London, Edge have won four and five straight respectively
By José Colorado
Chilling weather may have shortened the NBLC work week but it couldn't stop the league from upping the heat in week two.
With the Moncton Magic having a brief break in its schedule, the London Lightning took full advantage by capturing its fifth consecutive victory – and the No.1 spot in these Power Rankings.
And with the St. John's Edge picking up steam, the renewed emergence of the Island Storm and the scary firepower of the Sudbury Five, the 2019 -2020 is already proving to be one to watch for.
1. London Lightning (6-1)
Last Week's (LW) Ranking: 3 | Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: The Island
London Lightning fans had plenty to say on social media following its club No.3 ranking in last week's Power Rankings despite its identical record to the Moncton Magic.
Well, this time around those outcries simply can't be ignored any longer as the club enacted revenge on the Windsor Express in a 99 -91 win on Jan.11 for its fifth consecutive victory (London's only loss this season was against the Express on Dec.28).
As per usual a stifling defensive effort helped guide the club as the Bolts held its opponent to a 37 -24 – (field goal, three-pointer percentages) shooting split.
A new – and ideal – problem now awaits head coach Doug Plumb and his coaching staff moving forward as London returned a couple of bodies from injury in Maurice Bolden and Jaylon Tate.
On the one hand with a depleted roster players are often more prone to play carefree and establish a rhythm knowing they have a longer leash.
On the other hand with greater minutes, comes a greater chance of injury and potential burnout. But a deeper roster also presents the challenge of sharing minutes while still maintaining cohesion and happiness amongst the group.
It will be interesting to see how coach Plumb handles it in the weeks to come.
2. Moncton Magic (5-1)
LW Ranking: 1 | LW Record: Bye Week | Upcoming Schedule: @Halifax (2x)
After 6 games in 11 nights perhaps the defending champs deserved an early-season break as they last played on Jan.5.
Evidently that was far from the case when it came to the Magic's front office as they stunningly announced a pair of signings alongside a blockbuster deal shipping off star forward Billy White to the Windsor Express on Jan.12.
Bringing former Magic-killer Desmond Lee and Nick Evans on board made plenty of sense but the timing of the Billy White trade seems a bit peculiar considering the defending champions are off to another outstanding start and White is producing yet again (18 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game).
Did the Magic get better or worse following Week 2?
3. Island Storm (5-2)
LW Ranking: 2 | LW Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: @Kitchener-Waterloo, @London, @Windsor, @Sudbury
If there's one thing we can pull from the first two-and-a-half weeks of play with some certainty it's this: the Island Storm are back.
Following an abysmal 2018 – 2019 campaign in which the franchise managed only 12 total wins, the franchise continues to impress as it defeated the Sudbury Five 131 -122 at Eastlink Centre on Jan.10.
The club's depth buoyed them once again as four different players scored 20-plus points including Nathaniel Wright who hit for a game-high 27 points off the bench.
All hands will need to be on deck once more in Week 3 as the Storm heads out to Southern Ontario to play four games in seven nights – a stretch that could give NBLC fans a true indication of the moxie this time is made of.
4. St. John's Edge (4-4)
LW Ranking: 5 | LW Record: 2-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Bye Week
Make it four in a row for the St. John's Edge following a perfect 2-0 (win-loss) Week 2.
After a brutal opening schedule that saw The Rock play its first six games on the road, head coach Steven Marcus' squad has responded by rattling off four consecutive victories.
And for as exhausting as those opening weeks may have been, the club will now experience the other side of the coin; St. John's plays eight straight matches at Mile One Centre stretching into the first week of February.
So if the club is able to cut back on its turnovers as it has during its winning streak (13.5 per game in comparison to 20.5 during four-game skid), there's no reason to believe why the Edge won't be able to pull its collective head above water and put together a solid winning record entering February.
5. Sudbury Five (3-4)
LW Ranking: 4 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Kitchener-Waterloo, The Island
Well, that prediction didn't take very long to come to fruition as the club partook in a record-setting game on Jan.9 via a 158 -141 thrashing against the Halifax Hurricanes.
The game eclipsed the previous league-high mark of 153 points set by the London Lightning on Nov.15, 2012 while also providing more than a few memorable highlights.
Damn! https://t.co/cPhm0afXDP— Jose Colorado - Welsh (@ColoradoURB) January 10, 2020
One night later the squad again put up another strong showing by pumping in 122 points against a tough Island Storm squad. Sudbury however came out on the wrong side of that match by losing 131 – 122 as a cold three-point shooting night (10-of-42) and 23 turnovers did them in.
All things considered however if the Five are able to unleash that offensive ability on a consistent basis, it will be tough for many teams to keep up – even if their defense is lagging behind (second-last in points allowed) as it currently is.
6. Windsor Express (2-3)
LW Ranking: 6 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Kitchener-Waterloo, The Island
It isn't that the Windsor Express are necessarily playing bad, it's just that other teams are playing better – and for that they are stuck at No.6.
Indeed there are many signs of life in the Rose City as the club split a pair of games in Week 2 by dispatching the KW Titans 99-87 on Jan.10 to then only follow suit and lose 99-91 against the Lightning the next night.
An off three-point shooting week plagued the club as it went 23-of- 83 (28 per cent) combined in its pair of matches.
But even considering that, had it not been for a season-low showing from the foul line (14-of-27) against the Lightning then it's likely the Express would be walking out of Week 2 unscathed.
Windsor has remained competitive in each game thus far so small details such as free-throw shooting will make a world of difference in separating wins from losses moving forward.
7. KW Titans (1-6)
LW Ranking: 7 | LW Record: 0-3 | Upcoming Schedule: The Island, Windsor, @Sudbury
The KW Titans concluded its four-game road trip on Jan.10 with a deflating 99 – 87 loss to the Express.
Even with the addition of the highly celebrated Akeem Ellis, the club has struggled to muster up wins as it dropped its fifth consecutive outing.
Scoring – and efficient shooting- has become a real issue with this club as Cavell Johnson's roster failed to crack 100 points in two of their three losses this past week while also hitting below 40 per cent in the same number of matches.
For the season the team is now ranked second-last in points (97.7 per game), field goal percentage (40.5) and second from the bottom in three-point efficiency (30.2 per cent).
One bright spot however was the emergence of former St. John's Edge wing, Jared Nickens, who put together an outstanding week by averaging 26.5 points per game on 60 per cent shooting from the floor and 56.25 per cent from long range.
If he can stay hot while other members of the team find their shooting strokes the rest of January should be more forgiving to the franchise.
8. Halifax Hurricanes (1-6)
LW Ranking: 8 | LW Record: 0-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Moncton (2x)
Can a team hit rock bottom less than a month into the season?
If possible, that's where you'll find the Halifax Hurricanes as they got the door handles blown off in a horrendous 158 – 141 thrashing against the Sudbury Five on Jan.9 at Scotiabank Centre.
It's one thing to lose.
It's a completely different matter onto itself to get demolished in record-breaking fashion at home after a three-day layoff and while needing to snap a four-game losing skid.
It's almost unfathomable to see this respected and tenured franchise fielding a team with such lacklustre performances.
All one need to consider is the opening quarter versus Sudbury - Halifax surrounded 46 points; they weren't ready to play.
Indeed, Antoine Mason (26.9 points per game on 41 per cent shooting) has been stellar but he needs another dynamic scorer alongside him.
That could be coming in the form of CJ Washington as the big man has re-joined the club after a one-year absence, netting 28 points and 10 rebounds in his debut.
Things won't get easier however.
Halifax has a double-header against Moncton coming up.