Two sides looking to bounce back after disappointing losses meet at Wright Robinson College tonight as Manchester Giants host the Rocks in the BBL Championship.
An overtime loss against One Health Sharks Sheffield saw Giants’ BBL Trophy dreams end at the first hurdle last Thursday, and although Rocks did progress in the competition with a hard-fought victory at City of Edinburgh Kings, they saw their BBL Championship hopes dented with a heavy home defeat against UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders on Sunday.
Rocks can seal the head-to-head series between the two sides as they have already won 83-77 on the road, and also knocked the Giants out of the BBL Cup with a thrilling 88-85 home win.
With those two losses in mind, Giants’ coach Jeff Jones has a good idea what to expect from the Rocks when they arrive in Manchester: “Obviously we have played them a couple of times already I think they are certainly more experienced then we are but we have played them quite well both times even though we have lost. I think they would like to be a little more consistent as we would but they present another tough test for us.
“Sterling Davis, EJ Harrison and Gareth Murray are their main stays but Donald Robinson has started to find his feet and has been doing well for them so I think we have to find a way to stop him being a main scorer for them while trying not to let the other players hurt us.
“Last time we played them we competed and we played pretty well so more of the same and hopefully we will put ourselves into a position to have a chance of getting the win.”
Manchester fans will be able to welcome Nick George back to the city as he prepares to make his debut for the Giants, and Jones is excited to have the British forward available on Friday: “Nick will be ready this weekend for us he will bring a different dimension to us and will give us a bit of what we have been missing which should help raise everybody’s game.
“He is a quality player and more importantly he has really bought into the concept and has been extremely good in practice on all fronts. From our perspective we know what he can do and I think he will take a little time to adjust to the league and its idiosyncrasies but once he does the Manchester public will see a very good basketball player.”
Rocks’ player-coach Sterling Davis expects a tough test at Wright Robinson College: “We have seen them twice this season and escaped both times but with very close calls. I think you have to know where David Watts is and also be ready to defend David Aliu who in my opinion really makes them tick.
“I thought we just weathered the storm on our last meeting. It was a back and forth game at their place and they gave us all we could handle.”
Davis commented on a tough last weekend for the Rocks: “I knew we would see the best Kings team they could offer and that proved to be a very intense battle for us. Gareth Murray pretty much put us on his back and took charge in the second half.
“We played tired against Raiders and it was a very disappointing all around display across the board. That was a game where I can say we beat ourselves.
“Andrew Lasker shot the ball extremely well for them throughout the game and of course Matt Schneck did what he does.”
New Rocks forward Jamie Vanderbeken is set to make his debut against Giants and Davis is excited about his new signing: “Vanderbeken is a guy who will give us a little more size and scoring power on the interior. Jamie has a very solid resume having played at a high-level division one program along with great experience from the NBA D-league. He will be able to not only help with the interior play but also be a very big threat from the perimeter which works well in our system.”
Giants’ guard Stefan Gill is looking to end that run of losses against the Rocks: “We kinda’ know what they like, we’ve had a couple of close games against them, and it’s just a case of getting over the hump. We’re getting there, we’re definitely making strides – they might not be giant ones – but they are strides.
“EJ [Harrison] sets the tempo for them and we have to make sure Gareth [Murray] doesn’t have a hot hand – hopefully home court advantage will help us there – but Donald Robinson was a bit of a livewire last time, he’s got a lot of energy and made some great hustle plays.
“We need to stick to our game-plan, and not deviate from the coach’s plans. We have to buy into his philosophy, believe him and the results will take care of themselves. If we stick together and finally click on all cylinders, we don’t need import players.
“A lot of it is the simple things, if you set a screen, make sure the open man gets the ball. If we execute plays properly, we’ll be fine.”