The London Lightning will square off against the Halifax Hurricanes in game one of the National Basketball League finals today at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. It is the third consecutive time that the two teams have faced each other in the finals, with each team having won one.
The two teams also split their regular season games this year, with each team winning their one home game against the other.
How They Got Here:
The Lightning took the Central Division in six games over the St. John’s Edge, while the Hurricanes beat the Moncton Magic in five to take the Atlantic Division.
The Hurricanes finished first in the league with a record of 28-12, and secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs, including against London. The Lightning finished the regular season just one game back at 27-13. That means the Hurricanes will host London for the first two games of the series, with games three, four and five (if necessary) being at Budweiser Gardens. The series will head back to Halifax for games six and seven if it has not been decided.
Third Time Is The Charm:
When two teams square off in three consecutive championships, a rivalry is inevitable. Lightning Head Coach Keith Vassell took over for Kyle Julius at the beginning of the season, so this will be his first finals with London.
“For some of our players, this will be their third time facing Halifax in the final just as there are players on the Halifax side who’ve been there too,” Vassell said. “I think it has created a real good rivalry.”
There are seven Lightning players on the 2018 squad that were in the 2017 line-up. Eight players from the Hurricanes are returning.
The Lightning will go for their fourth championship in seven seasons without star power forward Royce White. The team’s leading scorer was suspended for a combination of technical fouls and conduct detrimental to the league. White had an off-court confrontation with NBL deputy commissioner Audley Stephenson during Game Five of the Central Division, and was slapped with a ten game suspension. He also got a game for combined technical fouls.
“You can’t really replace Royce,” said Vassell said of last season’s league MVP.
What They’re Saying:
“Both teams are athletic with size. They each can play a physical game, they each can play a fast-paced game,” said Coach Vassell. “It should be a tight series.”
“I’ve followed what they did the past couple years because I’ve known guys on the team for the past few years. I know how intense it is and how physical it can get. But every game against London is a big game, even during the regular season,” said the Hurricanes’ Rhamel Brown “So I know the playoff atmosphere is going to be even crazier.”