Reading Rockets (13-7) will be looking to bounce back from a pair of league defeats this weekend when they host a rejuvenated Essex and Herts Leopards (2-18) on Sunday afternoon, 5pm tip-off at Rivermead Leisure Complex. Rockets were humbled at home last weekend as they lost out to champions elect Team Solent Kestrels by 78 points to 110 as the league leaders made it 18 wins out of 18 games to put one hand on the NBL Division One trophy.
This weekend sees the Leopards come to the ‘Mead, fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table but with some key additional personnel added since the last encounter between the two teams back in December when the Berkshire outfit recorded a 98-82 road win in the National Cup quarter-finals. Leopards added former BBL players Orlan Jackman and Elvisi Dusha to their roster as well as Lithuanian Osvaldas Gaizauskas before the 31st January deadline.
Rockets Head Coach Alan Keane is wary of the threat Essex imposes and knows his team needs to be better in the coming weeks as the season reaches it’s climax. The Reading play-caller said,
“Essex will be a much changed outfit to the team we have played twice already this year, three if you include a pre season game. We could also be described as much changed, which highlights to you the impact AJ Carr’s absence through a season ending injury has had on the team.
“Essex have done a great job supporting the team by signing three high calibre players, two of which have shined at the BBL level for the past few years. Based on resent performances by Essex, including running close to an upset over Hemel, we know we have our work cut out for us this coming weekend.”
“Regardless of results we are coming off a run of disappointing performances this side of Christmas and currently we are looking more from inside the camp to be better than focus too much on who we are playing. Whoever we play, we still need to defend the ball better, help each other better, rebound better, take better shots and not just the first one, communicate better and ultimately commit better to every action on court. We will know later in the week the injury outlook with a few guys carrying some injuries presently.”
Rockets go into Sunday’s game uncertain as to whether British Forward Ed Potter will be available for the Berkshire outfit. The 24 year old sat out of last Sunday’s loss to Team Solent with a knee complaint but it is unknown the length of time needed on the sideline so Potter will be a game time decision ahead of this weekend. Spanish duo Matias Boho and Pau Mayor came through their first game back together and look set to continue their return to fitness ahead of the visit of Essex.
Rockets will be hoping to come out of their mini slump with six games of the NBL Division One season remaining with only a couple of points separating the teams in third to seventh position and the fight for play-off positions intensifies.
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