The London Lightning did some tinkering to their lineup Saturday (Dec. 22) at Budweiser Gardens against the Montreal Jazz, but produced the sane results in 105-84 win against the winless National Basketball League of Canada team.
With the high-flying Morgan Lewis taken out of the Lightning’s starting lineup and placed on the injured reserved list after suffering a strained knee in Friday’s (Dec. 21) road game against the Windsor Express, it left room for the conservative playing style of Jermaine Blackburn to open the matchup.
London coach Micheal Ray Richardson has a submarine-like bench with its depth and he could have put just about any one of the players to help fill the two-spot whether it be the long distance veteran forward Rodney Buford or even the assist master Adrian Moss, but he went with Blackburn.
The Missouri-native may not have the hops like his Ohio counterpart to pull off the alley-oops and he doesn’t collect the rebounds like Lewis, but Blackburn does provide consistency on the court.
“We can rely on each other, you can put anybody out there,” Blackburn said, finishing with 14 points Saturday with 12 of those coming in the second half. “Morgan’s younger and I’m older. He’s got those young legs to get out there and give us that energy that spark we need at times. I’m a veteran guy, I’m just a little bit more patient and let the game come to me, I guess.”
He hits a little less than half of his field goals (.466) and despite only taking 27 shots from behind the arc, he leads his team with a .444 three-point percentage. He’s also taken the fourth most tries from long distance on the Lightning.
It didn’t take long for Blackburn’s presence to be felt in the starting lineup, picking up a block just 24 seconds in. A few minutes later he chased down a Jazz player on a fast break and knocked the ball out of bounds to prevent an easy Montreal basket.
Lewis’ injury also gave another opportunity someone else on the Lightning in fan favourite DeAndre Thomas being taken off the inactive reserve roster.
After missing four games to work on conditioning, the 6-foot-8 centre made a terrific return by backing up Montreal players towards their basket before the Jazz were forced to double team the big man in the paint, leaving a member of the Lightning open for easy buckets.
“My role is just do what coach asks me to do,” Thomas said, probably getting the loudest ovation from the fans when he first entered the game. “Run the floor, post up, hit somebody, go for rebounds and just play my role and that’s my role. Play tough, be the dirty guy.”
Marvin Phillips was added to London as Thomas’ replacement and with Lewis out the Lightning are running smoothly, but when the guard returns in an expected month there could be problems with one player being forced off the 12-man roster.
“”We’ll figure it out when the time comes,” Richardson said.
The matchup against Montreal was the final one in a three-game set in as many days for London, picking up back-to-back wins over the Windsor Express on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 20 and 21) to start a new victory streak after suffering their first loss of the season Dec. 15.
The Lightning will travel to Montreal to take on the Jazz on Thursday (Dec. 27).