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We must beat Leicester Riders to boost top four bid, says London Lions boss

07:00 27 February 2014

London Lions are hoping to have captain Mike Martin fit for the visit of Leicester after a thigh injury

London Lions are hoping to have captain Mike Martin fit for the visit of Leicester after a thigh injury

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Head coach Vince Macaulay says London Lions need to beat Leicester Riders on Friday (7.30pm) to prove they can be a top four British Basketball League side.

Fifth-placed London’s defeat to Newcastle in their last outing effectively ended their outside hopes of winning the title, but they will be aiming to draw level on points with fourth-placed Riders and improve their standings for the play-offs.

After one win and a loss against the BBL champions and cup holders this season the Copper Box clash will see head-to-head honours up for grabs with a result that could prove pivotal for the Lions’ aspirations, having already played two more games than Leicester.

“For us, it’s really about us establishing our credentials to be in the top four and, to do so, we need to beat teams like Leicester at home,” said Macaulay.

“It’s a very important game. We are not in the hunt for the title any more and they probably still are.

“As far as we’re concerned, we just want to beat everybody we play between now and the play-off final.

“We’ll go into that game trying to take the head-to-head should we have to run into them later on in the year.

“We still have Leicester at home, Newcastle and Worcester so we’re still battling against those guys and they’re going to be beating each other too.

“Newcastle and Leicester still have two more games amongst themselves and hopefully we can draw Sheffield into that.”

The last meeting with Riders saw London win 78-73 on the road and Friday’s clash will be the first time the champions have visited the Copper Box, having ended a three-game losing streak with a 98-60 win over Plymouth Raiders at the weekend.

Macaulay said: “Now they’ve got point guard Anthony Downing back, that they lost earlier in the season [to a jaw fracture], so they’ll feel like they are getting back to where they were.

“We didn’t execute quite as well as we would have liked [in Leicester] but I thought from a defensive standpoint we did a good job.

“We’ve talked about that all season long and we’ll be looking to establish a nice home run again and get ourselves into a rhythm for the play-offs.”

Lions hope to have captain Mike Martin fit after he missed the Newcastle loss with a torn thigh muscle, while Blayne Freckleton has recovered after dislocating his finger 20 seconds into the Eagles match.

Macaulay said: “Mike needs two weeks to recover so he should be just about OK for this weekend.

“He did it in practice before the Newcastle game and he hasn’t taken part in anything yet so hopefully we can get him back soon.

“It was just a freak accident because there was nobody next to him, he just reached for the basket and tore a muscle.

“Blayne dislocated his finger and the medical people got it back in place but he wasn’t able to play any further part in the game, but he’ll be fine.”

It will have been two weeks since the last time London took to the court after their 83-77 reverse at Newcastle on Valentines Day.

Macaulay said: “We went into the break feeling really comfortable with ourselves and we’ve spent the time since then just fine tuning a few things and getting ourselves ready for this next stretch of 10 league games and hopefully a bunch more play-off games.”

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