- National Teams
London Lions and Leicester Riders contest the 2023 BBL Playoffs final at The O2 Arena in London with a 4:15pm tip, on Sunday.
It could be a historic treble for the Lions as they aim to back up their Cup and Championship crowns, though they face a side steeped in success when it comes to big games with the Riders having won four of the last five season finales.
The Lions opened up as the top seeds in the quarter-finals with a 207-164 victory over Newcastle Eagles with a 30-point triumph on the road setting the tone. Josh Sharma top scored with 18 points in both legs before London progressed to beat Cheshire Phoenix 184-155 in the semi-finals with another strong performance on the road securing the overall success.
Meanwhile, Leicester saw off Sheffield Sharks in their opening tie with a 70-79 road success followed by a 74-70 victory to advance 153-140 on aggregate with Zach Jackson netting 25 points at home. In the last four, the Riders were beaten 75-79 by Bristol Flyers in the second leg, but their 77-84 victory from the first leg helped them go through 159-156 overall.
The Lions will be without Sam Dekker on Sunday with the BBL Player of the Year having been ruled out earlier this week due to an ankle injury. Dekker missed 15 league games during the regular season, so the Lions aren’t exactly in unknown territory in how to deal with the problem.
They still have plenty of depth at their disposal having also recently been boosted by the return of GB’s Tarik Phillip from a knee injury sustained in pre-season. Jordan Taylor and Aaron Best have been strong additions in the backcourt, while Tomislav Zubcic has impressed and there is plenty of British talent available off the bench, too, as London chase their first playoffs title.
Leicester claimed their fifth Playoffs title after beating London 78-75 in last year’s final as Geno Crandall took MVP honours. They were second best in the Cup final at the start of 2023 and finished in third place in the BBL Championship standings as they look to avoid a first full season without a piece of silverware since the 2014-15 campaign.
Marc Loving and Jackson both averaged 15+ points per game for the Riders during the regular season with GB duo Pat Whelan and Kimbal Mackenzie also having strong seasons. Rob Paternostro’s teams pride themselves on defence and a big performance on this end of the floor could hold the key for success.
The game is available to watch LIVE on Sky Sports, and their YouTube channel.