The Plymouth Raiders stamped their authority over the Manchester Giants, winning their vital BBL championship matchup, by a score of 103 – 97, to put on a display of force, for the nationally broadcast game and bumper crowd.
Although happy with his sides win, head coach, Gavin Love, was still a little reserved with his team’s winning effort. He said:
“I was a little disappointed we weren’t able to finish it off and win by 12, I think we got a little nervous there at the end and made some uncharacteristic mistakes.
“But at the end of the day I’m pleased with the win, the players deserved it, we’ve been working hard.”
Love also pointed out the teams continued defensive improvements saying:
“We’ve got to play good defence and we are.
“We aren’t a great offensive team at the moment, we don’t have players that can score 20 on any given night, although tonight we had some great performances.
“Our defence is how we’re going to win games, and we did that tonight.”
Both sides came into the matchup certain of how important securing a win would be for their respective struggling records, and from the tip-off, both showed their determination.
Throughout the first quarter, both sides matched scoring, with the lead see-sawing between the two, as possessions charged between the two hoops.
The Raiders were the first to creep ahead though. Built off the back of a strong defence, the ball was stolen on the games third drive for Tre Bowman to open his monster night of scoring.
Despite the slim window the Raiders built for themselves, the Giants continued to nag, taking advantage of the host’s mistakes, which let them into the game on more than one occasion, especially through careless marking, which often left the Giants available to shoot unchecked from the paint.
Will Neighbour and Denzel Ubiaro made their return to the court midway in the first, after sitting out the Eagles game last week. Whilst Ubiaro got on the scoresheet early, Neighbour showed some early cobwebs, missing some unmarked shots and giving away preventable penalties.
Tre Bowman continued to act as the spark on offence, as the raiders closed out the first quarter ahead.
The second began a lot like the end of the first, with the Raiders strong defence causing multiple turnovers. These defensive efforts were impressive, as the ball wasn’t simply intercepted from poor passing, but rather snatched from the grasp of stunned Giants on the attack.
Indeed, by the halfway point, the Raiders had an impressive nine steals (led by Louis Sayers with four), compared to a mere three from the Giants. This attacking play led to 16 turnover points and a 12-point lead.
Playing from behind, the Giants paid too much attention to setting screens, and where twice caught out by shot clock violations, that quickly converted to more Raider points.
After his slow start, Neighbour ended the half with two field goals in a row, something that clearly frustrated the Giants who unleashed a harsh body check on Eric Eaves at the other end.
After some last-minute buckets, the score held into the break at 50-44.
On the other side of the half, the Giants refused to sit idle, shooting well early. The Raiders were able to match the initial attack, but the quarter was strewn with some bad mistakes from both sides.
The third quarter also saw Neighbour and Bowman continue their hot streaks. Neighbour sunk a further two three-pointers and Bowman seemed unstoppable whenever he had a sniff at the net.
Heading into the final 10 minutes of play, the Raiders held a healthy 12-point lead, but it wasn’t to stand for long, as once again the Giants cut it down to seven.
After a flurry of shots, the Raiders forced a Giants timeout. On entering the huddle, captain, Zak Wells, could be heard loud over the crowd rallying his team mates saying: “it’s all about defence now.”
The side took their skippers words to heart, and the same ferocity seen in the second quarter re-emerged. Sayers picked apart a play to put a layup away, and Wells contributed with his own intercept.
Together with the tight defence, and immaculate shooting from Neighbour, Eves and Bowman, the home side found themselves over the century mark and leading by the biggest game margin of 13, with four minutes remaining.
But, as has been staple with the side so far this season, the win wasn’t to be straight forward.
Nervous play and rushed shooting allowed the visitors one final push at the lead. Instead of holding the ball and running out the clock, Raiders seemed more intent with attempting three’s. Fortunately, the score ultimately proved too much for the Giants to chase, and the nervous crowd were able to celebrate as the buzzer blew.
The Raiders would end the night with five players in double digit scoring, led by Bowman with 28. Neighbour would bolster the 31 bench points with 21 of his own, all of which from beyond the arc.
With mistakes being made, Love knows things will need to be improved upon in training this week. He said:
“We threw the ball away maybe five times in the last few minutes, and that made it a game.
“We’ve got to look at that and look at our composure.
“It’s certainly something we can improve upon.”
See the full interview with Gavin Love along with the thoughts of MVP Tre Bowman on Raiders TV.
Raiders next two games are on the road at Cheshire Phoenix (Sunday 25th March, 5:30pm) and London Lions (Wednesday 4th April, 7:30pm). Fans can watch the Cheshire game at Barjons (Marjons bar) on the big screen alongside fellow fans and club officials in a trial which if goes well could become a regular fixture in the calendar.
Following the two away trips, Raiders host league leaders Leicester Riders on Sunday 8th April. Tickets can be bought online for the game at www.ticketstore.co.uk and following recent battles between the two clubs, fans are advised to buy tickets early to avoid disappointment.Game Stats & Highlights