Esh Group Eagles Newcastle turned their fortunes around in more ways than one on Friday night as the completed a 93 – 70 victory over Bristol Flyers, writes Jeff King. It means the Eagles have now one three games in a row at home following three previous defeats on the home court.
Not that a 23-point win tells the full story of the proverbial game of two halves as Newcastle completed a 41-point turn around with an astonishing second-half performance. Down by 18 points at one stage in the second quarter and 13 at the half something special was required in that second twenty-minute period.
Special it was as the host restricted the visitors to a mere 21 points in the final two quarters whilst pouring in 57 of their own led by big performances from point guard Saah Nimley, flying forward and the mercurial Jaysean Paige who continues to light up The BBL.
Newcastle’s high-octane offence had been restricted by a Bristol side looking solid in the first half but once Nimley with 27 personal and Paige with a game-high 32 lit the after-burners, the Flyers were shot down with ease and the transformation was complete.
Paige spoke after the game of the way his side had performed and what enabled them to turn around what had looked like being another disappointing night.
“We just stuck to our system and played through the adversity of the first half when things didn’t go our way and we missed some shots. But we kept moving the ball and trusted in what we were doing and it all came good.”
“We’ve been harping on about defence the past few weeks and that’s our main focal point, that’s our grit just playing defence and if we get that right good things will happen and everything else will fall in place and that’s what we stepped up in the second half.”
The Eagles defence was not necessarily bad in the first half when they were down 49 – 36 as Bristol got hot and made a lot of shots. However, Paige and his compatriots made it much tougher in the second and then he and Nimley got going at the other end.
“That’s our job to do things like that but like I said it comes from our defence. If we put that in place it makes it that much easier to get comfortable on offence and turn those missed shots in to made ones.”
Paige is the league’s leading scorer and as such could expect a place in the Eagles starting five, something he’s done all-season long until the last two weeks when Head Coach Fab Flournoy has made him an energy player coming off the bench like he did at West Virginia University in his college days.
It’s certainly worked as Paige continues to pour in the points and lead his side. But, does it change his mind-set at all?
“I don’t pay too much attention to it honestly. I’ve done it before and it’s not really a talent thing its more of a just what we need at the moment thing, so it doesn’t really bother me at all.”
“Zarko (Jukic) has been in the same position but we compliment each other because we play fast and kind of do the same things so us two coming off the bench whilst Darius (Defoe) is injured and we’re short on bigs it’s a good punch for us and as it’s working we might as well keep it up.”
Bristol really did fold under the Eagles pressure and intensity in that second twenty-minute period but that was nothing that Paige was surprised about.
“Credit to them they came out strong and made some good shots but we’re a better team than them and a lot of it was fool’s gold which we talked about at half-time. They’d played hard and they’d played well but we just knew if we upped our defence we’d be fine.”
“Three wins in a row now, we’re just picking up at the right time I guess. We’re nullifying our mistakes and not trying to get back in that low that we were in. We’re starting to get high again.”
“Not too high but not too low but we don’t want to get back to where we were, we just want to keep picking it up, work hard in practise every week and keep playing as a team to keep the momentum going.”