Veolia Towers Hamburg 75-103 London Lions (18-23, 41-55, 59-73)
(Hamburg – Meisner 19, Childs 19, Woodard 12; Lions – Zubcic 22, Dekker 19, Koufos 18)
The Lions started the game lethargically, allowing Hamburg to impose their style of play with some effective three-point shooting. The home side had the fourth-best long-range shooting percentage in the EuroCup so far this season and they showed that straight away by scoring a duo of buckets from beyond the arc in just a couple of minutes of play.
The visitors seemed nervous to begin with, first going behind 10-2 and then 16-8 with just over five minutes played in the first quarter.
But that’s when things started to change, as they became more aggressive on offence, driving to the hole and drawing fouls from the hosts. Shooting with high percentages from the free throw line (87% in the half) allowed the Lions to close the gap and even went ahead 16-17 on the back of a 9-0 run when Tomislav Zubcic stole the ball and dunked on the fast break.
On the very next play the Croatian star turned provider and found his big man Josh Sharma, who spun expertly and laid the ball in to put his team up by three (16-19).
The second quarter saw London continue from where they had left off, led by their tenacious defence which forced the German side to three shot clock violations in the first half alone. Zubcic continued putting on a scoring clinic and after two back-to-back threes, became the game’s top scorer with 12 points, putting his team up 26-34.
That’s when Sam Dekker decided enough was enough and joined the party, taking over the Lions offence. First, he grabbed a tough offensive rebound from his own missed three, before turning his defender inside-out with a spin move off the pass from fellow former NBA star Kosta Koufos and jamming it with authority. He then served up the highlight of the first half two possessions later by faking a shot and instead driving to the basket before pulling out a tomahawk dunk, forcing even the home fans to applaud his brilliance.
The British side continued to play excellent defence – stealing the ball four times and forcing their opponents to commit 11 turnovers – before extending their lead to its highest total of 18 points (30-48) when Aaron Best scored an and-one lay-up, followed by a long-range three.
The half ended with Hamburg showing that they had a little bit of fight left in them, with Lukas Meisner scoring a monster put-back dunk, before draining a buzzer-beating three to end the second period and send the two teams to the changing rooms with the score 41-55 and three London players in double digits for points (Zubcic, Dekker and Best).
After scoring over 50 points in the first half, Lions were on course to get over 100 if they carried on at the same pace – which they did. The third quarter started with new signing Miye Oni scoring his first points as a Lion, after stealing the ball and going on the fast break before laying it in.
Zubcic continued his three-point masterclass, making another two and putting his team up by 20 points for the first time in the game – finishing as the match’s top scorer with 22 points.
The British side were simply on fire during the first five minutes of the third period, scoring 17 points which, combined with the 32 points from the second quarter, saw them scoring 49 in just 15 minutes. They managed to reach their season average of 72 points with over 13 minutes left to play, after the Croatian scored a lay-up in transition to put them up by 22 (51-73).
The fourth quarter saw Zubcic pass the baton over to his teammate Vojtech Hruban who, despite not scoring any points in the first half, was feeling confident in the second and that showed, flushing a trio of three-pointers and becoming the fifth Lions player to reach double digits in scoring.
The Czech star then drained another shot from behind the arc, taking his tally to 4/4 and 16 points (100% FG) – and his team to over 100 points.
This was London’s first ever EuroCup win away from home and the first time a British side had won away in the competition since January 2004 when Brighton Bears won in Lithuania against Lietuvos Rytas.
Next up for Lions in Europe is a home game against Polish side Slask Wroclaw next Wednesday (November 30). To get your tickets and secure your place at yet another massive night for British basketball, click HERE.