BBL Play-offs, Semi-Final, First Leg
Bristol Flyers 83-85 London Lions (25-15, 39-39, 60-59)
(Flyers – Evans 20, Jacob 16, Rogers 11; Lions – Reese 24, Cugini 19, Washburn 16)
The BBL Play-off semi-finals got underway on Friday night, and London Lions will take the narrowest of edges back to the Copper Box Arena after beating Bristol Flyers 85-83 on the road in a game during which the teams traded big blows as each held double-digit leads at different stages.
Lions had won six of the seven meetings between the teams in all regular season competitions, but there was no sign of that as Flyers started 10-0 as Raphell Thomas-Edwards dunked immediately from tip-off.
As an early indication of what would come, the teams would trade first half runs, Lions forcing six early turnovers as they got back to 15-13, before Flyers scored another 10 straight when Trejon Jacob came from the bench to score seven points and put the hosts were back out to 25-13.
Isaiah Reese’s ‘and-one’ play sparked a 10-3 run that got Lions back to 34-33, eventually taking their first lead of the game at 39-37 just before the half as Lorenzo Cugini and Dirk Williams hit back-to-back triples.
Despite another trio of threes from Lions in the third, the period saw five lead changes and Bristol retook the edge on nine straight points capped by a Mike Miller triple that made the score 58-56.
And there were two more runs to come, as Lions scored the last three of the third and the first 11 of the fourth, Reese scoring five with three-pointers for Julian Washburn and Williams making it 70-60, a first double-figure lead for Lions as they looked to have a dominant position in the tie.
But Flyers responded in-kind, with 11 unanswered points of their own in little over a minute as Marcus Evans got fired up after being on the receiving end of an unsportsmanlike foul and had five points in the run before Thomas-Edwards gave them the lead back at 71-60.
There were five further lead changes, and the first leg looked like it might be tied when Josh Rogers hit a three-pointer to tie it up at 83 with 35 seconds remaining. But former Memphis Grizzlies NBA player Washburn made the final basket of the game to give Lions the edge.
Reese finished with a game-high 24 points, completing a double-double with 12 assists, as Cugini hit five of London’s 16 made three-pointers on his way to 19 points.
The return leg at the Copper Box Arena takes place on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.