Can the Lions take the Heat?
27 January 2012
The Heat return home on Sunday for the first time in four weeks to host the Milton Keynes Lions in a very important fixture for the club.
After an excellent start to 2012, which saw the team win three games in a row, the Heat stumbled on the road against the Plymouth Raiders last weekend and need to pick themselves up against close rivals, the Milton Keynes Lions.
The Lions sit just ahead of the Heat with a 6-7 record, compared to the Heat's 4-9 record and a win is important if the Heat are to continue their climb up the table and to maintain the momentum generated by the three straight wins to start 2012 and a 4-2 record since gaining the first win of the season against the Mersey Tigers.
The Heat are now back at full strength with the recent arrival of Frank Holmes. Frank, who made his debut against the Raiders, is looking forward to making his home debut in front of the Heat fans on Sunday. It is a particularly special moment for him as he will be playing against his old club. Frank joined the Lions in the 2009-10 season, his first in the BBL, and he enjoyed a successful stint there.
The Heat and the Lions have enjoyed a fierce rivalry since the Heat joined the BBL and the current record stands at 18-10 to the Heat, a Heat record for wins against another team (one which is shared with the Plymouth Raiders, where the record now stands at 18-18). The Heat will be looking for another win to make it 19 and also to avenge a loss against the Lions earlier this season, when the Heat went down 92-98 on the road.
If the Heat are to get the win, they will need to do a better job of containing guard Demarius Bolds, who exploded for 37 points against them in Milton Keynes. However, the Heat are not alone in struggling with Bolds who averages 25.2 points per game, by far the best in the BBL, and who has top-scored in six of the Lions 13 games so far this season. His 37 points against the Heat represents his season high, a feat which he matched against the Durham Wildcats. It also represents the highest points total allowed by the Heat this season.
However, the Lions have more weapons than just Bolds as they rank second in the league in bench scoring and third in rebounding. Frank Holmes and Shaun Durant will have their hands full containing Daniel Northern and keeping him off the boards. The American is averaging a league-leading 13 rebounds a game and was the leading rebounder in nine of the Lions 13 games so far. He averages 13.2 ppg to go with his 13 rebounds. Howard Crawford also averages 13.9 ppg, while Bolds' backcourt partner, Stefan Gill averages 12.1 ppg, with Nuno Pedroso chipping in with 10.1 ppg. The Lions have also welcomed back veteran forward and old friend Robert Youngblood, who made his Lions debut at the weekend.
For the Heat, the keys will be to keep attacking the basket, particularly as this season they have been cold beyond the arc, connecting on less than 30% of their three point attempts. Other than Mike Martin (43% from behind the arc) no-one on the Heat roster is hitting more than one third of their three-point attempts. While the Heat lead the league in getting to the free-throw line, averaging almost 18 attempts per game, the team as a whole shoots just 67% (although the league-leading Glasgow Rocks only average a shade under 73%). Of the current team, only Albert Margai (83%) and Dean Williams (80%) shoot more than 70% from the line.
Ball pressure could be the other key as the Lions lead the league in turnovers per game (18.9) although they also lead the league in steals (8.9 per game).
However, with Frank working his way into the line-up and the Heat playing good, up-tempo basketball in recent games, the momentum is with the Heat who will be looking to make it 2-0 at home in 2012 and keep up the challenge for the play-offs.
The game tips-off at three o'clock this Sunday afternoon (29th January) and you can get your tickets either by calling the Heat Box Office on 01483 689111 or by visiting the Surrey Sports Park Box Office.