Relentless Raiders humble fancied Giants in real style
MARJON Plymouth Raiders sent an impressive message to the rest of the league from the Pavilions yesterday.
Manchester Giants are decent dark horses for silverware this season, but Raiders destroyed them by 31 points in the BBL Championship.
Gavin Love's team led by 13, 17-4 early in the first quarter before Giants slashed the deficit to as few as three, 29-26 early in the second.
That only inspired Raiders to spectacularly outscore Jeff Jones' roster 38-13 in the next 13 minutes and rebuild the gap to 28 points, 67-39.
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Raiders, who go 2-0 in the early season standings, led by as many as 36, 97-61 late in the fourth.
Raiders boss Love said: "I'm surprised at how dominant we were, but I was impressed.
"We had prepared really well for today, so I was quietly confident. Our defence was excellent."
Love added: "We were smaller than Manchester but we outhustled them and played defence how I asked them to.
"That lead to a lot of easy baskets and allowed us to put 105 points on the board."
Raiders guard Drew Lasker, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and one impossible block on Giants' 7-footer Morakinyo Williams, said: "It was a big win for us. We know Manchester are a tough team, so we knew it was going to be a better test for us.
"We had a great week in practice and it showed on the court.
"We've just got to make sure we keep getting better."
Raiders, encapsulating their selfless work ethic at both ends of the court, had solid contributions from all seven members of their main rotation.
Forward Colin O'Reilly led Raiders in scoring, rebounds and assists, with 28, 11 and six respectively.
Raiders guards Jeremy Bell and Michael Ojo consistently forced open Giants' front door with 20 and 16 points respectively, while O'Reilly intelligently sneaked around the back to demoralise Manchester.
Raiders captain Anthony Rowe, expected back in Raiders' next contest, Friday-week (October 19) against Cheshire Jets, said: "Colin is a pass-first guy. He's very smart, gets into the right areas well and other guys were looking for him. He had easy shots as a result.
"Superb. Colin can score 20/30 points on you and you don't even know it's happening."
O'Reilly would have been far happier last night than he was seven days earlier after a full Raiders debut to forget in the 108-86 home win over London Lions.
More importantly on that score, rookie forward Javarris Barnett started to look more at home in Raiders' starting line-up yesterday.
He finished with 12 points, albeit on 6/15 shooting, six rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes.
Barnett was alert and aggressive early in the contest, batting away a high Giants pass into the paint and fuelling a Matt Schneck bucket at the other end of the floor to make it 7-2 in the first.
Barnett enjoyed the spotlight in a busy arena late in the first half, blowing by Giants defenders at full tilt before finishing at the rim with a one-handed slam to push the gap to 13, 45-32.
Barnett's team-mates, Ojo in particular who rose to his feet, were his biggest cheerleaders on Raiders' bench.
Rowe said: "It was a much cleaner win than the win against London. We executed really well and played defence.
"I didn't think we played that great defence against London last week.
"Today our defence was brilliant. I know we scored 105 points, but to hold a shooting team like Manchester to 74 points is a good achievement."
Love said: "We had good ball movement on offence. There were a few minutes here and there I wasn't happy with, but overall we passed the ball well and knocked down shots.
"I was pleased. It was a clinical display."
Ojo was hugely focused from the opening tip and determined to dominate his key match-up with Giants guard James Jones, who of course kept Ojo out of Raiders' starting line-up at the Pavilions last season.
Jones did not want to stand toe-to-toe and Ojo ate him up in the pivotal opening moments.
Ojo drilled a three over Jones from the right wing to put Raiders up for good, 3-2 in the first before adding a second-chance basket off his own miss to stretch the gap to 9-4.
Ojo buried another three from the right after unselfish play from Bell, passing up the three from the right corner to create the better look for his team-mate.
That made it 14-4 before Barnett capped the opening tear on Ojo's assist from the right elbow, knocking down the open jump-shot.
Giants cut the gap to as few as three, 29-26 on guard Callum Jones' reverse lay-up in transition early in the second, forcing Love to call a time-out.
Raiders regrouped and simply dominated the rest of the way.
They had too much class and too much commitment for 2-3 Giants, who took a real beating for the first time this season.
Love said: "We were going after every lay-up and trying to block every shot for 40 minutes. We weren't giving Manchester anything. I loved that.
"It's something we've talked about – not getting into bad habits. And the fans come to see us play hard for 40 minutes."
Rowe said: "We had a good week in practice last week, really cracked on and coach got after us at the defensive end."
Lasker said: "It all started in training. We are all getting to know each other better – I know I am – and defensively we were great."
Raiders immediately responded out of the time-out with a 10-3 run to rebuild their lead to 10 points, 39-29.
Lasker stepped up and capped the streak with its last seven points, five of them coming from the foul line, where he finished a flawless 5/5.
Lasker completed the three-point play after converting a lay-up at the rim against Giants centre Williams, who fouled him.
Lasker then got to the line well, back-to-back and hit 4/4 free-throws.
Barnett's left-handed dunk sparked another 9-1 Raiders run, which ballooned the cushion to 18 points, 52-34 early in the second half.
Raiders then embarrassed Giants with a 13-0 tear in the third swelling the lead to 28, 67-39.
O'Reilly gave up an open shot and fed Barnett, who scored inside to ignite it.
The duo then enjoyed a give-and-go more than half the length of the floor.
Barnett drilled the ball from within his own half to a breaking O'Reilly out on the left wing.
Barnett followed the play and O'Reilly waited for him, finding him driving at the heart of the Giants defence to finish at the cup.
Raiders then poured it on.
O'Reilly added a second-chance basket; Bell with the assist and Ojo with the one-handed dunk completed an alley-oop; and Barnett converted a put-back.
It all equalled game-over for Giants.
Points: Raiders: O'Reilly 28 (13/19 Field-Goals), Bell 20 (8/17), Ojo 16 (7/11), Lasker 14 (4/7), Barnett 12 (6/15), Schneck 10 (4/9), Potter 5 (2/2); Manchester: Aliu 24 (8/16), Watts 10 (4/12), Williams 10 (5/9)
Leading rebounder: Raiders: O'Reilly 11; Manchester: Aliu 9
Leader in assists: Raiders: O'Reilly 6; Manchester: Bailey/J Jones 4
Field-Goal Percentage: Raiders: 54 per cent (44/82 attempts); Manchester: 36 per cent (28/77)
Three-Point Percentage: Raiders: 30 per cent (6/20 attempts); Manchester: 42 per cent (10/24)
Free-Throw Percentage: Raiders: 73 per cent (11/15 attempts); Manchester: 73 per cent (8/11)
Total rebounds: Raiders 54 Manchester 34
Offensive rebounds: Raiders 16 Manchester 13
Turnovers: Raiders 8 Manchester 11
Fast-break points: Raiders 6 Manchester 2
Biggest lead: Raiders 36 Manchester 2
Points in the paint: Raiders 68 Manchester 26
Points off the bench: Raiders 19 Manchester 16
BBL Championship: Manchester 82 Newcastle 91, London 95 Surrey 91, Surrey 71 Worcester 69, Glasgow 84 Newcastle 106, Cheshire 88 Mersey 64