London Lions 80-93 Paris Basketball (19-16, 37-44, 57-77)
(Lions: Dekker, 19; Zubcic, 17; Hruban, 12 — Paris: Simms, 15; Wallace, 13; Denis, 12 )
In a hotly anticipated EuroCup encounter – with celebrities including TV presenter, Maya Jama and YouTuber Yung Fily amongst the thousands in attendance – a second quarter run followed by an onslaught in the third from the LNB Pro-A side proved to be the Lions undoing.
Missing Ovie Soko and Luke Nelson, London can take positivity in that six players scored in double figures, led by 19 for Sam Dekker, but were rued by going 3/22 from three-point land.
With the next round of EuroCup games set for 2023, London drops to 4-5 in Group B with this loss but still in good position in the table.
Aamir Simms led Paris with 15 points.
Despite the enthusiastic sell-out inside the CopperBox, it was the visitors from the French capital that started the better of the two teams as they found their groove, while the Lions were unable to execute on the offensive end.
Back-to-back scores from French international Axel Toupane gave Paris a 12-6 lead with four minutes of the first period remaining in a low-scoring first quarter, somewhat uncharacteristic of the hosts.
The introduction of Josh Sharma off the bench boosted the Lions’ front court as he scored eight first-quarter points, which included a thunderous one-hand slam to put London back into the game.
An additional score from Vojtech Hruban with 1:37 left gave the Lions an 18-16 lead as they finally found their spark with the first quarter winding down, and they would take a three-point advantage heading into the second.
Unfortunately for London, Paris began the second quarter hot from long range as three straight triples handed them back the advantage.
It was the highlight of a 15-0 run that gave the French side a 31-19 lead with 6:21 remaining before coach Ryan Schmidt called a timeout to put an end to the Parisian momentum.
Mercifully, Dekker halted the run with a basket as he and Kosta Koufos led the Lions roar towards half-time, but Paris took a 44-37 lead heading into the locker rooms.
The introduction of Tomislav Zubcic in the third quarter gave London an extra boost as he, along with Koufos gave a much-needed offensive spark.
But Paris maintained their double-digit cushion as the period progressed and coach Schmidt was called into a timeout with 4:22 remaining as a 7-0 run, spearheaded by Kyle Allman gave his side a 61-44 lead.
Paris’ lead only grew as they were connecting on their shots, whereas London were not and trailed 77-57 going into the final quarter.
Despite London’s best efforts in the fourth, the gap was too big to come back from. Paris were composed and met any Lions surge with a basket to keep their side of the scoreboard ticking.
Despite the hard-fought loss though, the London Lions enjoyed a sell-out crowd, added with celebrity fanfare, making for a monumental European evening in British basketball.
The Lions will aim to bounce back two days after Christmas as they travel to the Leicester Riders in a dress rehearsal for the BBL Cup final on January 29.