The Lions were comfortable 115- 91 winners over the Manchester Giants at the Copper Box Arena in the BBL Championship on Sunday afternoon.
The Lions entered the Copper Box arena on Sunday top of the BBL table with a 16-2 record, having already wrapped up the season series with two league wins over Manchester in their previous league encounters.
The Giants were victorious in the last matchup between the sides, edging their second leg of the BBL Trophy semi-final 105-100 at the copper box back on Valentine’s day.
The Lions had the better of the early exchanges and despite a shortlived Giants lead the hosts looked comfortable against their northern opposition.
Robinson and Brandon Peel had their customary good starts for the Lions both putting up good points in the opening ten minutes. Peel was his usual dominant self inside getting 11 points on the board whilst Robinson shot excellently from outside sinking two threes and three free throws.
Mike McCall Jr was the best of the Giants player in the scoring department netting 8 first-quarter points for a side who were struggling to get open looks with the Lions playing their customary high-intensity defence.
The second quarter started well for Manchester as they got the game to within one against the rotated Lions. England international Callum Jones tied it up with a three-point play, finishing through contact and making his freebie at the line.
Paul Guede would get the game tied at the line himself before Ingus Bankevics drained a corner three to give the Giants the lead. That lead lasted seconds as a long lob pass from Spencer to was emphatically thrown down by Ladarius Tabb.
The Lions let their frustration at not being able to get stops against a Giants team still relying on their starting unit get the best of them at a spell where the Giants were starting the control the game. Kervin Bristol felt he didn’t get the call and was given a technical foul before Vince Macaulay saw the same fate from crew chief Keith Williams for arguing the call.
The Lions were on the wrong end of things in the second being outscored 18-34 with the Giants using just six men the whole first half, with Mike McCall Jr playing the full 20 minutes and contributing 16 points on 6/8 shooting.
Spencer got the second half started with a three-pointer for the Lions as they ran their starting five with Larkai in place of Bristol. The Lions closed the gap down to three points thanks to a three from five points from Jordan Spencer.
An intriguing element of the game was seeing how much more leadership and responsibility Jordan Spencer has either been assigned or is taking upon himself. The way Spencer instructs his colleagues on the floor, with a confidence and assuredness, way beyond his years as a rookie guard on the team.
Callum Jones showed his quality the second half making some chances look regulation as he fought hard to extend his side’s lead. Having grown into the game Jones worked hard to try and take it over using all his tricks and experience to keep a flagging Giants in the contest.
The Lions took over the lead of the game with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, a bad pass to Jones was picked off by Robinson who made no mistake and Spencer would hit a long two-pointer to sneak his side back in front.
The Lions were playing solid basketball with high energy getting the crowd on their feet, especially when Lamar Roberts scored to make it an 11 point lead for the Lions forcing Danny Byrne into calling a timeout.
The biggest difference between the two sides, however, was Manchester big man Willie Clayton being sat down with four personal fouls. On a regulation play that would have benefitted from Clayton, Byrne could only look on in exacerbation.
With Clayton off the floor, an energized Lions went to town, with Peel and Tabb flourishing with greater space and time on the floor and the Lions went into the final quarter leading 77-64.
With Clayton restored to the floor for the start of the final period the Giants got the first bucket of the quarter but that would be as good as it got for the visitors.
The fourth quarter was like the fast and furious movies, a fast-paced caper with plenty of action by fan favourites which saw Joe Ikhinmwin and Andre Lockhart playing the leading roles. Ikhinmwin, looking energized and excited to be playing after some injury problems scored one of the plays of the game putting Vlatko Granic in a spin cycle and finishing at the rim before exploding for an 11 point final quarter to put the game beyond doubt.
Willie Clayton eventually fouled out of the game for a completely unnecessary elbow on Kervin Bristol after a fantastic physical battle in the low post which saw both guys playing hard-nosed hoops. As Clayton made his way to the bench Byrne couldn’t believe the call by Williams.
The final few minutes of play became a dunk show for the Lions as Ladarius Tabb hit three dunk contest worthy throwdowns to put an exclamation point on a big win for the Lions as they continue their quest for the title.
Photo credit: London Lions