Leeds Force head coach Danny Nelson says his side must improve if they hope to pull off a crucial second British Basketball League victory of the season against fellow strugglers Manchester Giants at Carnegie Sports Arena tonight.
Force earned their only win of the campaign so far against Danny Byrne’s Manchester in November, with both teams sporting identical records having lost 10 of their opening 11 fixtures this season.
Despite a third straight defeat to cross-Pennine rivals Cheshire and a 54-point thrashing north of the border against Glasgow Rocks last week.
Nelson was proud of the way an injury-hit Force fought back against tough opposition.
“Injuries and fatigue hit us hard against Cheshire and Glasgow, but that’s no excuse for how we played,” Nelson said.
“Despite a poor start in both games, we never gave up and battled back in difficult circumstances which is something I’m really proud of.
“We’re not at Glasgow’s level yet, but there’s aspects from Sunday’s game we can be proud of and build on for the future – there’s a positive energy surrounding Leeds Force at the moment.”
After earning a BBL Team of the Week berth following a 26-point masterclass in Cheshire two weeks ago, Force’s American star Tre Bennett was limited to a paltry total of six points combined in Leeds’ pair of defeats last week.
With opposing defences focusing on shutting down the elusive Bennett, Nelson hopes Force can find other ways to pick apart their opposition. He said: “Tre’s a huge target for other teams; he’s constantly a marked man. We’ve got to find ways to alleviate the pressure on him by exploiting teams’ defensive weaknesses elsewhere – we’re trying to become a more balanced unit as much as possible.”
As Force set their sights on a vital second victory, the Irishman asserted that Leeds haven’t yet given up on their playoff aspirations.
“Manchester’s a winnable game, but we want to win every game we play and tonight’s no different. They’re a physical team, and we know we’ll have to execute on the court with guys having each other’s backs.
“Team spirit is very valuable, and we have that in abundance here at Leeds Force.
“We’re working hard but we’ve got a lot left to do. The playoffs are still a target for this season and we’re certainly not going to write this year off.
“We know that we can win games – and our aim is still the same.”