Love calls for a killer instinct after Raiders stutter at home
MARJON Plymouth Raiders had been waiting so long for Friday's game that it almost passed them by when it finally arrived.
Raiders comfortably overcame Cheshire Jets 100-84 at the Pavilions to go 3-0 in the BBL Championship.
However, Jets frustratingly remained within striking distance and trailed by six, 72-66 late in the third quarter.
Raiders decisively built a 15 point, 85-70 lead by the middle of the fourth quarter after a 13-4 home run.
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But the exclamation point fans had seen in Raiders' opening two BBL wins this season, over London Lions 108-86 and Manchester Giants 105-74, was missing.
That fact irked Raiders coach Gavin Love after the final buzzer.
"At the end of the day we've won another game," he said. "But I don't think it was a 16 point game.
"We can score and we passed the ball better in the second half and we shot the ball reasonably well, but we didn't play the brand of basketball I want us to play. The guys know that."
Love added: "We didn't rebound well and it's simply not good enough. I want us to have a killer instinct and if we'd have kept it going like we started we'd have destroyed them."
Raiders led 15-4 from the gun in the first quarter, but the score then yo-yoed all evening and Jets kept pulling back within as few as four points before Raiders drove clear for good early in the fourth.
"I think that was us playing loose on our part and them showing some resilience on theirs," said Raiders centre Matt Schneck, who ended a two-year spell with Jets this summer.
"We've had two big wins but we're still learning and Cheshire played us tough.
"If you don't put your foot on people's throat they can come back at any time."
Raiders, through no fault of their own, had been frustrated by a 12 day lay-off in their early season schedule prior to Friday. It showed.
Raiders started like a train and were beautifully relaxed, but they remained relaxed and could not then find the bite to rack up a third emphatic win on the spin.
It happens. Defending BBL champions Newcastle Eagles, who unlike Raiders have not been hit by early postponements and go 7-0 at the top of the standings, were run close on paper, 89-83 at home by Lions on Friday.
Raiders clinically put Lions to the sword in their opener.
Schneck said: "I think the stage we are at right now, we need some more game experience. We've been training hard together for two months but we still need to gel in game situations. You can see that."
Love said: "It comes back to a killer instinct. We come out all guns blazing and I was really pleased, but there are no easy games in the BBL.
"Games are going to get tougher for us and if we had been playing a top four team I think we would've lost. I think you can absolutely put that down to the two week break."
Raiders should have visited Lions in the league yesterday in what was originally scheduled to be their seventh contest in 2012/13.
Instead it was their fourth postponement because opponents, for whatever reason, are not ready to play Raiders, who now look forward to entertaining 5-1 Surrey Heat at the Pavilions this Sunday (4pm) in what is shaping up to be a quality test.
"We've got to regroup now and work hard," said Love. "Surrey will be tough."
Raiders threatened to run away from Jets with a 15-4 run opening the first quarter.
Guard Michel Ojo, continuing his terrific early season form, led Raiders with 27 points on Friday and had 10 of the points.
He ignited the tear with a three from the left wing after forward Colin O'Reilly spotted him open from the opposite wing.
Guard Jeremy Bell, who like O'Reilly scored 22 points in support, drilled a three from the left corner to make it 6-2.
Ojo, sharp as a tack, then intercepted a loose Jets pass midcourt on the left sideline and took the ball all the way to Jets' rack and finished with an emphatic one-handed dunk.
Rookie power-forward Javarris Barnett tipped in a Schneck miss inside before Ojo hit another three from the left arc to make it 13-4.
Ojo capped the run with a mid-range jump-shot from the left elbow in transition.
Jets cut the gap to as few as four, 26-22 at the start of the second before Raiders rebuilt it to 12, 42-30 five minutes from half-time.
Jets, stubbornly, were back within four, 59-55 early in the third before Raiders again extended the lead to 12, 67-55 in the middle of the period.
Jets veteran Shawn Myers converted 2/2 free-throws to make it 72-66 late in the third before Raiders hit them with a 13-4 run which finally blew Jets out.
Schneck triggered it with a basket inside.
Ojo, after good ball movement, attacked the heart of the Jets defence from the top of the perimeter and got a runner to elegantly fall.
Ojo, who shot 5/10 from outside, buried a three from the left wing on Barnett's assist at the start of the fourth to make it 79-66 and put Jets on the brink.
Jets' caretaker player-boss, and former Raiders guard, Chez Marks scored back-to-back baskets to make it 79-70 before Raiders guard Drew Lasker hit a long two from the right corner to rebuild the gap to 11.
Schneck, as is his trademark, got his hands dirty inside and grabbed an offensive rebound off Ojo's miss to score and make it 83-70.
Ojo put the ball on the floor this time out on the right wing and, in a real addition to his repertoire this season, banked in a mid-range jump-shot to cap the evening's decisive tear.
O'Reilly added a two in transition, in full flight as Raiders led by as many as 18 points, 99-81 at the death.
Schneck said: "The good thing was how we responded in the second half after not having that great a first half. We stretched the lead out and that's the sign of a good team."
Love said: "Some guys played well but other guys need to do more. Guys who didn't play much need to be disappointed.
"I'd been saying all week – 'Cheshire may not be as organised a team as we've come up against this season, but individually they have more talent'.
"I was disappointed with our performance – I wasn't happy, no question."
Love added: "Maybe I want too much, but our defence was all over the place. Mike Ojo played great defence on Chez Marks, slowing him down, but overall it wasn't great.
"Our inside defence was poor. Our big guys didn't get in front of them like I asked them to and we couldn't keep their guards in front of us. Cheshire got lay-up after lay-up."
Schneck said of his former team, who were coming off first the suspension and then the resignation last midweek of their coach James Hamilton: "Cheshire are better than people give them credit for. They've had a difficult situation with the loss of their coach, but they're talented. This is professional basketball."
Marks said: "Six weeks ago Cheshire didn't even have a team. We've been together three weeks, so once we gel, find each other's sweet spots on offence and start playing good defence, we'll be fine."
Love added: "I sound really negative and unhappy. I'm not. We won, but we have to get better. Maybe I'd have rather won by 10 points, but we played the right way. We lacked urgency and that ticks me off.
"When you go up by that many points, that early – just put the game away. Play lock-down defence, continue what you're doing and take the game away from your opponents."
Scorers: Raiders: Ojo 27 points (11/19 field-goals), Bell 22 (8/20), O'Reilly 22 (8/15), Schneck 12 (6/11), Barnett 8 (2/6), Lasker 5 (2/6), Potter 2 (1/1), Rowe 2 (1/1), Hall DNP. Jets: Marks 25 (9/21), Myers 18 (6/12), Haskins 15 (6/16)
Leading rebounder: Raiders: Barnett 15. Jets: Bland 9
Leader in assists: Raiders: Ojo/O'Reilly/Lasker 5. Jets: Marks 9