Plymouth Raiders saw their efforts fall short once again, as they lost to the Cheshire Phoenix 99-105, at the Pavilions, Sunday.
The game was a must win for the Phoenix, who find themselves on the bubble between the playoff’s and an early off season. The Raiders on the other hand, continued to fight for pride with their season long beyond salvation.
Although the final result rested against his side, Raiders head coach Gavin Love, acknowledged his players effort in defeat. He said:
“I think we played hard, there’s no question, but we didn’t play smart enough to win the game ultimately.
“We had some players play really well, but some of our defensive rotations were poor leaving us to turn the ball over in exceptionally important moments of the game.”
This time around, the first half was the Raiders problem, as silly foul making gave the visitors an easy step up in the game, something not lost on Love who said:
“It hurts a lot to give up those throws, they’re easy points to make up, and put us in foul trouble early on, meaning we had to change things, and not for the better.
“Of course. I just said to the team after the game, you’re not going to win games if you make easy errors, but at the same time I think they’re playing hard, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Love built on his praise for his mix-matched squad, adding:
“This unit here are definitely improving, if you think about it, they haven’t been together that long and are improving at a great rate.”
“I think we’re banged up, we haven’t had 10 players at practice for what feels like months.
“Dylan’s season is over with a bad foot injury, Will’s season is over, Eric’s got an injury, so yeah we’re struggling, but credit to the players who are fighting through it, we’re doing all we can.”
Love finally reflected on yet another consecutive strong outing from his attacking duo, Joonas Jarvelainen and Tre Bowman, saying:
“Tre and Joonas are playing at a good level and they’re taking the role of scoring the baskets for us.
“We don’t have a great deal of scorers, but those two have been taking on the mantle and they’re playing hard to do all they can for us.”
Building of a strong win on the long road north against bottom of the table, Leeds force, the Raiders looked enthused heading into their second to last home fixture of the season.
The Raiders won the tip and wasted no time in going ahead by four.
Soon, the Phoenix climbed into the game, replying to the deficit with confidence. The lead then began to switch backwards and forwards around the single point mark.
The Phoenix were keen at sniffing out open lanes to score easy layups, but seemingly every time the Raiders trailed, a three would hammer home and propel them ahead by one again.
For a team fighting hard to secure the last spot for next month’s BBL playoffs, the Phoenix showed it in the first quarter. Every piece of possession was hard fought for by the visitors, who put the Raiders under unrelenting pressure in an attempt to force errors.
Phoenix players employed full-court press coverage throughout the meeting, which made crossing the half way line easier said than done.
This pressure tactic proved to be a double-edged sword though, as unmarked Raiders were left to put in stylish dunks, with nobody guarding the hoop.
Eventually, the Phoenix began to strike a consistent run to get hot in the middle of the first, holding at least a four-point lead.
Jarvelainen drove onward, attempting to take the lead back, head on, swishing a long range three to excite the crowd, and indeed the four men behind, as the next drive saw a strong steal finished with a leaping dunk.
Phoenix players opened up the lead little more by the beginning of the second, with six points in hand they began to capitalise on the Raiders sloppy defence, nailing 70% of their 17 free throw attempts by the half.
It seemed like the Raiders couldn’t catch a break as a stream of penalties went against them, most though, were warranted.
At the other end, the Raiders three-point gremlin began to raise its ugly head again, but fortunately, the team were quick to recognise the empty possessions were causing more pain than they were worth, quickly switching inside to go for the easier two’s.
The Raiders attempt to get the ball moving a bit quicker as the half approached and they were awarded for it, as the they closed back to ten-point difference at 49-59.
The second half saw the Raiders fight valiantly to stay inside the 10-point buffer. Fouls were harder to come by for the Phoenix, whilst the Raiders leapt on any free points gifted to them.
A couple of times the offence stagnated, but only for a few minutes at a time before a rare three would go in, to get the green machine rolling again.
Bowman would be the standout in the third, as he went on a seven-point run to decrease the deficit to five, but mistakes still kept the Phoenix out of reach.
After his fourth foul, skipper Zak Wells, was pulled from the game near the end of the third. With the big body lost on the paint, Phoenix’s star centre, Chanceler Gettys, was able to assert dominance and score freely, he’d end the game with 20 points.
As the fourth quarter rolled in, the Raiders still had a considerable hill to climb if they wanted to come away with the win, but with early fight, it seemed they might have been able to do it.
Fast play from Eric eaves and Louis Sayers continued to jab at the Phoenix lead, but their shooters zoned in and started to land threes from around the arc.
Sensing their time was up, the Raiders began to rush and lost two vital possessions because of it.
With a minute remaining and up four, Phoenix looked in control as the Raiders could only play the foul game to stop the clock before finally losing the game.Game Stats