Away trips do not get much tougher than this weekend’s back-to-back games for the Manchester Giants.
Following the agonising overtime defeat against Sheffield Sharks last weekend, the Giants must quickly regroup as they face title challengers Worcester Wolves and Leicester Riders in back-to-back away trips on Friday (7:30pm) and Saturday (7:30pm).
Despite the brutal schedule coach Jeff Jones is adamant that if the Giants can extract the same attitude shown on home court in recent weeks they can avoid a potential morale depleting double defeat.
“It is extremely tough especially with a back-to-back,” he said after David Aliu sparked hope of a remarkable comeback with a three pointer to force overtime against the Sharks before the Giants ran out of steam to lose 91-79.
“I think we are going to have to take our home court mentality with us on the road or it could be a long weekend.
“I can’t emphasise enough the job my guys are doing when they step on the floor I haven’t been prouder of any other team.”
The Giants will have to be wary of a backlash after the Wolves also suffered a similar fate last weekend as they went down in overtime against the Newcastle Eagles.
“I thought we showed great character and played well on Sunday, although short-handed. I thought we matched Sheffield physically which was pleasing. We just ran out of gas in overtime,” said Jones.
“Worcester are very talented and they are very good in the half court. They will be there or thereabouts at the end of the year.”
However, Wolves coach Paul James is refusing to allow any air of complacency enter the minds of his players despite five wins separating the two sides.
“Manchester are a team that can cause you major problems if you don’t approach them with the respect they deserve,” he said.
“They have some good shooters who on their day can be very dangerous.”
One of the danger men highlighted by the Wolves is the in-form forward Aliu but Worcester guard Caylin Raftopolous is confident his side can restrict the tough Liverpool man come Friday.
“We’ve had a great start to the season that has given us a ton of confidence and belief to take into every game we play,” the 20-year-old said.
“We are aware that Aliu has been playing well for them recently as well as Stefan Gill and James Jones on the perimeter.
“In order for us to come out with the win it will be key that we control the tempo of the game and don’t allow them to establish any rhythm.”
The relentless stream of fixtures means the Giants then face a trip to the Midlands to take on play-off and cup winners the Riders.
Having enjoyed a rare break from the BBL last weekend the Riders will be raring to go and previous records between the two sides do not make good reading for Giants supporters.
Last season Leicester came out on top in all three games against Manchester but Jones – son of coach Jeff and brother of Loughborough Riders Women’s Georgia – leads the BBL in assists so far this season, averaging six per game, and his scintillating form is sure to be a concern for the Riders.
Not only that Aliu is averaging 20 points-per-game and Gill is among the top-five players in the league for steals.
On paper the Giants are more than capable of producing a result and forward David Watts is determined to bounce back from the disappointment of last weekend.
“The overtime loss to Sheffield was devastating as we really needed that win but it showed us that after a cold start we can still compete when we play solid defense,” the forward said.
“These next few games require a solid mind-set and specific game plans. If we’re to win we need to execute constantly at both ends of the floor.
“Leicester have been very tough defensively these past few season. It’s an ethos that they introduce early in their pre-season.
“We need to handle their pressure and play smart offense and get out in transition.”
Image courtesy of Jack Hinds, with thanks.