BBL Champions Leicester Riders enter the Play-offs as League Champions

Champions Leicester Riders gallop into the BBL Play-offs to kick off May Madness

Header Image
The last BBL Finals in the O2 Arena two years ago - Credit - Alan Dixon

The Leicester Riders kick off their May Madness and BBL play-off campaign on Wednesday at 5:00pm. They face 8th seed Bristol Flyers in the University of Worcester Arena, looking to continue riding to success after a champion crowning regular season.

Season so Far – Riders 

The Riders enter the BBL play-offs as league champions, holding the trophy above their heads for the 5th time in club history. The Riders secured the title in their regular-season finale, comprehensively beating the Cheshire Phoenix 65-97. This year was one of great defence and efficient offence for the Riders. The Leicester side holds a defensive rating of 99.64 which ranks second in the league and boast the premier field-goal percentage in the league with 48.2%. These two pillars of their game will be on full display over the course of the quarterfinals, as the Riders look to build on a promising 2020/21 campaign. 

Season so Far – Flyers

Where there was a battle at the top of the table in the final games of the regular season, there was also a battle near the bottom. The Flyers went head-to-head with the Manchester Giants, both vying for the eighth and final play-off spot. It was the Flyers that came out on top, grit and determination squeezing out an 83-81 comeback victory. Following this, the Bristol side further cemented their spot at 8th beating talented 4th placed Newcastle Eagles 86-73.  While the Flyers struggled to score as efficiently as other teams in the league, posting a modest 43.9 field-goal percentage, good for 9th in the league, they managed to work around it. The Bristol side are the third-best rebounding team in the BBL allowing them plenty of opportunities to score and keep games close through suffocating defence. After scrapping their way into the play-offs, it will be a fight to knock them back out again.

One to Watch – Riders

Leicester Riders captain and starting center Darien Nelson-Henry will be looking to fire his side up for the post-season action. Leicester’s number 50 recorded a double-double in his last performance, scoring 19 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, and will be relied upon again to assert himself inside the paint. Averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, good for second on the Riders in both, Nelson-Henry is a leader on and off the field. Being one of the most experienced players on the court and standing at 6’11”, Nelson-Henry can be seen orchestrating the Riders team from down low, utilising his vision out of the post to find his team opportunities. With a game that is not done justice by the box score, Nelson-Henry influences the match with smart contests and rotations defensively, as well as great coordination offensively, often having a hand in positive plays without a stat being recorded. The Leicester captain will be hungrier than ever, as he tastes BBL play-offs for the first time in his career. 

One to Watch – Flyers

For the Flyers, small forward Eric Lockett delivered an impressive performance in their last match and is their one-to-watch Monday afternoon. Against 4th placed Newcastle, Lockett posted a stat-line of 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists on only eight field-goal attempts, getting to the free-throw line often to sink 5 of 8 shots. Playing 28 of 30 games this season, and averaging 31.1 minutes per game, Locket is a core piece to the Flyers. He leads his side in scoring, averaging 15 points per game, as well as securing 7 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game, trailing only teammates Marcus Delpeche and Teddy Okereafor. A former College NCAA Division One player, Lockett can be found on the Bristol wing slashing to the hoop and jumping on second-chance opportunities. The Riders will look to contain Lockett with disciplined defence to avoid him damaging them at the charity stripe. 

Previous League Meeting:

The last meeting between these two sides was not a positive one for the Riders. Taking place on March 30th, 2020, and the second of a double-header, the Leicester Riders suffered a shock home blowout, the score 54-80. This was however, without Riders’ star point guard Geno Crandall, who will be on the court causing headaches against the Bristol Flyers Wednesday. 


How to Watch:

Although the game will be played behind closed doors, BBL fans will be able to tune in live on the Sky Sports website or app. Fans can also watch via BBL Player by purchasing a one-game pass for just £4.99.