Following a hard-fought overtime victory over Glasgow Rocks last weekend, Leicester Riders are sure to have benefitted from a full week of preparation, ahead of what is set to be a demanding weekend.
The reigning BBL Cup holders begin the defence of their trophy against Worcester Wolves at the John Sandford Sports Centre on Saturday evening, before journeying to Durham on Sunday to tackle to Wildcats.
Reflecting on last week’s win over an experienced Rocks team on the Riders’ home floor, Leicester head coach Rob Paternostro was delighted with the energy displayed by his players in what became a test of endurance.
“I though defensively, for large parts of the game, we did a really good job,” he said.
“Watching back the video, after 43 minutes of the game, our guys looked like it was the first minute of the game with their energy and pressure defence that they were playing. For us, even though we didn’t click in the game within the live areas, the energy and effort was there.
“It was good to be involved in a close game and it was great for our guys to come away from that close game with a win,” Paternostro added, acknowledging the additional effort required in a period of overtime.
“We pride ourselves on our conditioning and we felt that we had a group of guys with a ton of energy for the overtime period. It was a good game and this Glasgow team is one of the tougher teams in the league to defend. I’m happy that our guys stepped up in the right times.”
On Saturday evening, the Riders take on the only team to have defeated them in the Championship so far this season, Worcester Wolves.
The Wolves ran out 73-61 winners at the University of Worcester at the beginning of October – a game in which former Rider Zaire Taylor starred with an impressive 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
However, Paternostro admits that both teams have evolved since the last meeting between the teams and expects a different test.
“I think that they’re a different team than they were then, but I think all teams will start to know more about other teams [as the season progresses],” said Paternostro.
“We’ve been playing for a good month now and you take a look at teams and see what they do well. When looking back at the game in Worcester, for us, it’s hardly recognisable at times to the way that we’re playing now. It was early in the season and they will probably feel the same way. As the season progresses, teams evolve, things change and it’s something we need to be aware of.”
Sunday’s opponents for the Riders, Durham Wildcats, go into the weekend 2-3 in the BBL Championship, having also knocked Cheshire Phoenix out of the BBL Cup.
Paternostro praised the Wildcats ahead of the Riders journey to the north east this Sunday, emphasising the potential importance of his roster’s depth for a demanding back-to-back weekend.
“Road games in this league are tough,” said the Connecticut-born Riders coach.
“The history of that in itself tells you that it’s hard to win on the road. Durham are a team that have played very well at home and I’ve been impressed with what I have seen from them this season. It’s a challenge for us, and our roster and our depth will certainly be utilised in that game, being that it’s the second game in two days.”
“We believe in all of our players,” added Paternostro when discussing the depth of the Riders roster.
“With the 11 guys that have consistently dressed for us this season, we believe in every single one of them, at any time during the game. Some have played more than others, but that doesn’t mean that on particular nights other guys will get the opportunity to step up. Our practice sessions have shown that and we believe that if the game calls for something different, we have options and combinations that we can use.”