The Raiders find themselves looking to overcome a six point deficit in the capital city after the first leg of their play-off quarter final finished 91-97 in favour of the regular season champions.
It was an intense affair on the South-West coast with the lead changing hands several times over the course of the game. The Raiders did well to stay with their London rivals who raced into an early 11 point lead. Despite the difficult start, Plymouth were 45-43 up at half-time and arguably deserved more from a game in which they performed well.
Donte Nicholas led the Raiders with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. The Plymouth guard had an excellent game despite having to contend with an inordinate number of fouls from the opposition. The BBL Player of the Month appeared happy to collect points from the free throw line and will hope to rack up even more in the second leg of this quarter-final.
The Lions were impressive in defence, limiting Raiders top scorer Rashad Hassan to just 9 points. The 6’8 forward will need to provide more aggression around the rim if Plymouth are to have any chance of overturning this deficit in London. Denzel Ubiaro provided a much-needed injection of athleticism into the Plymouth offense, finishing the game with 15 points. Physicality, however, proved to be an issue that plagued the Raiders all game. As Head Coach Paul James conceded in his post-match interview, the Raiders were beaten to the ball too easily, too often.
The standout player for the Lions was undoubtedly Brandon Peel. The Central Connecticut alumnus was ruthless from two and three-point range, rounding out the game with 26 points and 11 assists. Despite a strong showing from the Raiders defence, the speed and accuracy shown by the Lions in transition was often too slick for the eighth seed.
If the Raiders are to overcome this six point swing in the capital city they will have to; improve around the boards, match the Lions speed and continue to press high on defence. Though this might sound simple, it is anything but. Overturning a defeat against the best team in the country will take patience, determination and above all, belief. The Raiders posses all the tools necessary to advance in this competition and under the tutelage of their influential Head Coach it would be foolish to write them off at this stage. We have four quarters of basketball left to play, six points to overcome and a green wave of support behind the team. Let’s go Raiders!