Leicester Riders vs Newcastle Eagles – BBL Playoff final preview

When the British Basketball League Playoff picture was set, it was hard to look past the Newcastle Eagles and Leicester Riders competing in this Sunday’s finale at the o2 Arena in London.

The Riders won the league title in convincing fashion with the Eagles finishing as runners-up and both sides have claimed the other two domestic cup competitions this season with Newcastle capturing the BBL Cup in January followed by Trophy success for Leicester, two months later.

Rahmon Fletcher will head to London as a BBL MVP and BJA Player of the Year. Copyright 2017 Ahmedphotos. Photo by Mansoor Ahmed/Ahmedphotos.

Leicester do have the edge leading to Sunday’s Playoff final have a 4-3 lead in the head-to-head series against Newcastle in BBL finals since 2012 but Eagles guard Rahmon Fletcher, who added BBL MVP to his earlier Basketball Journalists Association Player of the Year award this week says that there is no advantage going into their trip to the capital.

“Everything that has happened leading up to the Playoff final goes out the window,” says Fletcher. “It’ll be two of the top teams in the league battling out for a trophy that neither of us won last season, so that will make Sunday more vital.”

Meanwhile for the Riders, they are chasing a repeat treble that they managed back in the 2012-13 BBL season. Leicester big man Andrew Thomson, himself a former Eagles player is adamant that the team are ready for Sunday’s clash despite a slow start to the post-season that held to a rare 73-73 draw by the Surrey Scorchers in the first round, first leg before winning the second leg to advance.

“We are excited to be back at the o2,” declares Thomson. “We were a bit rusty [against Surrey] but quickly got into Playoffs mode and have since carried on our momentum. Newcastle can be very dangerous, but we want to finish on a high.”

The British Basketball League Playoff final will be staged for the third season running at the o2 Arena and the BBL have reported that this will be best attended final of the three with a rumoured 15,000 expected.