- National Teams
It’s a London-Leicester city battle in both finals in Birmingham as the Lions and Riders also contest the 2023 BBL Cup final on Sunday.
The Riders have been the superior team over the past decade, but this is a new-look era for London and they will be desperate to stake their claim as the new dominant force.
Here’s a closer look at the final:
Cup holders Leicester began their title defence with a quarter-finals triumph over Newcastle Eagles; winning 94-73 before brushing aside Caledonia Gladiators in an 89-68 victory to book their spot in the final.
Marc Loving fired in 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go with seven rebounds and six assists in the win over Newcastle as Leicester dominated the middle periods to take control. In the semi-finals, Loving top scored again with 18 points as the hosts used a 30-13 opening to fly out of the traps.
Meanwhile, London opened their campaign by beating Cheshire Phoenix 74-65 and backed up the success by overcoming Bristol Flyers for a 79-97 win on the road in the semi-finals.
No player scored more than 12 points in their win over Cheshire as a 25-14 opening quarter proved decisive as London held off a late fightback. The Lions used another strong start against Bristol as they led by as many as 25 points with Kosta Koufos and Sam Dekker combining for 44 points.
Rob Paternostro knows all about winning and all about getting the best out of his team even when they might not be considered favourites. That will be the case in Sunday’s final with Leicester already with six league defeats to their name so far as they meet the current league leaders.
Carrington Love is their new American guard and Riders fans will be hoping it’s a perfect match after troubles at that position. Two-time BBL MVP Geno Crandall had decided to re-sign for another year before departing to Germany in pre-season with things not working out with Derryck Thornton and replacement Devonte Bandoo picking up an injury after his first game.
Zack Jackson, Marc Loving and GB’s Patrick Whelan are all averaging 15+ points per game in the league, while the likes of Conner Washington and Darien Nelson-Henry add valuable experience when it comes to playing in BBL finals.
The last few years has seen the 777 investment taking shape with the level of talent signed including the likes of DeAndre Liggins, Kevin Ware and Marquis Teague. But this season has taken on a whole new level as London entered EuroCup off the back of a disappointing 2021-22 campaign that left them without a trophy – finishing third in the league and losing two finals.
Sam Dekker. Ovie Soko. Luke Nelson. Vojtech Hruban. Kosta Koufos. Just some of their off-season acquisitions in a statement of intent. They’re on course for a historic playoffs spot in Europe and this final marks the first chance to land a significant blow on home soil with things stepping up off the court, too.
Last season’s FIBA Europe Cup winner Dekker is a leading MVP candidate with averages of 17.7 points per game with Koufos averaging a near double-double in league play. Their depth is unmatched with Croatian Tomislav Zubcic and American guard Jordan Taylor also proving strong additions.
Really insane we went from only hundreds at games to consistent full houses for even Sunday afternoon games. “If you build it, they’ll come”@CopperBoxArena @LondonLions #TheLionsDen https://t.co/GHV0sbpSRt
— Sam Dekker (@dekker) January 22, 2023
Leicester and London have met twice in the final of the playoffs in 2018 and 2021 as the Riders came out on top on both occasions at The O2 Arena. In fact, the Lions are 2-6 in finals since the 2017-18 season with wins over Glasgow – 2018 BBL Cup – and Plymouth – 2021 BBL Trophy – their sole wins. The Riders, in contrast, have lifted silverware in each of the last seven times they made it to a final with their last defeat coming in the 2016 BBL Trophy.
Sunday 29th January, 3:30pm tip – LIVESTATS