Rashad Hassan caught fire on Friday night against Manchester Giants finishing the evening with 31 points edging the London Lions to another home win in the season, The London Lions defeated the Manchester Giants 103-94 on Friday night at the Copper Box Arena welcoming Navid Niktash on his debut into the BBL.
Hassan started positively – with eight points in the first quarter, the BBL Player of the Month, found fortune inside the paint. And when the Giants blocked his lane to the rim, the forward hit a jumper, showing his versatility.
An early corner three from Owumi, and debutant, Niktash hitting his first shot from beyond the arc, helped the Lions cruise to an early 26-15 lead.
Despite the surge by Hassan the night belonged to Navid Niktash who joined the Lions this week from Swedish side, Norkopping.
Niktash opened the second quarter by grabbing a rebound from a Giants missed shot before running down the court for an explosive slam, erupting the Copper Box and setting the standard for the new rookie.
The Frenchman was more than grateful for the chance to expand on his career milestones with this ball club:
“The first thing was to get better with the team-mates – the way they defend, the way they play, but it was great to score like I did. I just arrived on Monday, I practiced with the team mid-week, and now playing tonight, it feels pretty good. I’m in London – the teammates are great, I’m very happy!”
Niktash then proceeded to hit a turnaround jumper, shortly followed by a lay-in to make it three back-to-back scores from the new Lion. Hassan continued to be productive in the paint, and with a couple of threes from Jamal Williams, the Lions rallied into the half with a 54-40 lead, Hassan with 22.
Impact of Break
Lions Head Coach Nigel Lloyd wasn’t concerned about the team’s lengthy break prior to tip-off but saw a slight dip in defensive form.
“I think we were defensively a little rusty but offensively we were fine. We didn’t play exactly the way we would have liked defensively in terms of rotation, but overall we came out pretty good after a break.”
Giants Fight Back
Into the third-quarter, and the Lions started off where the first-half finished finished – Hassan driving inside for two points to kick-start the offense again. However, Manchester didn’t go down easily and fought for a way back into the game with Anastasios Trainos hitting a corner three.
The Giants found promise from the behind the arc with Jerrelle Okoro hitting three 3-pointers during the third quarter. He lead the away teams’ battle back into the game, however, it was short-lived as Hassan continued his dominance going strong to the hoop again.
Giants gave it their best offensively, but in the end it was in vain. Another jumper from Niktash, and a block down the other end showed the Lions made the right decision signing the French international. The home side surged to an 81-69 lead going into the fourth.
Lloyd was impressed with the performance, especially the debutant, but put emphasis on working him into the team:
“We tried to introduce our big as he had to hit the ground running as he came in Monday, he looked good. So we needed to try fit him in to our style of play, he’s used to something a little different. He was a big key component for us, that’s why he finished the game – he needed to learn how we play as a team, in London, with the fans and everything.”
Niktash had 15 points off the bench. Hassan continued to impose himself in the paint, Owumi got to the line with ease, and the Lions ran out the Giants winning 103-94 overpowering a fighting Giants side.
The London Lions now find themselves with another two week break as they face the Newcastle Eagles in a highly anticipated semi-final BBL Cup game on the 11th of December at the Copper Box Arena.