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London Lions lose out to Leicester in BBL play-offs

PUBLISHED: 10:00 08 May 2017

London Lions lost out to Leicester in the BBL play-off semi-finals (pic Graham Hodges)

London Lions lost out to Leicester in the BBL play-off semi-finals (pic Graham Hodges)

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Leicester Riders 72 London Lions 55 (162-126 on aggregate)

A 19-point deficit from the first leg of the BBL play-off semi-finals proved too much of an obstacle for the London Lions, who went out of the competition to League champions Leicester on Sunday.

Much of the game was a tight, scrappy, low-scoring affair, with the Riders capitalising on a depleted Lions team that ran out of steam towards the end of the tie.

Navid Niktash, who has been an increasingly valuable presence for the Lions on both ends of the court, spent the game on the bench, struggling with a bout of food poisoning.

It was perhaps fitting that the third quarter – where the Lions have struggled all season – would be their undoing, as they were outscored 26-10.

Problems with the three-point shot were also evident as the Lions converted just three of their 23 attempts from downtown.

But the scoreline probably flattered the league winners slightly, with the Lions at times putting on demonstrations of the strong defence and offensive flair that saw them dispatch the third-placed Glasgow Rocks with relative ease.

In a game where the Lions only scored 55 points, Alex Owumi chalked up 21.

The Lions struggled to score from the tip, with Leicester building a 7-2 lead early in the first quarter.

But the visitors recovered and started trading buckets – and misses – before an Owumi steal and jump-shot tied the game with just over three minutes remaining in the first.

Andre Lockhart started the process of eating into Leicester’s 19-point advantage with a lovely shot from behind the arc and Owumi tried the same thing but was fouled and made all three to take the lead to six.

Leicester quickly came back, but then sent Kai Williams to the line and his two made shots gave the Lions a 17-13 lead at the end of the first.

The second saw the Riders back on form and the Lions went from concentrating on cutting down the aggregate deficit to desperately trying to hold on to a slender lead.

At the half, the Lions were still ahead, by one point but with 18 points still needing to be made up, the task was starting to look impossible.

It was a third quarter collapse that Lions fans have seen time and again this season as, having held Leicester to just 29 points in the first half, they now allowed 26 in a quarter.

With the damage done, it became a question of how many Leicester would win by. Despite this, the Lions battled on and the fourth quarter was fairly evenly balanced at 17-15.

But it was Leicester who made it through to the final on Sunday at the O2 Arena, while the Lions will be left pondering what might have been if they hadn’t, for instance, lost Jamal Williams earlier in the season.

Lions: Owumi 21, Taylor 8, Williams 7, Ikhinmwin 7, Lockhart 6, Wells 4, Hassan 2, Moyo 0.

*A huge Copper Box crowd saw Zaire Taylor score 23 points and Rashad Hassan notch a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in the first leg, but it was not enough as Leicester ran out 90-71 winners.

Both teams were neck and neck in the opening minutes before the Lions found themselves in foul trouble again, leading the Riders to edge their advantage going into the second quarter.

The Lions faced team fouls almost every quarter which posed a problem with players having to be substituted and Navid Niktash’s minutes were limited due to being on four fouls.

But Niktash was still able to contribute a decent score to the team, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Taylor attempted to lead his team in the first quarter, scoring eight points, but was unfortunate as the Leicester starters were connecting from inside the key.

And he provided crucial baskets in the second quarter, scoring 11 points to narrow the lead, but the Riders were shooting well and led by seven at half time.

Kai Williams delivered a much-needed three-pointer late in the third to cut the deficit to two points, but the damage was already done as Leicester had established a healthy lead heading into the final quarter.

Nigel Lloyd’s team were held to eight points in the fourth with the Riders going on an 11-0 run and the Lions finished the night shooting 46 per cent from the two-point line and only 22 per cent from the three-point line.

Lions: Taylor 23, Hassan 14, Williams 12, Niktash 10, Owumi 8, Ikhinmwin 2, Wells 2, Lockhart 0, Moyo 0.


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