Game 1 of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) finals against the Summerside Storm and the defending champs London Lightning was almost like a chess game in its strategy.
Lucky for the 4,400 packing Budweiser Gardens on Saturday (April 6) the playoff matchup involved a lot more excitement, a little more intensity and few extra punches than the board game usually has with the Lightning coming out on top 105-100.
The matchups were key Saturday and will most likely be a big factor for the rest of the best-of-five series.
When Storm’s Josiah Turner carried the ball down the court he was covered by DeAnthony Bowden When Bowden ran the offence then 6-foot-4 Greg Plummer would smother the Lightning guard. If Plummer had the rock Lightning all-star Antwi Atuahene was all over him. If Atuahene tried controlling the ball then Turner jumped on the man—pawn for pawn, rook for rook.
Even the benches felt the heat of their coach’s line of attack as well.
When hard-hitting Marvin Phillips came on the floor for London late in the first quarter, Summerside’s Nick Evans, the biggest man in the NBLC, came on the court to start the second. When power forward Omari Johnson came in, Jeremy Williams entered the game only a few seconds later for Rodney Buford to make his impact felt in other places than the stat sheet — sacrificing knights to open up space.
“We got to make them matchup with us because we got too much fire power,” said Lightning forward Rodney Buford, who stood at centre court a few times during timeouts telling the fans to get on their feet. “It’s a chess match, especially in the finals.”
The teams were going piece for piece.
In the second quarter London was up by 12 points, but by halftime the lead was cut to seven.
In the third frame the Lightning went up by 19 with about three minutes left in the quarter, but the Storm managed to get within eight headed into the final 12 minutes of the game.
Early in the fourth quarter London was up by 11, but with three minutes left the game was tied.
The checkmate move came when Lightning forward Elvin Mims blocked a shot with 31 seconds left and his team up 99-95.
By games end, it was London’s veterans coming out on top as the five oldest players on the team lead the Lightning by individually racking up double-digit points in Marvin Phillips (25), Bowden (19), Rodney Buford (18), Tim Ellis (14) and Mims (13).
In the words of Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, “These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out here playing chess.”
“That’s key on any team if you have veterans that know the game and know how to play the game,” Bowden, 32, said. “Nobody is perfect and we make mistakes, but it’s all about we’ve been there before, so we know what to do in all situations.”
In the fourth quarter, Plummer gave a hard foul to Lightning Morgan Lewis, who retaliated by getting up and throwing a punch. Both players were ejected from the game.
“ It’s just playoff basketball. It’s going to be a physical series,” said Lightnign coach Micheal Ray Richardson. “It was a terrible foul and I guess that’s just a normal reaction.”
Game two will be played Sunday (April 7) at Budweiser Gardens. Tip off is at 7:30 p.m.