The Riders went 14/19 from the field in the first, settling for 51% in the end, overcame the ejection of their coach Rob Paternostro and led by assistant Pablo Vazquez defeated Bristol Flyers 92-74 on Saturday night.
Miryne Thomas led Leicester with 18 points, shooting 7/10 from the floor, supported by 17 from Xavier Pinson.
Tevin Olison had 15 for Bristol.
Bristol Flyers Starting Five: Tejon Lucas, Tevin Olison, Kedrian Johnson, Raphell Thomas-Edwards, Brad Greene.
Leicester Riders Starting Five: Miryne Thomas, Xavier Pinson, Caleb Asberry, Jaren Holmes, Braelen Bridges.
Knowing that Bristol were 15-3 on home court last season, it was important for the Riders to get off to a good start, and they certainly did that by hitting four of their first six shots.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Pinson and Caleb Asberry lifted Leicester to a 10-2 lead with 3:07 played in the first quarter to force the Flyers into a timeout, with the Riders up 10-2.
Looking for inspiration out of the timeout, coach Andreas Kapoulas wanted fight out of his team. However, it didn’t happen.
Leicester raced to a further 20-2 cushion, and the hosts took more than five minutes to get on the board. In spurts, the Flyers put points on the board, but the Riders sprinted to a 37-10 lead after one, shooting a jaw-dropping 73% from the field, which included going six of eight from deep.
Having conceded the most points ever in a quarter on their home court, Bristol were eager to pick themselves up in the second, and thanks to numerous offensive boards, great hustle and improved execution, the Flyers began the quarter with a 7-0 run.
Leicester were slower out the blocks in the second but slowly kept their side of the scoreboard ticking away as the Flyers kept fighting.
Thanks to a three from Olison, the Flyers kept applying the pressure by narrowing the gap to 47-36 when coach Paternostro was ejected for two technicals in quick succession with 2:21 remaining.
All of a sudden, from trailing by 27 after one, Bristol had won the second quarter 31-13 to only trail by single figures (50-41) at the half, in an insane first 20 minutes of basketball.
After a chaotic first half, particularly in the second quarter, both teams struggled to put points on the board in the early stages of the third despite the pace of play remaining.
However, ignited by Jaren Holmes inside and Pinson from outside, the Riders re-asserted their earlier dominance to lead by double figures, which grew further as a beautiful over-the-shoulder pass from Samuel Idowu found Thomas to extend the visitors’ lead to 69-52 with 2:51 left.
Like they were in the first quarter, Leicester were feeling it from the field and took a commanding 76-55 lead after three, shooting 56% from the field.
Yes, it was a big lead. But the Riders enjoyed a bigger one after the first quarter and saw Bristol fight back. Could the Flyers do the same and make it a grandstand finish?
They couldn’t. Leicester, on this occasion learned their lesson.
Despite the loss of their head coach, led by assistant coach Pablo Vazquez, the Riders maintained their big double-digit cushion throughout the fourth.
Player of the Game
Tonight’s MVP was Xavier Pinson who went for 17 points to propel Leicester to victory in the South-West. Pinson went three of six from beyond the arc and was one assist shy of a double-double in his haul.
|Leicester Riders||Xavier Pinson||17||7||9|
|Leicester Riders||Caleb Asberry||11||9||2|
|Bristol Flyers||Raphell Thomas-Edwards||15||11||2|
|Bristol Flyers||Tevin Olison||17||6||1|
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