Whichever way you dice it, the National Basketball League of Canada trophy is the London Lightning’s to lose.
As last year’s champs and this season’s perennial favourite, London has an impeccable setup. Three more wins and, as the team’s 2012-13 season slogan says, Lightning will strike twice.
Still, plenty of work lies ahead. Nothing is guaranteed in sports.
The No. 1 seed kicks off the NBL’s best-of-five finals series by duelling the Summerside Storm twice in 24 hours.
Counting numbers from the NBL’s regular season and playoffs, Summerside sits first in a number of important statistical categories: total assists, points per game, offensive rebounds per game, and total points.
London small forward Tim Ellis, who will play his 86th contest for the club Saturday, says the team will need to stymie the Storm’s excellent long-range shooters. Turning the ball over as little as possible also goes a long way in crucial games, he adds.
“It’s about possession,” Ellis said. “We have to value our possessions. We can’t afford unnecessary turnovers.”
London outscored the Moncton Miracles 402-370 in its four-game NBL semi-final series.
It took the Lightning five games to finish off the Halifax Rainmen in last year’s finals, despite gaining a 2-0 lead.
London is 19-3 when taking to the Budweiser Gardens hardwood in 2012-13.
“We want to take care of home,” London head coach Michael Ray Richardson said. “This is what we play for all year. Home court advantage is supposed to be the difference.”
Richardson has made plans to lean on veterans like Ellis — one of three returnees on the roster — during key moments. The larger the stage, the tenser the action, Richardson says.
“Any time you get into these type of games, you’ve got to be able to take care of certain situations,” he added.
Leading the London charge all year has been Elvin Mims, a 6-foot-5 forward from Century, Fla.
He’s averaging team-highs in points per game (15.13), rebounds per game (8.98), and blocks per game (1.55).