Franchises throughout NBLC pay tribute in unique ways
Photo Credit: Jacinthe LeBlanc
By José Colorado
The Moncton Magic may top the latest Power Rankings but that took a backseat in Week 5 as the NBLC joined the basketball world in mourning the tragic loss of global icon, Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others following a deadly helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan.26.
Indeed the ramifications of the news could be felt throughout the league as multiple teams issued its condolences to the Bryant family via social media. Meanwhile others shadowed the NBA in honouring "The Black Mamba" with 24 seconds of silence in respect to the shooting guard's famed jersey number.
Tonight we will pay tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant and the 8 Other lives lost. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time�� pic.twitter.com/tGkKGVh0FR— St. John's Edge (@stjohnsedge) January 27, 2020
With the NBLC having few athletes aged 35 years and older, Bryant's influence on the current generation of players cannot be understated as many proudly donned their KB8 shoes in Week 5.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend in many ways served as the symbol of basketball for an entire generation as he inspired millions through his skill, relentless work ethic and charisma.
On behalf of the NBLC we would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the Bryant family during this difficult time as well as all those affected by this tragedy.
Thank you, Kobe Bryant; for all that you have done for the game.
May you Rest in Peace.
1. Moncton Magic (10-2)
Last Week's (LW) Ranking: 1 | LW Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: @St. John's (2x), The Island, Windsor
The Moncton Magic has yet to concede a home loss this season but their away record isn't too shabby either as they downed the Island Storm 108 – 100 in a road victory on Feb. 2.
A (tied) season-low in rebounds (43) made things difficult alongside just 59.1 per cent shooting from the charity stripe but some excellent ball control (i.e. eight team turnovers) and defensive effort (season-high 14 steals) made up for it.
The Magic are now 4-2 on the road.
All nine players who saw floor time hit the score sheet with each athlete even connecting for multiple field goals.
That depth however will be tested come Week 6 as the defending champions play four games in five nights – a legitimate challenge for any club regardless of its record.
2. London Lightning (10-3)
LW Ranking: 2 | LW Record: 2-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Kitchener-Waterloo, Halifax
The London Lightning finally got their fair share of life on the road as the squad concluded a four-out-of-five-game stretch away from Budweiser Gardens, going 3-2 during that period.
Most recently in Week 5 the Bolts split a pair against the KW Titans following suit with a 120 – 98 drubbing of the Windsor Express on Feb.2.
In particular a strong week on the glass helped London control the pace as the squad recorded back-to-back 50-plus rebounding efforts for the first time this year, including 57 boards (second-highest of the campaign) in its 104 -91 win against the Titans.
Meanwhile former Canadian of the Year, Terry Thomas, had a modest opening week as he averaged 8.7 points on 31 per cent shooting in just 19 minutes per contest. If head coach Doug Plumb can unleash his offensive potential the Bolts will add yet another lethal weapon come crunch time.
London now plays six of its next eight games at home where they are undefeated (7-0); February could be the month the franchise puts some distance between them and the pack.
3. Sudbury Five (7-5)
LW Ranking: 3 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Windsor, Halifax
In averaging 110.5 points per game the Sudbury Five's offense actually underperformed in Week 5.
Yes, that's correct.
Despite comfortably cracking the century mark in both of its contests (a win and a loss) the Five were still 10.5 points below its league-leading season average of 121 per contest.
With newcomer Marlon Johnson (19.3 points per game, 10.9 rebounds) proving his early start was no fluke; the Five simply have no match when it comes to offensive capabilities as it is nine-plus points ahead of the second-highest scoring team, the Island Storm.
Marlon Johnson put in work at both ends of the floor for Line of the Night!— NBL Canada (@NBLCanada) February 2, 2020
Johnson finished with 22 pts, 18 rebs, 2 blks and a steal for the @thesudburyfive#NBLC9 | @NBLCLive | #LOTN pic.twitter.com/VwrvSbj5CU
And had it not been for a stunningly-low seven free throw attempts against the Titans on Feb.2., then it's likely the franchise would have easily run away with its fifth straight victory.
Chalk that up to an outlier, the Five are tough and remain at No.3.
4. St. John's Edge (5-5)
LW Ranking: 4 | LW Record: 0-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Moncton (2x)
The St. John's Edge couldn't make it six in a row as the Halifax Hurricanes got the better of them in a 101 – 97 defeat on Jan.27.
A season-low 30 team rebounds did the club in as the visitors cashed in on 10 second-chance points, making the difference in the tightly contested affair.
Only six made three-pointers – one off from its season-low- didn't help the Rock's cause either as the club shot just 31.6 per cent from down town.
Nonetheless winners of five of its last six, an off night is understandable; regroup and recharge and St. John's should be able to at least split a pair against the Magic in Week 6.
5. Windsor Express (5-6)
LW Ranking: 5 | LW Record: 0-2 | Upcoming Schedule: @Sudbury, @Moncton, @The Island
If not for the early season struggles of the KW Titans, Halifax Hurricanes and Island Storm then it's likely the Windsor Express would have been thrown down the well in the Week 5 Power Rankings following a pair of double-digit blowout losses at home.
But because the former three haven't exactly found their footing yet, the Rose City remains at No.5 by default.
A horrific shooting slump has bogged down the franchise of late as Windsor has been held to single-digit three-point makes in three of its last four games. During that same stretch the club has – unsurprisingly – lost three of those outings by connecting on just 31 per cent from downtown.
In particular this ineffectiveness was most evident in an ugly 120 – 98 loss to the London Lightning on Feb.2 as the Express were held below 100 points for just the first time in six games.
Hitting the road for a four-game trip may be a tad concerning for Express fans especially when considering the club will play three games in four nights during that voyage.
Windsor's spot seems up for grabs.
6. KW Titans (4-10)
LW Ranking: 8 | LW Record: 2-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @London
A come-from-behind-buzzer-beating win at home is one way to jumpstart a team's battery.
And that is exactly what happened in Week 5 as Akeem Ellis played hero for the KW Titans in what must be considered The Game of the Year thus far.
Down two points, the Titans forward perfectly executed an intentionally missed free throw into the game-tying layup to send the match into overtime. In the extra frame however Superman left no doubt as Ellis sent the KW-faithful into a frenzy drilling a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the win.
Whether that dramatic night marks a footnote by the season's end or represents the moment the franchise turned it around remains to be seen.
But early indications are the latter as the club ended the week with a winning record for the first time this year after downing the Sudbury Five 108 – 104 on Feb.2; league beware.
Collection of the tweets after Thursday's #buzzerbeater @NBLCanada showing the excitement of #KWTitans games!!! Come this Sunday with your friends and family!! #TurnItUp 2pm tip-off!!! https://t.co/OuSm8JAKHj pic.twitter.com/fXHG8BaYuj— KW Titans (@kw_titans) February 1, 2020
7. Halifax Hurricanes (3-9)
LW Ranking: 7 | LW Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: The Island, @Sudbury, @London
The Halifax Hurricanes three-game losing streak is no more following a 101 – 97 road victory against the St. John's Edge on Jan.27.
Shooting comes as the main culprit as the habitually inefficient team finally connected above 50 per cent from the floor for the first time this season. The 'Canes also shot above 40 per cent on three-pointers for just the third occasion.
And while the club did shoot below 70 per cent from the foul line, luckily for its sakes only 13 total attempts were hoisted – making that a marginal deterrent to victory.
Antoine Mason and CJ Washington led the way again as the pair combined for 57 points and 28 rebounds. Outside of the duo however only Cliff Clinkscales hit double-digits with 11 points.
If this team is to take the next step it must find either a plethora of reliable long-distance shooters or a consistent third scoring option.
Chris Johnson is the first name that comes to mind as the guard was on a great three-game stretch (18.33 points per game) prior to his quiet outing versus the Edge on Jan.27 (nine points).
If he can increase his 13.5 points per game average to about 17-20, the 'Canes would be well served.
8. Island Storm (5-9)
LW Ranking: 6 | LW Record: 0-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Halifax, @Moncton, Windsor
Make it 1-4 (win-loss) now for the Island Storm when facing the Moncton Magic as the Garden of the Gulf was downed 108 -100 at Eastlink Centre on Feb.2.
Indeed, if one is to exclude the Magic from the Storm's schedule then head coach Tim Kendrick's team is nearly playing .500 basketball at 4-5.
Unfortunately for them the Atlantic-division powerhouse has popped up on its radar early and often thus far and will continue do so as the pair of teams will square off two more times in the upcoming couple of weeks – making it four out of the past seven games against Moncton.
It would be tough to point to many teams that would come out of that stretch with a winning mark but at least a win should be expected.
Until the Storm can make that breakthrough they must slide to the bottom spot.
They've lost six straight.