visit HappyCow or download their app. ??

? Entertainment

Hotshot the horse is Riders’ mascot. Permanently open-mouthed, Hotshot is believed to be in constant pain. His endless screams to be spared the ongoing torture of life through the final indignity of the glue factory are rebuffed by Drew Sullivan, who demands that Hotshot gives nothing less than 100% dedication to the basketball mascot profession.

If you keep your ears open you might just hear raffle tickets being sold.

? Public transport

By train from St Pancras International, a super off-peak day return is £60.50. The cheapest options currently available by buying single tickets is the £25.50 09:30>11:09 and £22 21:54>23:26.

Megabus has a £9 service at 10:30 from Victoria Coach Station arriving at Leicester Fosse Park (4 miles from the arena) at 12:50. However, there are no coaches returning after the game.

? By car

120 miles from Stratford (Google Maps route)

Sat nav reference: LE1 3UD (Note: No parking at the venue)

Google Maps suggests somewhere between 2 – 2 hours 40 minutes going by either the M1 or M11.

Do you have space in your car? Please let the London Lions Supporters Club (Facebook / Twitter) know if you’re willing to offer a lift to other fans.

? Parking

No parking is available at the venue, besides disabled parking. Various car parks within a 15-minute walk are advertised. Free parking is available after 6pm at Belgrave Circle/Melton Road. Home fans have recommended industrial units beside the venue with empty parking spaces; venue stewards should be able to direct you.

? Accommodation

A number of city centre hotels are available. The Campanile across the road from the venue is currently just £43.

I strive to offer the best information based on past personal experience and secondary sources. All information is given in best faith and I hope is as accurate as possible for you to plan and enjoy your day. Please let me know of any corrections for future travel guides.

About Andy 106 Articles
London Lions season ticket holder and frequent away follower. Also followed my football team up and down the country and the leagues for 20 years. Sixers fan but sadly from afar.

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