Giants: Manchester Giants have a mountain to climb in the BBL Cup semi-finals after a 102-92 defeat against the Glen Luss Glasgow Rocks in Sunday night’s first leg, suffering woes in the Emirates Arena at this stage of the competition for the second time.
There is a good shot at a turnaround in Wednesday’s second leg at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Belle Vue – and making it to January’s final at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham – as Giants have twice beaten Rocks at home this season by a margin larger than that required.
North of the border is not a happy hunting ground for the Giants, as the loss means they have just one win in nineteen trips to Glasgow since returning to the BBL in 2012, with this one invoking memories of the agonising BBL Cup semi-final second leg defeat at this venue in the 2018-19 season.
Like that night, and reminiscent also of the league game on Friday live on Sky Sports, Giants were slow out of the blocks and trailed by 10 points early in the second stanza after a lacklustre defensive start that saw Scottish big man Ali Fraser score eight early points.
But once more Giants showed resolve and responded immediately with a run of seven unanswered points as Great Britain captain Dan Clark hit a three-pointer and Warrington-native Jordan Whelan emerged from the bench to score a quick four points in a row.
That run extended to 21-4 as Giants completely turned the game on its head, taking the lead soon after when Martaveous McKnight poked the ball away leading to a Josh Steel score, before netting himself in transition; and the lead reached 42-35 when Tyrik Armstrong went coast-to-coast for an ‘and-one’ play and Steel added a triple.
The game remained tight, with Giants unable to establish more than a two point lead from then on, but that was as good as it would get, afflicted by ill-discipline in a third quarter that was lost 29-21. Rocks took the lead back with two minutes to play in the third, and the visiting Giants quickly found themselves down nine as the lack of discipline cost two unsportsmanlike fouls and a technical foul, trailing 74-65 as the hosts scored 12 unanswered.
Will Saunders was ejected for a second technical foul in the fourth quarter, and Giants were down double-figures from the resultant free-throw, with Glasgow’s lead peaking at 12 before Armstrong trimmed it with a driving lay-up on the last play of the game, as he finished on 18 points in another good display.
Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said Positives and negatives. It’s a tough place for us to come Glasgow. It’s the first leg so at the half we are down. That’s frustrating for us to be trailing but I still think we are in the series, we are in the game. So that’s all we have to look at. We are losing at half time and we have to play better than we did today. Going back to Manchester and getting in front of our fans, the atmosphere I’m sure they will create for a second leg at home will give us a great chance still.
Clark led the Giants on 23 points, hitting 5-9 (55%) from the three-point line and completing another double-double with 12 rebounds. Jamell Anderson had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists; while Steel scored 14, and Whelan scored nine in under ten minutes off the bench.
Tickets for Wednesday are available: here: https://manchestergiants.ticketco.events/uk/en/e/manchester_giants_vs_glasgow_rocks
Words – Tom Fletcher
Photo – All Sports Photography