The London Lightning suffered their first defeat Saturday (Dec. 15), getting beat by the Oshawa Power 105-101 on home court.
The first blemish on the Lightning’s record is like Brad Pitt getting a zit, they’re still a sexy team regardless of a loss snapping an 11-game victory streak—a National Basketball League of Canada (NBL-C) consecutive win record.
“There’s no games that are easy,” said Lightning coach Micheal Ray Richardson, his team beating on the Power three times already earlier in the season. “It’s one game, last year we lost eight, but we didn’t want to lose here (at home).”
It was a game of firsts for the Lightning on Saturday in more than just the loss column, but not for the best.
It was the first time London went into halftime this season trailing their opponent (down 53-41), they had their worst second quarter of the year defensively giving up 35 points and despite the Lightning’s second team outscoring the Power's bench, they finished with its least contributing performance by tallying up just 23 points.
The moniker of Lightning is fitting for the team. The squad’s lineup is filled with electricity from top to bottom, if you let up for a moment the club can run up the score in a flash and they’re as quick as all the other usual puns.
In a way though, London is a team of anomalies.
At the beginning of each home game, the jumbotron lights up with a scene from the film Hoosiers where Gene Hackman, as Coach Norman Dale, tells his team, “I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we're going to be winners.”
The Lightning definitely didn’t feel like winners because of what the scoreboard said Saturday—contrary to their usual opening speech.
“Everyday coach Richardson stresses it’s all about winning,” said Lightning forward Jermaine Blackburn. “It’s a challenge that we have to make for ourselves to come prepared every night and play.”
Right after the Hackman pump-up, London’s starting line up walks over to their opponent’s coach who waits at his bench to shake the London member’s hands. Then the Forest City players go over to the referee’s for a friendly introduction and then they finish the cordialness after the London starting-five head over to their challengers, who stand in position ready to play, for a sociable slap.
As soon as the ball is thrown up for tip-off, the Lightning are relentless to all foes, including the refs.
“We come out and we have respect for the other team and the refs and everybody as people, but as the opposition we want to beat them just like they want to beat us,” said Lightning forward Elvin Mims, who led the Lightning with 21 points against the Power. “As long as they’re between those lines they’re my enemy and I’m going to play them as such.”
London is by far one of the smaller teams in the league, if not the smallest.
With big man DeAndre Thomas out until at least the Dec. 27 game against the Montreal Jazz after being put on the inactive list, the Lightning are the only team in the NBL-C to not have a player registered at 6-foot-8.
In fact, every squad in the league has at least three players on the roster 6-foot-8 or bigger except for London and Oshawa.
Call it diminutive determination or pint-size potency, but London’s has only been out-rebounded by their opponents in just two games.
“We’re not dependent on one or two guys to get the rebounds. We all come in as a unit and take pride in that,” Mims said, leading his team with 7.82 boards a game. “We’re a running team, we have a lot of guys that can fill the lanes and play multiple positions. If we don’t have the ball we can’t pitch it up the floor and get the easy layup.”
The Lightning lead the league is scoring, averaging 117.18 points every game. Despite London picking up a mass amount of points, they don’t have a single player in the top-10 for scoring.
Except for the Halifax Rainmen and the Montreal Jazz, each team in the NBL-C has at least two players with a better scoring average than London’s top-point getter Blackburn, who sits 17th in the standings with 13.46.
Staying true to the scoring by committee strategy, London has eight players in the top-40 for points, which no other team in the league can boast.
“It’s the chemistry,” Blackburn said. “It’s the team coach put together. He went out and got guys who can really get the job done and who are really passionate about the game.”
London will look to start a new winning streak Thursday (Dec. 20) when they take on the Windsor Express, for the first time this year.