Both clubs hold undefeated local marks
Photo Credit: Bruce Laing | Jacinthe LeBlanc
By José Colorado
They have different values, venues and fan environments but there is one thing making the Moncton Magic and London Lightning home-game experience inseparable through the first six weeks of play: perfection.
Indeed, sitting at 9-0 (win-loss) at Budweiser Gardens the Lightning hold the league's best-mark thus far while the Magic aren't too far behind at 6-0 at Avenir Centre.
Those records have undoubtedly vaulted both teams to the top of their respective conferences, creating a considerable amount of daylight between them and their contemporaries.
Interestingly enough, the pair will now engage in very home-centric portions of their schedules. Moncton plays eight of its next 10 games in familiar surroundings while the Lightning is in the midst of a five-game home stand.
It may just be a matter of who blinks first.
1. Moncton Magic (11-3)
Last Week's (LW) Ranking: 1 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Windsor, Halifax, The Island
An impressive 6-3 (win-loss) mark is what rests following the conclusion of one of Moncton's toughest stretches in its schedule as it split a pair of road games against the St. John's Edge in Week 6.
In the past 31 days the Atlantic-leaders played seven of nine games away from Avenir Centre, including two separate occasions with three matches in four nights.
A poor rebounding effort was the only thing holding the Magic back from a sweep in Week 6. Head coach Joe Salerno's team recorded below 40 rebounds for just the second occasion all season, resulting in seven more field goal attempts from its opponent in a 112 – 101 loss to the St. John's Edge on Feb.4.
In mid-March Moncton will be hit with another tiring period as it will play seven of eight games on the road.
But until then it should be smooth sailing; eight of the Magic's next 10 games are at home.
2. London Lightning (12-3)
LW Ranking: 2 | LW Record: 2-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Sudbury, St. John's
London's five-game home stand got off to an electrifying start as the club swept away the KW Titans (113 -99) and Halifax Hurricanes (112 -97) in convincing fashion.
The Bolts have yet to lose at home and if Week 6 is any indication, it may stay like that for a while.
London looks locked in and it shows when one scans the "dirty work" statistics of the box score.
Just consider that in Week 6 the Bolts held both its opponents below 100 points while attacking the glass for 50-plus boards for the third time in five games – its most productive stretch yet.
And when one sees the team shot 48.44 per cent from the floor and averaged single-digit turnovers for the week, it's not hard to see why both matches ended in blowout wins.
The Bolts already look to be in championship form.
3. Sudbury Five (8-6)
LW Ranking: 3 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @London
After reeling off four straight wins the Sudbury Five hit a mini two-game slump before rebounding in a 113 - 107 win against the Hurricanes on Feb.7.
Surprisingly, a 50-plus per cent shooting night wasn't enough for the Northern Ontario club to take down the Windsor Express in the first portion of its back-to-back. Sudbury was downed 125 -119 at home.
Had it not been for a 10 free-throw differential then it's likely the outcome would have been different.
But kudos to Logan Stutz's team as his guys learned from their mistakes and regrouped the following night by aggressively attacking the rim en route to a 25 free throws (making 21) versus Halifax.
Although Sudbury is still noticeably ahead of the league in its offensive game, it mustn't forget about its dribble penetration abilities.
The Five have only averaged 13 makes from the charity stripe in its last three outings in comparison to its season average of 18.
That sentiment only rings more true in the weeks to come as Sudbury plays five of its next six games on the road. With a ruckus environment and everything working against them, the Five must find its balance.
4. St. John's Edge (6-6)
LW Ranking: 4 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Kitchener-Waterloo, @London
Thanks to a hot shooting week from the three-point and (45.3 per cent) and free-throw line (86.9 per cent), the St. John's Edge was able to manage a split against the Atlantic-leading Moncton Magic in Week 6.
The increased accuracy helped the team average 112.5 points per game – nearly six points above its season average - as Steven Marcus' roster concluded a six-game home stand.
The good news is the Edge went 4-2 during that stretch, enough for them to have their heads at .500.
The bad news: the Rock now hits the road for the first time in over a month and will play 10 of its next 12 games away from Mile One Centre. St. John's is just 2-4 off its home floor.
If this club is to be taken seriously it must prove they can win in less than ideal environments; Week 7 is the perfect opportunity to begin doing just that.
5. KW Titans (4-11)
LW Ranking: 6 | LW Record: 0-1 | Upcoming Schedule: St. John's
Coming off its best week of play the KW Titans couldn't quite replicate the same magic in Week 6 as the club went down 113 – 99 to the London Lightning on Feb.6.
Granted not a single team has defeated the Lightning at home this season so some leeway must be given. The away rims – alongside the stifling defense of its opponent – got the best of KW as the Titans shot just 35 per cent from the floor and 32 per cent from downtown.
There were however many positives to draw from the defeat.
Recently added forward Justin Moss had his best game to date and appears to be catching his stride of late.
He is averaging 24.5 points per game and 11 rebounds over his past two outings.
Meanwhile Ed Horton made his long awaited return to the line-up by tallying 17 points and seven assists. Certainly not bad numbers, but he did only shoot three-of-11 from the floor – something that must improve as he finds his rhythm.
In the end both are great signs as all hands will need to be on deck moving forward; KW plays six out of its next eight matches away from the Auditorium.
6. Windsor Express (6-7)
LW Ranking: 5 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Moncton, @Halifax
Any momentary joy the Windsor Express may have felt after snapping its three-game losing streak was quickly throttled by a 136 – 97 demolition at the hands of the Island Storm in Week 6.
The Rose City has been wandering in its play of late as it has now lost four of its last five outings – three of which were by 13-plus point margins.
Typically a sound defensive team, Windsor's play on the "other side of the ball" has gone out the window recently.
Just consider that in Week 6 the team conceded 127.5 points per game and since it started its rough stretch of four losses in five games, Bill Jones' club has allowed 120.6 points per outing.
Both numbers are well above its season average of 107.9.
Recently signed Quinnel Brown should help but ultimately the Express must get back to its defensive identity if it is to climb out of the bottom of these Power Rankings.
7. Island Storm (6-10)
LW Ranking: 8 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Moncton
The streak is no more.
Behind an offensive eruption the Island Storm finally broke through for a 136 – 97 win against the Windsor Express to end its season-high eight game losing skid.
If 30 days of frustration – the time span since the Storm's last victory - could be encapsulated into a single afternoon of basketball then it's likely it would look something similar to that of the beat-down delivered by the Island on Feb.9.
The game marked season highs in points (136), margin of victory (39), field goals made (52), three-pointers made (21) and team assists (41).
Tim Kendrick's club did concede a 120 – 118 loss to the Hurricanes in its earlier match of the week but surely that can be overlooked for the time being.
A date with Moncton in Week 7 is a tough way to start a win streak but it may not be as farfetched as one thinks.
Signs of a breakthrough have been showing for some time as the Island have remained competitive in three out of its previous four defeats, losing by single-digit margins during that time and twice by a single possession.
8. Halifax Hurricanes (4-11)
LW Ranking: 7 | LW Record: 1-2 | Upcoming Schedule: Windsor, @Moncton
Another week, another milestone for Cliff Clinkscales.
The fiery floor general enjoyed his second momentous occasion this season as he became the first player to top 2,000 career assists (regular season and playoffs combined) in NBLC history. Earlier this year the American also became the first-ever to reach 1500 career regular-season assists.
The National Basketball League of Canada wants to congratulate @DaBiz12 of the @hfxhurricanes on becoming the first player in league history to record 2000 career regular-season and playoff assists.#NBLC9 | #NBLCLive pic.twitter.com/oNZMJqe8qx— NBL Canada (@NBLCanada) February 7, 2020
The pair of accomplishments comes as a nice subplot to a 2019 -2020 campaign that has gone flat for the Hurricanes with Week 6 being no exception.
An uncharacteristically poor showing from the free-throw line (13-22) likely cost the 'Canes in a tightly contested 113 – 107 defeat to the Sudbury Five on Feb.7.
But overall a much better team effort must be made on the glass. Halifax was outrebounded 152 - 115 for the week – losing the battle of the boards in each outing.
After a difficult upcoming two-game series against the Magic in Moncton, things do lighten up however as a four-game home stint follows.
And with sharpshooters Ta'Quan Zimmerman and Tyler Scott back in the mix from the injured reserve, February could be a positive month.