Manchester Giants 71 – 97
Bristol Flyers (23-18, 17-20, 10-28, 21-31)
(Giants – Lee 16, Fletcher 15, Green 14; Flyers – Olison 29, Delpeche 16, King 15)
The BBL Play-Offs began with an
impressive Bristol Flyers victory, who defeated the Manchester Giants by 26
points at the National Basketball Performance Centre.
Rookie Tevin Olison was the star
of the show, scoring 29 points and shooting 7-10 from the three point line. His
second half performance propelled Bristol another level, after a competitive
opening to the game.
Third-placed Bristol had cause
for optimism, having beaten the title-winning London Lions twice in the regular
season. Manchester were lacking momentum, having lost their last six games,
despite a league-leading offence.
The tone was set early by
Manchester, who were set up in a 2-3 zone early and caused some issues for
Bristol. A huge block from William Lee punctuated their interior presence
and they established a lead on the other end.
Both teams battled hard on the
boards during a physical opening period. It was clear that both teams were
going all out to gain the advantage.
Regular season assist leader and
two-time league MVP Rahmon Fletcher continued facilitating at a high level, as
he passed Russ Saunders in overall BBL assists early in the first quarter.
Vince Macaulay’s team led by five after the first quarter, as the Flyers remained in touching distance.
Flyers’ VJ King came into the
game and made an immediate impact, after starting on the bench as head coach
Andreas Kapoulas switched things up.
Keeping Bristol at arms-length
was Giants forward Lee, who dominated the first half on both ends. Tajh Green
joined in the offensive onslaught, with a series of aggressive drives.
Despite their efforts, the home
team just couldn’t put the visitors away. Every time Manchester gained any type
of momentum, the Flyers would answer back and managed to shrink the deficit
down to just two points at the end of the half.
The second half was a little
different. The Flyers tied the game within the first minute of the third
quarter and Bristol had truly arrived.
Tevin Olison, who averaged 10
points a game in the regular season and only had three in the first half,
stepped up in major fashion.
The Memphis native drained a
contested three early in the third that felt like a real sign of intent from
the Flyers, as they began to attack Manchester ferociously.
They fed the hot hand and Olison
caught fire, combining a series of impressive finishes at the basket with a
continued threat from beyond the arc. A 16-point quarter from the guard meant a
16-point Bristol lead heading into the final period.
“This was my first Play-Off game, as a rookie and I just wanted to prove that I belong. My teammates did a good job of finding me and I just knocked it down,” Olison said after the game.
The Flyers swarmed their
opponents on the defensive end in the fourth, making the Giants earn every
single point they scored. Meanwhile, Bristol seemed to score at will.
Manchester’s early threats were
stifled by the Flyers defensive effort in the second half, with first-half
standout Lee unable to score a point and Fletcher limited to just two assists
during the period.
The game escaped the Giants’
grasps in the fourth, as they finished the first leg with a 26-points deficit
They now have quite the task on
their hands and require an all-time performance, as they travel to the SGS
College Arena on Sunday for a win-or-go-home game.