The Weekend: Riders Edge Closer to Championship

Leicester Riders are now just virtually one win away from the BBL title after a stunning overtime win in Manchester took their unbeaten streak in the league to 14 games.

Jay Couisnard forced OT with a THREE on the buzzer after Leicester had trailed the Giants by as many as 20 points before nailing the game-winner with another clutch triple at the death. The BBL Cup Final MVP led the way with 31 points as the Riders battled on in the absence of Zaire Taylor and Jorge Calvo.

STAT:

24 hours earlier, Rob Paternostro’s men continued their perfect home record in the league this season with their 13th win on their home floor, beating the Glasgow Rocks 84-71. Leicester used a strong third quarter as a platform for their success and were led by a 24 point haul from Drew Sullivan.

Another benefactory of the Leicester win against Manchester were the Sheffield Sharks – who became the seventh team to qualify for the play-offs. However, Newcastle now have to beat Worcester on Tuesday to avoid losing their crown despite wins over Durham (96-92) and Mersey (92-69) this weekend despite the absence of Kareem Maddox and Damon Huffman.

The battle for the top four intensified over the weekend with Plymouth and Surrey doing double-duty to capitalise on Glasgow‘s loss to Leicester and Worcester‘s double blow. The Raiders claimed third with a 98-92 win in Cheshire following a 93-79 victory at home to the Tigers on Friday. Javarris Barnett had a 28 point showing against the Phoenix, who were already out of contention for the play-offs after a loss to Surrey two days earlier.

It was a good weekend for Surrey as they bounced back from successive defeats last week to record a double victory. Travis Holmes continued his fine run of form with a 30 point haul in the 108-84 home win against Cheshire and a game-high 26 in Durham when the Heat won 99-87 in front of the Sky cameras.

STAT: Travis Holmes has now scored 100 points in his last three games for Surrey following a 44 point haul last Sunday.

The weekend was nearly a Giant one for Manchester before their heart-breaking loss against Leicester on Sunday. Jeff Jones’ side are still in the hunt for the play-offs after they pulled off an impressive 91-82 in Worcester as David Watts returned to haunt his former side with 29 points. The Wolves had seen their seven game win streak come to an end the day before when Sheffield continued their own win streak with a 78-73 success after a strong first half.

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Can the Heat Streak be the greatest?

LeBron is the favourite to retain his MVP title

LeBron is the favourite to retain his MVP title

Miami Heat are just NINE games away from equalling the best-ever win streak in the NBA – but can they go one better and make history?

Erik Spoelstra’s men have not won 24 consecutive games the easy way with TEN of those by winning margins in single figures, FIVE 10+ points deficits not including a double-overtime marathon against Sacramento.

The whole team has stepped up at one stage or another with bench contributions from the likes of Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen often proving vital. The winning mentality is phenomenal and their game-by-game approach is working wonders for their confidence.

Asked how they’ve managed to keep the run going, Battier simply responded ‘Faith’ which epitomises the character of the reigning NBA champions. A good team morale is important, sure, but things are made considerably easier when you have LeBron James on your team..

Many believe the 3x time MVP will soon become the four-time MVP after yet another stellar season. The self-proclaimed ‘King James’ has had a number of incredible plays, in the 24 win Heat Streak alone:

The driving game-winner against Orlando; a triple-double including a trio of triples in a pivotal spell in the comeback win in Cleveland; a devastating dunk on Jason Terry; the winning jumper in the same game v Boston; dropping 39 points in the battle v KD; the NBA record of six straight games with 30+ points with a shooting percentage of 60+. Incredible indeed.

LeBron may be the star player but take nothing away from the four other starters in this team. During the streak, Dwyane Wade has been influential and even stole a Player of the Week award of LBJ which goes to show the level he was playing at. Mario Chalmers has produced a number of key cameo roles while Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem do their job on the boards.

You’d expect Miami to win their next five games despite facing a road trip to Chicago, but then they take on the Western leaders San Antonio. Gregg Popovich’s side are finding a way to cope without Tony Parker and have been impeccable on their home floor this season and they definietly provide the biggest challenge to Miami‘s historic bid.

Miami then take on New York Knicks at the American Airlines Arena and if they pass that test then the Lakers’ record streak of 33 should be equalled and then broken within three days as the Heat take on Philadelphia and Milwaukee at home in April.

There are no easy games in the NBA but the streak can definitely continue to role for the Miami Heat.

Game Night! ft. OKC @ Memphis

STUNNING COMEBACK KEEPS STREAK GOING; MEMPHIS EDGE OUT OKC & LOPEZ LEADS NETS TO WIN ON ESPN

Memphis Grizzlies (46-21) kept up their chances of catching OKC (50-19) after beating their Western rivals 90-89 in an overtime battle. The home side looked in control during the first half before the Thunder fought back to take the lead and it needed a late triple from to force the game beyond regulation.

During the extra period, it was the visitors who edged ahead once more before Marc Gasol snatched the victory with the tip-in just before the final buzzer. The Spaniard and All-Star team-mate Zach Randolph combined for 29 points and 33 rebounds in the win with Mike Conley top scoring with 24 points while Kevin Durant had a game-high 32.

Conley: “It’s always good to win a game like that especially against one of the best teams in the league! This says a lot about our confidence as a team; believing we can win regardless.”

Miami Heat (53-14) pulled off an unbelievable comeback from 27 points down to take their win streak to 24 games after beating Cleveland (22-46) 98-95. LeBron James continues to demonstrate his MVP potential with a vital triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists and had a personal 8-0 run to give Miami the lead at the start of the fourth while Mario Chalmers contributed a further 17 points as the visitors netted TWELVE triples during the win.

The Cavs (still without Kyrie Irving) used a 19-0 run in the second quarter to assert their authority and opened up a commanding lead at 67-40 in the third quarter. Shane Battier nailed two three’s in the middle of a 15-1 burst before Daniel Gibson‘s late triple gave the hosts a 77-68 lead going into the fourth,where Miami took over. However, despite the nine-point lead being reversed, the home side kept battling and closed to within a point in the final minute after seven unanswered points before James sunk two crucial free throws and Miami held on.

LeBron: “It was one of the best comebacks I’ve been a part of. The streak wasn’t on my mind but getting blown out was!”

The New York Knicks (40-26) closed in on second place in the East after a comfortable 106-94 win at home to Orlando (18-51) as Carmelo Anthony added 21 points and 8 rebounds on his return to the team. Anthony Davis tipped in the game winner in New Orleans as the Hornets (23-46) recorded a narrow 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics (36-31) despite a 28 point haul from Paul Pierce. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn (40-28) to a 113-96 win over Dallas (32-36) after an impressive 38 points and 11 rebounds while Deron Williams added 31 in the ESPN fixture and Reggie Evans pulled down 22 boards.

San Antonio (52-16) used a dominant second quarter display to propel them to a 104-93 success at home to the Golden State Warriors (39-31) with Tim Duncan stepping up with 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. LA Clippers (47-22) eased to a 101-72 victory against Philadelphia (26-41) while Washington (24-43) collected an 88-79 win on the road against the Phoenix Suns (23-46).

Houston Rockets (37-31) earned a vital win in a play-off battle at home to Utah Jazz (34-34) with James Harden‘s 29 points leading the way. Atlanta Hawks (38-30) were guided to a 98-90 win against the Milwaukee Bucks (34-33) by Jeff Teague‘s double-double of 27 points and 11 assists. In the final game, the Charlotte Bobcats (16-52) defeated the Toronto Raptors (26-42) 107-101 for their second win in a row.

Check-out highlights of Miami‘s historic win in Cleveland (NBA):

Game Night! ft. Miami @ Boston

LEBRON LEADS HEAT TO WIN 23; KNICKS SNAP LOSING RUN & LAKERS FALL IN PHOENIX

Miami Heat (52-14) made it 23 straight victories with a 105-103 win on the road against the Boston Celtics (36-20). LeBron James netted the game-winner to reach 37 points, consisting of a huge dunk on Jason Terry whilst being accompanied by 12 assists on the stat-sheet. Jeff Green’s monster 43 point haul proved in vain for the Celtics, who were missing Kevin Garnett, as they saw a 17 point lead wiped out

Meanwhile, their Eastern rivals both recorded wins on the road to close in on clinching their play-off spots. Indiana Pacers (41-26) remain second following a 111-90 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (22-45) using a strong second quarter as a platform for their triumph. New York (39-26) were without Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire in Utah (34-33 but still prevailed in a 90-83 success. JR Smith took on the responsibility and top scored with 20 points while Gordon Hayward had 17 for the Jazz.

Memphis (45-21) continued their strong run of form with a 92-77 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves (23-42) while there was a 93-72 success for the Golden State Warriors (39-30) over New Orleans (22-46) after a 30 point haul from Stephen Curry. Denver Nuggets (46-22) took their win streak to TWELVE after a 119-118 overtime success against the Chicago Bulls (36-30). Wilson Chandler had a game high 35 points for the visitors while Nate Robinson had 34 for the home side.

The Lakers (36-33) missed out on the chance to leapfrog Houston in the Western conference after a 99-76 defeat in Phoenix against the Suns (23-45). Goran Dragic dished out 10 dimes during the game for the hosts including an assist through-the-legs of Steve Nash, who top scored for the Lakers with 19 points in the absene of Kobe Bryant. Dallas Mavericks (32-35) kept up their play-off hopes with a 127-114 win on the road against Atlanta (37-30) while Brooklyn (39-28) eased to a 119-82 win against Detroit (23-46) on the back of Deron Williams’ 31 points.

Gerald Henderson led the Charlotte Bobcats (15-52) to a 119-114 victory at home to the Washington Wizards (23-43) with a 27 point haul. Philadelphia (26-40) held off a fourth quarter comeback from Portland (31-35) to record their second win in a row after a 101-100 success. LaMarcus Aldridge top scored for the Trail Blazers with 32 points while Damian Lillard continued his great form with an additional 27 but it was Jrue Holiday’s contribution for the 76ers which inspired the victory.

LeBron James with the monster dunk on Jason Terry (NBA):

Game Night! ft. LA Lakers @ Orlando

HACK-A-HOWARD BACKFIRES; RUBIO SHINES TO DEFEAT SAN ANTONIO & MIAMI MAKE IT 19 STRAIGHT

Dwight Howard produced a 39p-16r double-double on his return to Orlando (18-47) as the LA Lakers (34-31) reclaimed 8th spot in the play-offs race with a 106-97 win over the Magic. Jameer Nelson had 21 points for Orlando as they were on the receiving end of a 15-2 burst from the Lakers in the third quarter which inspired their victory charge. Magic had recovered from an ELEVEN point deficit to take a slender lead at 57-56 before Kobe Bryant (11p/7r/8a) led the immediate response from the visitors. Having won their last four games, the Lakers are a game ahead of the Utah Jazz and now only half a game behind the Houston Rockets, who are in seventh place.

STAT:

Miami Heat (48-14) eased their way to a 98-91 victory over the Atlanta Hawks (34-29) after being paced by a 15/7/7 display by LeBron James. Last week’s Eastern conference player of the week Dwyane Wade, top scored with a game high 23 points while Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh added 14 points each and Udonis Haslem pulled down 11 boards. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Bobcats (14-50) ended their TEN game losing streak with a 100-74 home win against the Boston Celtics (34-29) after Gerald Henderson posted a career-high 35 points.

Memphis (43-19) withheld a fourth quarter fightback from the Portland Trail Blazers (29-34) after securing a 102-97 victory. Dallas Mavericks (30-33) enjoyed a 115-108 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks (32-30) on the road despite a 32 point haul from Monta Ellis while Brooklyn Nets (38-27) claimed a 108-98 win over the New Orleans Hornets (22-43) with Brook Lopez top scoring with 26 points and earned bragging rights over his twin brother Robin with a posterizing dunk.

Despite the absence of Kyrie Irving (out 3-4 wks w/shoulder injury) Cleveland recorded a 95-90 victory over the Washington Wizards (20-42) after a 20 point haul from Dion Waiters. John Wall had 27 points and 14 assists for the visiting Wizards, who had raced into a 33-20 lead after the first quarter before the Cavs mounted their comeback to take control. Ricky Rubio inspired the Minnesota Timberwolves (22-39) to a huge victory against the San Antonio Spurs (49-16) with his first career triple-double in the 107-83 success.  The visiting Spurs were without Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard as they joined Tony Parker on the sidelines.

‘Tricky Ricky’ at it again against the Spurs: (NBA)