British Basketball League (BBL) Preview: Week 33

Our weekly look ahead to the upcoming action in the BBL.

Cheshire Phoenix v Leicester Riders

Where and when:

First leg: Cheshire Oaks Arena, 7.30pm Saturday 30 April

Second leg: Leicester Community Sports Arena, 5.00pm Sunday 1 May

Summary:

Cheshire Phoenix will hope to recapture the spirit of their BBL Play-Off Quarter-Finals upset when they face Leicester Riders over two legs this weekend.

The seventh seed Phoenix stunned holders Esh Group Eagles Newcastle with a 104-91 first leg victory on the road before clinging on to advance on Sunday.

Riders, meanwhile, off the back of their BBL Championship triumph, came through a tough test against Leeds Force, a team who had beaten them just two weeks previously.

The Leicester club have won all three meetings between these teams this season by at least seven points, so it will take something special for Phoenix to make it to The O2 – although they have already shown they are capable of springing a surprise.

Last time they met:

Cheshire Phoenix 82 Leicester Riders 89 (BBL Championship, Cheshire Oaks Arena, 13 March 2016)

Form:

Phoenix: LWWWWW
Riders: LWWLWW

Three Points:

  • Riders had four players named in the BBL All-Defensive Team of the Year this week
  • Phoenix’s previous trip to the BBL Play-Off Final was in 2005
  • Riders have been to two of the last four Play-Off Finals

What they say:

Phoenix coach John Lavery: “Whether it is a regular season game, a Cup game, a Trophy game or a Play-Off game, we go out with the intention to win every game.

“[The win against Newcastle] gives our guys a good momentum going forward and hopefully we can continue that against Leicester Riders.

“They are a great side. They are very deep, very well coached, very well disciplined offensively and defensively. We’ve got to look at that.

“We’ll take something away from each of last weekend’s performances.

“We’ve just got to focus on what we need to do. The first leg is at our place so we’ve just got to keep our momentum going forward and hopefully we can come out with a ‘W’ going into the second leg.”

Riders forward Jamell Anderson: “Luckily we don’t have personalities which become over confident, we keep our feet firmly kept on the ground. Coach Rob [Paternostro] does a great job of ensuring we don’t lose focus. It’s a long season and it’s had highs and lows but currently our work is paying off which is great.

“Cheshire have so many weapons offensively and they seem to have really good team morale. We will have to focus defensively, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. They have shown that they are a high level team and it will be a very exciting two games.

“The O2 looked incredible last year [for the Play-Off Final], just be able to play there would be amazing. But we have a lot if hard work to do first. I’ll remain focused on these next two games.”

Glasgow Rocks v Sheffield Sharks

Where and when:

First leg: Emirates Arena, 7.30pm Friday 29 April

Second leg: EIS Sheffield, 4.00pm Sunday 1 May

Summary:

The BBL Play-Off Final has not featured Glasgow Rocks or Sheffield Sharks since 2011, but that will change this season.

Both clubs have enjoyed a stellar second half of the season, which continued last weekend in the BBL Play-Off Quarter-Finals.

The fifth seed Rocks recorded a huge win at home against fourth seed Worcester Wolves in their first leg, meaning they advanced despite defeat in the return.

And it was a similar story for Sharks, who overpowered London Lions.

Sharks have won two of the three meetings between these teams this season, but both come into this one in fine form and full of confidence.

Last time they met:

Glasgow Rocks 68 Sheffield Sharks 83 (BBL Championship, Emirates Arena, 03 April 2016)

Form:

Rocks: LLWWWL
Sharks: LWWLWL

Three Points:

  • Rocks’ Kieron Achara was this week named in the BBL All-Defensive Team of the Year
  • Rocks are aiming to reach a third final in three seasons, having lost in the BBL Trophy and BBL Cup Finals in the previous two campaigns
  • The last Final Sharks reached was in the 2013 BBL Trophy

What they say:

Rocks coach Sterling Davis: “I think it’s a huge boost for all four teams still in Play-Offs. To know that you have two games to get to The O2 and three to win it all is very motivating.

“Sheffield are an excellent rebounding team especially on the offensive end. We have to focus on not allowing multiple opportunities to score per possession. They are well balanced though so there is definitely more to their attack.

“Unless we win a Final, it would just be repeat of the last two seasons. We were in the Trophy Final two seasons ago and last season, the Cup Final. My focus is getting us some silverware. We have a great opportunity at this point – we just need to close the deal.”

Sharks coach Atiba Lyons: “We played everyone close this season, only falling short to Newcastle and we have beaten Leicester – granted they have beaten us more than we beat them.

“Glasgow, we just barely squeaked the head-to-head but we did beat them.

“The way they play, they’ve really got a lot of chemistry, they play team basketball and I think they’ve also played every team close.

“We’re playing well because the team this year has some great camaraderie, I really enjoy working with these guys.

“It’s been a while since we had this kind of team chemistry and they all enjoy being here.

“They are gym rats, all of them, always playing basketball together.”

Games
Friday 29 April 2016
PO Semi Finals (1st Leg) 19:30 Glasgow Rocks v Sheffield Sharks

Saturday 30 April 2016
PO Semi Finals (1st Leg) 19:30 Cheshire Phoenix v Leicester Riders

Sunday 1 May 2016
PO Semi Finals (2nd Leg) 17:00 Leicester Riders v Cheshire Phoenix
PO Semi Finals (2nd Leg) 16:00 Sheffield Sharks v Glasgow Rocks

Souce: BBL
Image: C.Cox