A quick, informal poll of some players of the London Lightning shows the team is split with who will win the first round matchup between the Saint John Mill Rats and the Moncton Miracles.
With the winner of the best-of-three series moving on to play the Lightning in the semifinal, players of the black-and-yellow always finished their answer the same way when picking the winner of the east coast matchup.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” said Lightning guard Adrian Moss. “I think it’s more about us than it is about them, so we don’t care who it is.”
On paper there aren’t a lot of reasons the Lightning should be worried.
Both Saint John and Moncton finished the regular season at .500, while London ran away with the National Basketball League of Canada’s best record at 33-7 – seven wins ahead of second-place Summerside Storm.
Four of those losses for both the Mill Rats and the Miracles were handed out by the Lightning. None of London’s defeats were from New Brunswick teams.
This is the playoffs, though. The intensity is up, bodies bang a little bit more and whatever team makes it out of the first round will have their momentum on the rise.
Last year the Lightning went up against the Mill Rats in the opening round of the playoffs and swept the series in two games winning the first game by just a single point and the second game by five points. In the 2011-12 regular season London jumped all over Saint John by winning five games by an average of a little more than 11 points.
“Whatever happened in the regular season really doesn’t matter at this point,” said London guard DeAnthony Bowden. “We have six games to win to be champions again and that’s our goal.”
London will be heading into the best-of-five series Monday (March 25), coming off a 10-day layoff.
The rest might be a needed one for the Lightning. London wrapped up their season losing three of their last five games and were beat back-to-back for the first time in the regular season in the team’s two-year history.
“It can go either way,” said Lightning forward Jeremy Williams about the hiatus before playoffs. The 6-foot-8 big man got some extra time off since being out of the lineup for about a month with an injury. Williams added he expects to be playing come the postseason. “Whoever it is you have to pick your poison. Maybe will rest will help, but I thinking working out and staying consistent for the most part over those days will help you.”
The break also gives the Lightning time to prepare, but the question is who do they -prepare for?
The Mill Rats are good around the arc, while the Miracles are devastating in the paint and on the boards. Saint John is better at dishing out points, where Moncton doesn’t give up easy baskets.
The good thing about the Lightning is they’re the best at scoring and have given up the least amount of points on the season.
“You just prepare for both,” Williams said. “Spend one day on this team, spend the next day on that one until we find out who wins, so we’re ready for either one.”
London was given a taste of playoff -atmosphere when the season winded down with the last few games at Budweiser -Gardens getting around the 4,000 attendance mark. Now the Lightning players just have to hold up their end of the postseason bargain by giving fans their second championship.
Windsor Express and Summerside Storm are playing in the other semifinal, which starts Monday (March 24). In another quick poll of some the London players, the tally was about even in who they chose winning the series. Again, the same disclaimer was attached to each of their answers.
“We don’t care who we play, we’ll play either,” Moss said. “Right now we’re just focused on Saint John and Moncton.”