Can the Heat frame the Raiders?
23 February 2012
The Heat will be looking to put an end to a three-game losing streak that has seen the team slip out of the play-off spots with losses to Glasgow and Sheffield on the road and to the Mersey Tigers at home. Standing in their way is a Plymouth Raiders team that has beaten the Heat three times already this season, twice in the BBL Trophy and once in the BBL.
Fans can also look forward to a special half-time performance from the famous All-Star Dunkers, who will perform an 8 minute acroballing (a cross between acrobatics and basketball) routine in front of representatives from LOCOG in order to pitch for a performance slot in the London 2012 basketball competition. The show will be a first for a BBL game, while the group have previously entertained crowds at the Birmingham NIA and the Stade de France.
The Raiders are riding high in the BBL, sitting in fourth place with an 11-3 record. However, while they are unbeaten at home, with a 9-0 record, they are just 2-3 on the road, their two wins coming against the Mersey Tigers and the Durham Wildcats, with the three losses coming against the league-leading Newcastle Eagles and the second-placed Worcester Wolves (twice). That second loss to the Wolves, 100-80, came two weeks ago, snapping a nine game winning streak, but the Raiders bounced back with an 84-78 home win against the Sharks the following day and an 84-73 win against the Tigers last Friday.
The Raiders have arguably the best starting five in the BBL, led by point-guard Jeremy Bell, who is averaging 19.6 points per game. He's backed up by small-forward Lehmon Colbert (15.6 ppg) and shooting-guard Michael Ojo, (13.9 ppg and a league-leading 97.1% from the free-throw line, having missed just one free throw all season). Up front, Paul Williams leads the way, the centre averaging a double-double of 13.7 ppg and 10.1 rebounds per game, while captain, Anthony Rowe, averages 13.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg as the starting power-forward.
However, Rowe has missed the last two games after turning his ankle in the loss to the Wolves. Jamal Williams, who joined the Raiders in December, has been filling in for his captain in the starting line-up. There are some familiar faces on the bench for the Raiders, with ex-Heat shooting guard James Jones (who has also been starting recently) providing outside shooting and ex-Heat centre Tomas Janusauskas in the centre. Guard Anthony Martin is another key reserve, but he has been out with a suspected broken rib.
The Heat also have some ex-Raiders in the line-up, the most prominent being Drew Lasker, who spent his first five seasons with the Raiders. Dean Williams also played for the Raiders back in the EBL, having spent his university years down in Plymouth. The Heat will need to make the most of home advantage and the potential lack of depth on the Raiders bench. The Heat, who have been resting since Friday last week, also have a slight advantage, with the Raiders playing two days before when they host the Newcastle Eagles in a vital top-of-the-table clash.
It promises to be an exciting game, with the Heat keen to stop their recent slide and make up for the heavy defeat they suffered down in Plymouth in January. One bright spot has been the performance of Tayo Ogedengbe who has been putting in strong performances all season. He leads the team with 17.5 ppg and is the Heat's most efficient offensive weapon, the only player shooting over 50% from the field. Tayo also leads the team in steals (1.3 per game) and is third in rebounding (5.7 per game).
The game tips-off at 3 o'clock on Sunday, 26th February at the Surrey Sports Park. You can get your tickets on-line or by calling the Heat Box Office on 01483 689111, but hurry as tickets are going fast, with plenty of people planning on coming along to see the special half-time appearance from the All-Star Dunkers.