Manchester Giants are off to their best start to a BBL season since returning to the top flight in 2012, after a dominant 111-73 road win at Newcastle Eagles in which all 12 players got on the scoresheet.
The result means that Giants round out their BBL Cup group stage campaign with a 6-2 record, and will top the group if Yorkshire rivals B. Braun Sheffield Sharks can do them a favour by beating Glen Luss Glasgow Rocks on Sunday – potentially important for quarter-final seeding. Giants have done the double over everyone in the group – including derby days against Sheffield and Cheshire Phoenix – except for perennial bogey team Glasgow.
It is the first time that Giants have recorded back-to-back road wins against Newcastle, having beaten them at Vertu Motors Arena at the end of last season’s Championship campaign, and also ends Newcastle’s run in this competition, having won it last year.
Giants were ruthless from the outset in this one, as Great Britain internationals Dan Clark – returning from injury – and Jamell Anderson linked up to get the scoreboard ticking over early on.
But it was American guard Martaveous McKnight who stole the show once more, scoring 11 points in the opening ten minutes as Giants poured in 30 in the first quarter to take a double-digit lead that they subsequently never relinquished, he and Jordan Whelan hitting late triples. McKnight would finish with a team-high 20 points in just 24 minutes.
His backcourt partner, ‘The Magic Man’ Tyrik Armstrong, and Clark then opened the second stanza with further three-pointers, before Armstrong made an ‘and-one’ play and then found Bolton-native Kingsley Nwagboso with a lovely assist, and after an 8-0 burst Giants were up 44-25.
Giants never trailed and never looked back from there, Captain Jack Hudson coming from the bench to keep things ticking over with 14 points in 15 minutes, as Francois Lewis (11), Anderson (14) and Armstrong (14) also finished in double-figure scoring.
Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said ”I’m really pleased it was a depleted eagles team, a tough situation for them, injuries, covid, but at the end of the day it’s our challenge to beat the team that’s on the floor against us. I thought mentally we were locked in and we were really happy with our performance from that side. It would have been easy for us to not play hard. but mentally I thought we were prepared, we were ready, we played really well I was pleased”.
Giants had startling shooting numbers on the night, making 79% of their shots on the inside, 46% from three and 83% at the line. Armstrong added eight assists on a night where Giants had 32 as a team from 11 different players, showing again how the squad is gelling heading into the BBL Championship, which starts on the road at Sheffield next Friday.
Words – Tom Fletcher
Photo – Dave Moore