Sport

‘Back in the hunt’: Play-offs in sight for Manchester Giants despite agonising overtime loss to Leicester Riders

By Phil Jones

Manchester Giants are back in the BBL play-off picture according to coach Jeff Jones, despite a final-second loss to champions-elect Leicester Riders.

Leicester’s Jay Couisnard hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to send the game into overtime and did the same at the end of the extra period to break Giants’ hearts and condemn them to a 78-80 loss.

The defeat came less than 24 hours after Saturday’s win in Worcester and Jones believes it has set them up for a final tilt at the play-off spots.

“It was an absolutely great effort by everyone this weekend and it puts us back in it,” said the veteran play-caller.

“If we play like we did over the weekend we should be OK but there’re no guarantees.

“We just have to continue the way we’ve set out and if we don’t make the play-offs then we don’t make them.”

The ninth-placed Giants need at least two wins from their final three games, including a must-win tie against London Lions, currently eighth.

And Jones thinks the heart-breaking Leicester loss – a game they led by 20 points – will stand his players in good stead.

“This will help the players. Taking nothing away from our next opponents, but Leicester are by far the best team in this league,” added the American.

“The players are hurting, they’re depressed about the loss, but that’s good – we should’ve won.

“It’s been a great weekend for us though, the eight guys that played did a great job, they bought in to it, played their hearts out and I’m very disappointed for them.”

With the Giants still to play the league’s bottom two sides and London having to face two sides in the top four, Jones is remaining positive.

But he could go into these crucial games without Ben Eaves after the forward missed this weekend’s action with a back injury.

“He’ll be a day-to-day consideration, hopefully we’ll get him healthy and he’ll help us – if not we’ll go with the guys who’ve played so well this weekend and take care of business,” he added.

“There’s plenty of other guys banged up, Aliu and Bernard, James [Jones] rolled his ankle against Worcester, Callum’s [Jones] playing with torn ligaments in his ankle and Stefan’s battered and bruised.

“But you just get on with playing at this time of the year – you’ve got all summer to recover.”

Picture courtesy of Jack Hinds Photography, with thanks.

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