London Lions 96-90 Glasgow Rocks

London Lions capped pre-season off with a win in their only domestic friendly, beating the Glasgow Rocks at the UEL SportsDock tonight.

With only Joe Ikhinmwin and Andre Lockhart returning, this was a first look at the eight new signings. Local players Jonathan James, Jonathan Lashley and – returning for a second spell – Lamar Roberts have also joined the squad and were suited up, but didn’t see any time on court tonight.

New head coach Mariusz Karol started with Justin Robinson, Jack Isenbarger, Paul Guede, Will Hall and Demonte Flannigan.

The visitors got off to the better opening as the Lions were slow to start scoring. However, they closed it to 19-22 at the end of the 1st.

It wasn’t until midway through the 2nd that the Lions took their first lead at 35-33, and with Rocks star Kieron Achara going off with a groin injury, the lead grew to 53-42 at the half.

Back with the starting five for the second half, again the Lions started badly and let the Rocks quickly get back into it.

The game’s big moment came as the Rocks’ American guard Dante Holmes went down with an injury to his left knee, in obvious pain. Play was held up for close to 15 minutes as he was treated and then helped off the playing court.

The Lions rebuilt their lead to close out the quarter 74-67, and continued to dominate in the 4th.

A steal by Andre Lockhart in the final minute to find Paul Guede, who sized up the shot before finding Demonte Flannigan under the basket to slam home the nail in the coffin. A couple of late Rocks scores ended the game 96-90, but the win didn’t look in doubt.

This being a friendly game, there are limited conclusions based on how Coach Karol approached it. Minutes were shared around much more than might be expected in competitive games; the starting back court pair playing only 43 minutes between them, and one of the Lions’ two American imports – Brandon Peel – on for just 13 minutes.

The real positive was just how strong the Lions’ depth looked. Minutes could be shared and bench players were able to offer something different and bring fresh energy. Indeed, it was actually the starting five who didn’t have the best of times as a unit, and it was Momcilo Latinovic off the bench who led in scoring. Especially as the Rocks lost two starters to injury, the Lions were able to benefit from their depth.

Latinovic was the obvious player to catch the eye as he went through the game in no-miss mode. He looks like a great weapon to have as a role player, using his energy when a quarter is wearing on and profiting in points.

Justin Robinson offers something different at the point to what the Lions have had in the last couple of years. He looks fit, cool and calm. He also played briefly at the 2 when paired with Moritz Lanegger. Lockhart played combo guard, and even Latinovic played briefly in the back court, where Coach Karol has an abundance of options.

Where the roster may come up short is in the big department. Demonte Flannigan was at centre for most of the match and, though a powerful player who impressed with some of his scoring, he was no match on D for Jalen Billups and didn’t always look totally alert. Will Hall was next to fill in, with Brandon Peel not getting on until the 2nd quarter. Peel is more athletic and showed an exciting range of shooting. Though he has the reach, on rebounding he didn’t show the strongest hands or reactions. It’s very early days, of course, but if the centre was the question mark going into the game, it remains the question mark coming out of it.

The stats may show the Lions shot 9/12 from beyond but I’d question the accuracy of this. The floor markings of the sports hall weren’t easy to see but there were a number of what I thought were attempted 3s missed. With the 3-shooting arsenal in the team, you’d expect this to feature much more in the Lions scoring in future.

It’s the Rocks up first for the Lions in the All-Stars Championship at The O2 on Sunday, and the impression of the two injuries they suffered is that they may be rather depleted, and possibly for some time to come.

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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