by Vlad Ionasc
The Nix dropped their first game of 2022 against the undefeated league leaders Leicester Riders.
Cheshire restricted the hottest offense in the league to just 76 points on 46% shooting from the floor, however they undid all of their great defensive work by failing to capitalise on the offensive end. The hosts kept it close until the fourth, however the visitors got in rhythm at the perfect time and pulled away from the Nix in the final frame.
The Nix scored just 59 points, as they made 24 of 65 attempts from the floor (36% FG) and 4-of-21 from three-point territory (19% 3PT).
The Riders assisted on 23 of their 29 makes from the floor and were led by the reigning BBL MVP Geno Crandall who tallied a 13-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double.
Ben Thomas’ men opened the contest with a quick-fire 8-0 run, which included a couple of triples from sharpshooter Ben Mockford. The Riders finally managed to get themselves on the scoreboard at the 7:36 mark through Zach Jackson, however they only mustered up 10 points by the end of the first quarter, while the Nix racked up 18 first quarter points to go into the second act with an eight-point cushion.
Namon Wright increased Phoenix’s lead to double-digits with one of the most spectacular sequences of the season. The American guard blocked Kimbal MacKenzie’s lay-up before turning the ball over after having his pass intercepted by Jackson however Wright recovered brilliantly and produced a LeBron-esque chase down block before finishing in acrobatic fashion on the other end, prompting an explosion of euphoria at the EPSV. The Riders erased the double-digit deficit just four minutes later, when Jackson placed his team on the high side with just under two minutes remaining in the first half. Wright added two more points before the break however Darien Nelson-Henry nudged his side back in front, 31-30, just before the half-time buzzer sounded.
It was still just a one-point game at the mid-way point of the penultimate quarter with the Nix in the ascendancy 42-to-41 when the Riders engineered a quick 11-2 run to go up by eight points with two minutes left in the quarter. Larry Austin Jr. reduced the deficit down to four points with a couple of makes from inside the paint before the start of the decisive quarter.
Cheshire failed to make a shot until the 5:31 mark of the final frame, when Austin managed to get convert another lay-up, however by that time it was a case of too little, too late from the hosts, as the Riders had already established a double-digit lead thanks to a couple of consecutive three-pointers from MacKenzie. Leicester replied to Austin’s basket with an 11-0 run which sealed the end result with 2:36 still left in the game. The Nix did not go down without a fight, however their spirited efforts weren’t enough to erase Leicester’s game-high 19-point lead. Louie Jordan made the last shot of the game, a three-pointer from the corner which iced the final score at 76-59 in the favour of the league leaders.
The Nix were out-rebounded by 34-to-43 and also accumulated just 11 assists whilst committing 12 turnovers. Phoenix’s bench was out-scored by 28-to-10 by Leicester second-unit.
Wright delivered an impressive performance against his former team, as he stuffed the stat-sheet once again with 15 points (7-12 FG), five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
Patrick Whelan scored a game-high 16 points on just eight attempts from the floor. The British guard added six rebounds and three assists to his performance.
MacKenzie chipped in with 11 points off the bench and went a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point land for the Riders.