It’s been a week of both reflection and reaction for Leicester Riders after back-to-back defeats in the BBL Championship last weekend.
Losses away to Newcastle Eagles last Friday night, and a following home defeat to Durham Wildcats, meant the Riders missed out on the chance to draw level at victories with Worcester Wolves at the top of the table.
Speaking with head coach Rob Paternostro, despite the results, he is positive with the way in which his side performed considering setbacks they have endured over the last few weeks.
“If you look at the Newcastle game first, we played without Drew [Sullivan], which was a huge loss, then Anthony Rowe in the first half. However, when you see we had a six-point lead with two minutes fifty-five seconds left to go – although we missed the shot at the buzzer which would have won it – I had to make sure my guys knew we played really well in the circumstances.
“There was no shame in going to Newcastle, playing the way we did, with what we had injury-wise.
“Against Durham, a few factors came in to that loss. You had a group that played exceptionally well, in a very emotional game and it took a lot out of us, but Durham came in and shot the ball incredibly. To hit 15 or 16 threes the way they did, especially in the second half – it was one of those nights where no matter who you had, it was going to be tough to beat them!”
I don’t think during this streak we are playing terribly, there have been factors and circumstances that have seen us not come up with the W. That’s part of the season and something we’re hoping to rectify out on the court, and whoever it is we have available, we will be ready and looking forward to it.
One man many thought they would see again returned to the East Midlands this week. Rookie guard, Anthony Downing, who just over five weeks ago was thought to be ruled out for the rest of the season due to a fractured jaw, is now hoped to bring a lot more encouragement to the Riders, but Paternostro knows it won’t be an overnight solution.
“When we lost Anthony Downing, it certainly changed our team. We were still able to win, including the BBL Cup Final, but we weren’t the same team in skill set, and what he brought to the team was definitely missing, and we had to find different ways to play. It’s been a huge adjustment, but with him back with us, his familiarity with the team and what we do, maybe not immediately but as time goes on we’ll be better for it.”
It is hoped that he will be available for this Sunday’s game against Manchester Giants, but Drew Sullivan is still expected to sit out whilst he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
The game at the Wright Robinson College is where Paternostro can get back his side back on track for the final run-in to the playoffs, and feels having just one game this week is of huge benefit, but knows the threat Jeff Jones’ big shooters pose.
“We’re looking forward to the fact that we only have one game. The recent losses we’ve picked up have all come from back-to-back weekends so we’ve been able to focus in on Manchester,” said January’s BBL Coach of the Month winner.
“Watching a lot of their tapes, what I’ve found is that they are playing some very good basketball. They have a lot of good offensive players, making them difficult to defend. They shoot the ball incredibly well from the perimeter – the game most recently in Chester showed that from them – and we played at their place last year and it proved it was a difficult place to go.
“This is a challenging game – we still haven’t been 100% healthy this week, but we have really enjoyed our time in training, watching my guys play and we have a lot of young players here continuing to develop.”