Sport Central, 7.30pm Friday 1 April
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle return to action on Friday, no doubt with the bit between their teeth.
The reigning champions suffered a damaging defeat to BBL Championship title rivals Leicester Riders in their last game nearly two weeks ago, and host Play-Off chasing Bristol Flyers on Friday.
Eagles still lead the league, but can now be overtaken if Riders win their games in hand.
Flyers’ task has grown more difficult, going into the weekend eight points of the post-season places with just five to play, having fallen to Sheffield Sharks and Leicester Riders last week.
Last time they met:
Bristol Flyers 66 Esh Group Eagles Newcastle (BBL Championship, WISE Basketball Arena, 06 February 2016)
* Eagles have won all eight meetings between these teams
* Eagles’ Andy Thomson scored 24 points and collected nine rebounds when these teams last met
* Eagles’ Stu Thomson leads the league in field-goal percentage with 69.4%
What they say:
Eagles forward Andrew Thomson: “The break has come at a good time for the team. We’ve been able to get an extra week’s rest as some of the guys are banged up, while allowing the team to re-focus for the last few games of the season and Play-Offs.
“We need to get back to the basics of our defence, we need a solid foundation to build on.
“Bristol are the type of team that will play hard for the full 40 minutes. We’ve come across them twice already this season, and both games have been tough.
“The Flyers have a system that works very well for the types of players they recruit, which has given them the best opportunity to win games. Throw in the fact that most the team have played together for a number of seasons giving them a confidence that they’re never out of games.
“It’s a good game for us to start with this weekend as it will be more of the same against the Giants.”
Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas: “It’s been a difficult season for us. We are coming off a very tough weekend against Sheffield and Leicester.
“Going into these last five games, it’s about winning as many games as we can and finishing the season on a high.
“Newcastle need every win they can get to keep up the pressure against Leicester so we know they are going to be ready for us and at their best.
“We’ve got to make sure we keep it in the half-court, don’t give them any opportunity to fast-break or score any easy baskets, so we’ve got to have a good defensive mind-set.”
Lucozade Soccerdome, 6.00pm Sunday 3 April
Playing with pride, energy and an eye on the future is the name of the game now for Manchester Giants.
Last weekend’s defeat against Surrey Scorchers ruled them out of the BBL Play-Offs and returned them to the foot of the table.
But with players working to earn a spot on the roster for next season, you can be sure they will throw everything they have at Esh Group Eagles Newcastle, when the reigning champions come to visit on Sunday.
Eagles are in action against Bristol Flyers on Friday, ahead of this one.
Last time they met:
Manchester Giants 75 Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 91 (BBL Trophy, Lucozade Soccerdome, 10 January 2016)
* Giants have not beaten Eagles since returning to the BBL in 2012
* Eagles’ Andrew Thomson had 21 points and 10 rebounds last time these teams met
* Sam Attah and Ingus Bankevics missed Giants’ loss to Scorchers through injury
What they say:
Giants guard Callum Jones: “We have to try and play with some pride and some energy. Collectively we were very flat in our game against Surrey and we need to have some more togetherness when things aren’t going to well.
“The aim now has to be to win a couple games and get back off the bottom of the table.
“They have so many offensive weapons that we have to play solid help defence. We need to also take care of the basketball and run the counters to our plays to make it competitive.”
Eagles forward Andy Thomson: “They’re a high-tempo team that want to play fast and score lots of points and they have a capable back court of [Callum] Jones, [Ingus] Bankevics and [Stef] Gill who can put up large numbers when they want so we’ll have to make them work for everything they make.
“With the acquisition of [Flo] Larkai boosting their strength in the paint, this will allow the Giants to play physical and scrappy basketball. We need to use these games this weekend to start building for the Play-Offs, we need to get back to our basics of solid defence and build on that.
“On a side note I’d like to send my regards to the Giants and family of Dr Steve Mansfield.”