Eagles sink claws into Plymouth Raiders after Heat are frozen out by Love's men
Plymouth Raiders were reminded last Sunday just how far they have to go if they want to seriously challenge in this season's BBL Championship play-offs in April.
They fell heavily by 17 points, 96-79, to defending champions Newcastle Eagles at Plymouth Pavilions – and slipped to fourth spot in the Championship as a result of the setback.
Raiders have never finished higher than third at the end of the regular season. If they are to legitimately contend in the play-offs, they have a lot of ground to make up.
Eagles outworked and then outclassed Raiders last Sunday, and led by as many as 22 points, 89-67 in the middle of the fourth quarter. The hosts slashed the deficit to 12, 91-79, with a 12-2 rally, but the impact on the final scoreline was purely cosmetic.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Raiders centre Matt Schneck said simply: "The difference right now between us and a top team is 17 points. We just have to continue to work on trying to close that gap. Hopefully, we can, but that's where we are right now."
Raiders head coach Gavin Love said: "It was disappointing. We dropped off our level on offence for three or four minutes and we weren't in the game at the end.
"In the second half, Newcastle stepped up their defence and they killed us on rebounds. We just didn't have guys who boxed out.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well at all from the three-point line. If you don't make shots against a team like Newcastle, you're going to struggle. We had opportunities to make shots from outside, but we either didn't take them or we missed."
Schneck added: "Newcastle are a very good team. We shut off for a two or three-minute spell and you just can't do that against a team like that. They took advantage. They're tough. It was difficult for us. A difficult loss.
"It was tough for us trying to rebound. Sometimes that's just the way the ball bounces."
Plymouth were coming off a 91-89 win over Surrey Heat on Saturday. Schneck admitted it was a shame they could not repeat the trick. "It was a great win for us on Saturday night and we had a great 20 minutes on Sunday," he said.
"Hopefully, we can take those 60 minutes out of 80 we played well in forward."
Love had warned he was going to shake things up, and he made two changes to his starting five against Heat. He had shooting-guard Michael Ojo playing point-guard in the final five minutes of a tense finale on Saturday.
Raiders trailed by as many as six points, 66-60 late in the third quarter and by five, 83-78 in the middle of the fourth before finding the resolve and, crucially, the execution on offence to prevail.
Love said afterwards: "I don't think we've ever tried so many different line-ups in one game. We had a really small line-up and then we had a huge line-up. But going big helped us rebound the ball and get out and shut down their perimeter shooters.
"Our defence at times was excellent and at times poor, but we got the job done and showed great character in the end."
Ojo said: "We had a tough week in practice and we really wanted to put more focus on the defensive end. That effort showed in spells.
"Now we want to be more consistent with it. We had some peaks and troughs. Fortunately we pulled out the win on Saturday."