The Rocks and Manchester Giants go head-to-head at the Emirates Arena this evening, with BBL Championship points at stake.
A win is crucial to both team’s play-off hopes, though for different reasons. The Rocks are still chasing a top four finish and head into the weekend as one of three sides tied in third place with 17 wins from 26 games, while Giants are in the five-way fight for one of the final two spots and are ninth in the table with a 9-18 record.
The Rocks have certainly enjoyed playing Giants in their debut season, and will be looking to complete a sweep on Sunday afternoon. The sides met in Glasgow in October with Rocks progressing to the BBL Cup quarter-final thanks to a thrilling 88-85 victory. Both previous Championship meetings have taken place at Giants’ Wright Robinson College venue, with Rocks winning 83-77 in November and 92-82 in January.
Despite those wins, Rocks’ player-coach Sterling Davis won’t be taking Sunday’s visitors lightly: “The Giants have been up and down this season on which I think we have seen them at a pretty decent level on both meetings. We have had to play a good game to beat them; so as far as we are concerned, that is all we know and expect.”
Davis knows what to expect from the Giants: “It always starts with David Aliu and David Watts with their team but you have to keep one eye on Stefan Gill. He has had some pretty productive games lately.
“I thought we weathered the storm in our last meeting. It was not an easy night for us but we found a way to finish the job.”
Manchester coach Jeff Jones expects a difficult game in Scotland: “The Rocks have gradually got into their stride and kind of quietly gone about their business and are having a very good season. They have veteran leadership and Donald Robinson has really stepped up his level for them and has given them that explosive scorer while the other payers fill their roles really well.
“Last time we played them we competed well for the most part it is our consistency that we have struggled with all season and we will have to play well for the entire 40 minutes or certainly limit our lulls in concentration and intensity to a minimum.”
Neither side were in action last week, and for Giants it’s their first game in March, and Jones admits the situation is far from ideal: “It has been difficult I can’t remember a break like this in my entire time in this country and it is something the league needs to look at. We had just had two full houses at our last two games and this break would affect even the established franchises, never mind a first year one. We have treated this all most like pre-season. It is something the league has to address.”
Davis is less concerned about the break: “It’s yet to be seen how it affects us. It’s always good to get the chance to rest bodies to some extent but you don’t want to lose your intensity that you have built all season. Hopefully this has been a positive for us.”
Giants’ guard Stefan Gill is looking forward to getting back into action: “It’s been a while, but we’re looking at the break as a positive. It’s given us the chance to regroup and think things over. We’re not finished, and no one’s clocked out. We can still reach the play-offs, we have head-to-heads to win, and we’ll take each game as it comes.
“They’re third and doing pretty well, but we’ve been working on limiting them in practice. They’re key players are Sterling, Donald Robinson and obviously EJ [Harrison] but we need to keep [Gareth] Murray off the three-point line. They’re not a team with only one or two options, they share the scoring, but Robinson has hurt us a lot and we can’t let him do that again.
“We owe them. The first time we had them really close at our place, but we had the same problem as in many games this season – we didn’t close out the game, and we need to make sure we do that this time.”