Both clubs remain on top of respective divisions
Photo Credit: Paula Mazerolle
By José Colorado
A light seven-game NBLC work week typically wouldn't ignite much discussion but consider Week 4 the exception.
With many teams having to cancel games due to inclement weather, the latest round of games were numbered but loaded as the Atlantic-leading Moncton Magic took on the Central goliath, the London Lightning, in a thrilling clash on Jan.23.
While the Bolts continue to reintegrate its players from the injury reserve, the Magic were also transitioning its roster as it re-welcomed Billy White into the rotation.
Indeed it is early and both teams will continue to sharpen its tools as the season progresses but if this first match up is a sign of things to come, NBLC fans should be in for a treat for the remaining three installments.
1. Moncton Magic (9-2)
Last Week's (LW) Ranking: 2 | LW Record: 3-0 | Upcoming Schedule: @The Island
Maybe there are no hard feelings after all.
Just seven days after being dealt away to the Windsor Express, Billy White returned to his old club via a rescinded trade, playing like he never wanted to go in the first place.
The big man produced weekly averages of 25 points per game and 7.33 rebounds while shooting 47 per cent from the floor in the club's flawless 3-0 (win-loss) stretch.
Yes, a win against the league's other juggernaut - the London Lightning on Jan.23 - is big but in the grand scheme of things, White happily returning to the lineup with his workmen attitude promises for much greater things down the road.
The only downside?
In the wake of all the recent roster activity Maurice Jones Sr. was released.
But overall it was an excellent Week 4 for the Magic. They retake No.1.
2. London Lightning (8-2)
LW Ranking: 1 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener-Waterloo, @Windsor
A clash of the league's two top divisional powerhouses saw the Bolts coming out on the losing end in a 105 – 97 defeat to the Magic in week 4, bumping the London Lightning down a spot.
Indeed with the game see-sawing back and forth fans may have gotten an early preview of the NBLC Finals as there were 11 ties, 12 lead changes and neither team going ahead by double-digits at any point in the match.
In the end a massive 57-39 rebounding deficit alongside 17 fewer free throw makes (18 fewer attempts) did the Lightning in as the Magic imposed its will in the final frame.
While London clearly remains the top dog in the Central Division the club has also enjoyed a fairly favourable schedule to date having played just four road games (2-2) to six home affairs (6-0).
It will be interesting to see if the club's road record can remain at .500 or better by the week's conclusion as four of its last five outings will be away from Budweiser Gardens.
A big Canadian signing should help.
3. Sudbury Five (6-4)
LW Ranking: 4 | LW Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: @Windsor, @Kitchener-Waterloo
The three-pointer is the great equalizer.
That mantra couldn't have rung more true for the Sudbury Five in Week 4 as they overcame an early double-digit deficit and a 12-point discrepancy in the paint to defeat the Windsor Express 111 – 104 in its lone match on Jan.26.
Here's the thing with the Five: all it takes is a quick spurt.
That eruption arrived in the form of the third quarter in its latest contest as the team flame threw its way to 34 points, eight-of-nine three pointers and a 67 per cent shooting in the frame – enough for the club to reclaim the lead and ride it home to the finish line.
Jaylen Bland had himself another marvellous week and must be in the discussion for ALL NBLC First Team as he is currently the league-leader in points per game (25.8) and three-pointers made (5.7).
He will be needed in Week 5 as the show goes on the road for a pair.
4. St. John's Edge (5-4)
LW Ranking: 5 | LW Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Halifax
A four-game work week was turned into a single outing for the St. John's Edge as the team – and the rest of the city – waded its way through its State of Emergency crisis.
Luckily that designation was lifted in time for the Rock to partake in a 109 -104 victory against the Halifax Hurricanes on Jan.26.
It had been 17 days since the players had taken to the hardwood in a competitive match so some rust must have been expected. That could explain the club going five-of-20 (25 per cent) from distance and just 69.2 per cent from the free-throw line but nonetheless those showings were mitigated by a season-low 10 turnovers, resulting in six players hitting double-figures in scoring.
With the postponed games, the club sees an even wackier schedule take shape as St. John's and Halifax immediately engage in a rubber match on Monday. Following that outing however the Edge won't play again for another seven days.
5. Windsor Express (5-4)
LW Ranking: 3 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Sudbury, London
If it weren't for a pair of season-lows in rebounds (33) and assists (13) then it's likely the Windsor Express would have extended its season-high three-game win streak on Jan.26 against the Five as it lost 111 -104 despite holding a double-digit lead at halftime.
Interestingly enough Windsor thus far has played entirely in streaks, meaning the club won its opening two games (including preseason) then lost its next couple.
It then turned around and split the next pair until stringing together its latest three-game winning streak that just ended recently.
Point being: The Express can't afford to constantly take two steps forward, two steps back. It must keep consistent in its playing style and string together a noticeable run in Week 5 especially when considering four of its next six will be on the road.
Get all five players to the glass (second-last in rebounds), keep turnovers to a minimum (third-best in the league) and move the ball (19.3 assists per outing, last in the league) and good things should come.
6. Island Storm (5-8)
LW Ranking: 6 | LW Record: 0-2 | Upcoming Schedule: Moncton
Down and down they go.
Long gone are the effects of the Island Storm's opening 5-2 (win-loss) start as the club continued to circle the drain in Week 4, extending its season-high losing streak to six games.
Granted, both of those affairs were against a refuelled Moncton Magic and a valiant effort was put forth in the opener of the two-game series via a 115 – 113 defeat on Jan.24 at Eastlink Centre but something has gone array with the team's offense.
In comparison to its December averages the Storm are lagging behind in field goal (44.6), three point (35.8) and free throw (79.4) percentages resulting in nearly seven fewer points per contest.
Things won't get much easier either as the team completes its triple-header against Moncton on Feb. 2. That's followed by two road games.
7. Halifax Hurricanes (2-9)
LW Ranking: 7 | LW Record: 0-2 | Upcoming Schedule: @St. John's
The Halifax Hurricanes may have dropped its third straight game but that result was largely overshadowed in Week 4 by the franchise's stalwart hitting an all-time mark.
Indeed when it comes to the Halifax Hurricanes, Cliff Clinkscales has remained the standard of excellence at the point guard position, culminating in a 2016 NBLC Championship for the franchise.
Moving back to the present day however it's likely the 'Canes could give Clinkscales a few more assists to his total if they were able to pull its collective act together from the field.
Much like the Titans, Halifax has some serious issues when it comes to marksmanship as it has yet to shoot above 50 per cent from the floor in a single game this season with its most recent game – a 109 -104 loss to the Edge being no different.
If Halifax is to make some headway it may be time to hit the market for some floor spacers.
8. KW Titans (2-9)
LW Ranking: 8 | LW Record: 0-1 | Upcoming Schedule: London, @London, Sudbury
Even some pregame bluster couldn't jump start the KW Titans' offense in Week 4 as they were downed 105 – 97 to the Express on Jan.23.
#NoPressure ... "We look to our fans to create a winning environment for our players," said VP of Business Development Melissa Melnychuk @itsmemelis_ . "So we are taking that and running with it by guaranteeing a win either on the court or for the fans directly." @NBLCanada https://t.co/UL76AEVOI7— KW Titans (@kw_titans) January 23, 2020
Despite its slow start the team hasn't lacked local support as 1452 fans showed up for "guaranteed win" night at The Auditorium.
In this regard there were many positives to draw from the evening including the attendance and six players who reached double-digits scoring; one of which was former Sudbury Five small forward Justin Moss who was vaulted into the starting line-up, recording a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds in his debut.
Although impressive on his part, Moss' addition didn't seem to alleviate the club's habitual downfall – shooting – as the team's offense once again sputtered at just a 38 – 23 – 81 (field goal, three pointers, free throws) shooting split.
At this point it may be fair to say it's not a funk nor a slump but a real problem that needs to be addressed by upper management.
The season-ending injury to explosive guard Myles Charvis just two games into the season has proven to be much more impactful than first thought as Damon Lynn has not been the same (11.33 points per game on 28 per cent shooting from the floor) since returning from injury.