The Plymouth Raiders dismal season continued to drag onward Sunday, as the city side failed to pull off an upset, losing 75-104, at the hands of the dominant Leicester Riders, despite an admirable first half effort.
The win saw the Riders secure their third consecutive BBL Championship crown, as the top-class team brushed aside their third from bottom opponents.
For the opening 20 minutes of play, a glimmer of hope shone through the Pavilions as the Raiders kept up with their high-tempo counterparts, but eventually they were whittled down and blasted by precision shooting.
The first quarter quickly opened into a fast-paced offensive slug match between the two sides trying to maintain a lead, the first of which went the way of the Riders, nine seconds from the tip-off. Another two were then added within 30 seconds, but the Raiders picked up their play to enter the game and begin catching up.
Yet again Tre Bowman acted as the ignition for the Raiders in front of the home ground, he was first to sink two points onto the scoreboard, then showed his defensive prowess at the other end with a great slap down.
Riders forward, Pierre Hampton, caused trouble for the Raiders through the first half. Early on, Hampton seemed zeroed into the hoop, dropping a nice three pointer from range, whilst also showing his muscle in the paint, fighting for penalties and easy two-point field goals. By the half, Hampton led the Riders scorers by 10 points with 16.
Soon, it was the Raiders turn to claim the lead as they pushed ahead by four and held firm during the back and forwards first quarter. Their lead would only stand at one by the start of the second, but early indications suggested the Raiders weren’t about to roll-over and give the Riders the title they desired.
The Raiders starting five, who up that point had played the entire first, began to slowly get rotated out for a well needed breather. With the bench players stepping onto court for the first time on the afternoon, the Riders eyed an opportunity, then pounced into a five-point lead.
A factor picked up on by Raiders head coach, Gavin Love, has been his sides inability to move the ball freely on offense, and this was on clear display, contrasted with the top ranked Riders, who had little trouble slinging the ball at speed to set up open team mates.
With scoring now slowing down as both defences adjusted, the Riders dogged out a nine-point lead, taking advantage of the niggling mistakes that have plagued the Raiders all season. Bad dribbling, rushed passing and poor decisions gave the visitors more than enough possessions to feel confident in their lead.
Although successful early, the Riders fortunately struggled to find their mark from beyond the arc, and by the half only managed 4/14 for 28%. The Raiders didn’t fare any better though with only 1/13 at 7%.
The second half saw a rapid decline in the Raiders chances of an upset. The Riders were aggressive early, and clearly felt annoyed they weren’t further in the lead.
For most of the third quarter, the Riders starting five set themselves up in an overbearing net around the Raiders arc. With nobody playing on the paint, the ball was lofted far over the Raiders defensive grasp, setting up plays from the corners.
A few of these high passes came close to being picked off, but the Raiders had to settle for near misses as the Riders continued to poor on the points.
With success coming from their outside formation, the Riders lulled their hosts into static defence as they protected against the three-point threat. This allowed further points to go in with ease as multiple players darted inside quickly for two.
The real back breaking blow was delivered near the end of the third as in the space of three minutes the Riders encamped themselves in the corner to hit four three pointers. Love rushed to call a time-out, but the damage was done with his side trailing by 24 points.
Credit does have to be given to the Raiders though, as they continued playing hard through the fourth, in the hope of stringing together another 30+ point fourth quarter, for the second game in a row.
Unfortunately, the comeback couldn’t be completed as Leicester continued to score with methodological precision. If one player fell silent, two more popped up to score, keeping the offensive juggernaut cruising.
With the lead holding at 26, bench players Eddie Matthew and Stephen Gordon had a chance to see court time and made the most of it, injecting great enthusiasm into an already hopeless game.
After only allowing a single Rider into double digit scoring in the first half, by the buzzer, Leicester matched the Raiders with four players over 10. The visitors were led by two mid 20-point performances though, Hampton would finish with 24, and captain, Tyler Bernardini, would lead his teams scoring with 26, with 17 points coming in the third quarter alone. Bernardini could also boast an impressive six three-pointers from 13, to lead the Riders by example.
Joonas Jarvelainen led the Raiders in scoring with 24, followed by yet another solid performance from Eric Eaves with 18.
The Raiders will continue searching for answers before an away from home double-header weekend, next week against beatable opponents.Game Stats & Highlights