Plymouth Raiders made the short trip up the M5 to Bristol to face the Flyers on Friday night in front of a sold out SGS WISE Arena crowd. Raiders went into the game having won only four of their 15 competitive games against the home side since they joined the BBL in 2014, with Raiders only victory on the road coming in January 2017 so a tough game was to be expected.
New signing Devontavius Payne was put straight into the starting five by Coach Paul James alongside Shawn Shelton who replaced Javis Howard from the usual line-up, with regulars Josh Wilcher, Donte Nicholas and captain Zak Wells making up the five. Neither team settled into the game early on with more fouls being displayed on the scoreboard than there were points for the first few minutes. Flyers opened up a five point gap following a dunk from Justin Gray, but in the process of making it, he moved the basket resulting in an official’s timeout to reposition it. This allowed both teams to regroup and a 9 – 19 stretch from the Raiders put them four up after ten minutes.
The second period started in the same way as the first with both teams getting into foul trouble early on. Neither coaches were happy with their team’s performances and that showed when Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas made it clear to everyone in the crowd what he thought of one of his players as he sent him to the changing room to remain there until half time. The two sides traded baskets throughout the quarter and with three minutes remaining Joonas Järveläinen put the Raiders ahead 30 – 33. Six unanswered points from the Flyers to close the quarter saw them take the lead, something they would hold for the remainder of the game.
Bristol had settled into the game just before the end of the half and continued that into the third quarter. Four made shots and an offensive rebound compared to the Raiders four missed shots and a turnover, saw the Flyers open a double digit gap which peaked at 16 points with just under a minute remaining in the third. At the end of the quarter, the Raiders had a 15 point, 64 – 49 deficit with ten minutes to play.
In contrast to the other three quarters, both teams came out fighting in the fourth and fouls weren’t interrupting the game. Payne found form from behind the arc for the Raiders going three from three from the same spot in 90 seconds of play to close the gap to ten, but a timeout from the home side quickly put a stop to that. Four points from Järveläinen closed the gap to six, but a 10 – 4 run put Flyers back up by 12 with two minutes remaining on the game clock. A timeout by PJ drawing up plans to get the visitors on open shot worked, but the two attempts Raiders had failed to drop allowing the home side to run out 80 – 70 winners.
Järveläinen top scored for the Raiders with 20 points off the bench, whilst Nicholas had 13 and Payne 11 on his debut. One area where the visitors struggled was on the glass, where the taller Flyers out rebounding them 58 – 35, including 26 offensive rebounds. Undefeated Newcastle Eagles visit the Pavilions on Sunday, 15:00 tip, so PJ and his assistants will be looking hard at the game tape seeing how they can adjust to maintain their 100% home record so far this season. Tickets for the game can be bought online from https://www.theticketstore.co.uk