Flyers 81 - 86 Giants
The Manchester Giants continued their BBL Championship campaign with an away win for the ages, holding on against second-placed Bristol Flyers at the Wise Arena for an 81-86 road victory.
A blistering third-quarter performance by the Giants set them apart from the hosts, with Vince Macaulay’s men resisting a fightback in the dying minutes of the game to take the spoils in the South West.
Despite William Lee and Nate Robinson’s absence through injury - and new signing Kofi Josephs not travelling with the team - the Giants showed fans they can still get it done even when the squad is not at full strength.
A 21-point, nine-assist game from team captain Rahmon Fletcher and 15 points as well as nine rebounds off the bench from Nick Lewis were highlights in a solid team performance on Sunday afternoon.
The affair got underway in worrying fashion for Giants fans, as Bristol poured in eight unanswered points, before former BBL MVP Fletcher got the Giants’ scoring underway with a long two-pointer.
After a cold start to the game where the Giants made just one successful field goal in the first four minutes of play, Coach Macaulay’s men fought back to level the scores at 14-14 with a couple of minutes to play in the first quarter.
The visitors, sporting their yellow away jerseys for this fixture, looked a much improved offensive machine in the second quarter as they began to score more freely and keep the pressure on hosts Bristol.
A beautiful fast break move with a delightful final pass by Fletcher to Roberson for an easy layup would level the scores again at 27-27.
A carefully crafted long two by Fletcher in transition would give the Giants their first lead of the game at 29-27.
Both teams took turns getting their noses in front, with a string of high-effort plays defining the closing moments of the first-half including a sensational step-back three by sharpshooter Nick Lewis and a tough layup through contact by the Flyers’ Malcolm Delpeche.
And it was Delpeche at the centre of the action again in the dying moments of the second, as he flushed home the ball with just a second and a half left before the half-time buzzer to take his personal scoring total to a game-high 12 points – and the score to 44-39 to the Flyers.
Fletcher and Tajh Green were the Giants’ leading scorers at the break with nine points apiece, but Macaulay’s men were struggling from beyond the arc, hitting just three of their 12 attempts from three point land.
Out of the interval, a thunderous dunk from Green would get the visitors rolling in the third as they battled hard to chip away at Bristol’s lead as he added to his eventual 20-point scoring total for the game.
After the hosts shot out to their first double digit lead since the first quarter, Lewis found some seamless offensive rhythm to score ten straight points to level the game at 54-54.
The Giants would remain red hot on the offensive end throughout the third, shooting out to a seven-point lead – their largest of the game – with two minutes left to play in the penultimate period.
A sensational alley-oop from Fletcher to Green would extend the visitors’ lead to nine points as all the momentum seemed to be with the men in yellow, who massively outscored Bristol in the third 29-15.
The effort was not confined to the offence though, as big blocks down the closing stretch by Anthony Roberson and Dirk Williams played a key part in resisting a late comeback by the Flyers.
Having led by as many as sixteen points in the fourth quarter, the Giants may be a little disappointed that they allowed the Flyers back into the game – but a road win is a road win, and they don’t come much tougher than Bristol in the BBL.
As the final buzzer sounded, play closed with the score at 81-86 to the Giants, who will gladly take the victory and two points back home to Manchester.
But in the bigger picture, this afternoon saw them take a vital step towards playing the brand of basketball that will be necessary to make a deep run into the playoffs.
"Glad we were able to pull through with just 7 players, it was tough but I thought we showed real resilience and executed our play very well. We have things to work on as they out rebounded us but there’s still time" - Vince Macaulay