London Lightning coaches and players had a frank and honest video session Friday morning after an exasperating 129-122 overtime loss to the Cape Breton Highlanders Thursday night at Budweiser Gardens.
The Lightning battled back with 67 points in the second half to send the game into extra time after being outscored 40-22 in the second quarter, only to fade out in OT.
Thursday night’s loss was another example of a pattern of frustrating and uneven performances for the Bolts (8-9), who are nearing the half-way point of their 40-game National Basketball League of Canada regular season. The two-time defending league champions aren’t being outplayed as much as they are shooting themselves in the foot.
“I felt like we beat ourselves, said Marvin Phillips, who scored 19 points and had 14 rebounds Thursday night. “We had lots of plays down the stretch where we didn’t capitalize. We as a team, after the game, put it all on our shoulders. . . . But I think each game we are getting closer and closer.”
Lightning coach Elliott Etherington said the team talked about compounding mistakes, being fully aggressive and sticking to game plans at Friday’s practice at the Centre Branch YMCA.
“The No. 1 thing is these guys are professionals and we still have 23 games left,” Etherington said. “We have to put it behind us, learn what we can learn and not focus on the negative.”
Etherington said the Lightning can’t settle for anything less than absolute focus and effort for the full 48 minutes of every game, especially this season where every team in the league is a threat.
“Everybody who we play, if we make mistakes, they are going to capitalize,” he said. “We’ll strive for perfection and coming up short will be OK, but striving for 80 per cent and coming up short is not good enough.”
The Bolts won’t have to wait long to try to get back on track, with games Saturday night against the Express (6-8) in Windsor at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. against the Saint John Riptide (4-11) at Budweiser Gardens.
Maurice Bolden, who led the Lightning with 29 points in Thursday’s loss, said the game was a lesson for younger Lightning players, especially in what it means to be a professional athlete.
“You can’t have mental lapses,” Bolden said. “You have to know what you are doing. You have to know what space you are supposed to be in. You have to know your defensive assignments. And in pro basketball, if you can’t do those things, then that causes problems with the whole team.”
Bolden welcomes the increased competitiveness in the NBL this year. It makes the league and its players better and it also creates a more exciting product for fans.
“It’s a challenge and you have to come in and execute,” Bolden said. “Bruce Massey (who had 42 points for the Highlanders Thursday night), he’s an incredible scorer. Jamal Reynolds, he had 25 points. He’s an incredible driver. He’s good at what he does, so you have to be able to take these things away from these guys. . . .
“If we can do that, we can win these games easily. That’s what we are trying to get to and that’s what we are going to get to.”
Next: at Windsor Express, Saturday, 7 p.m.; vs. Saint John Riptide, Sunday, 2 p.m., at Budweiser Gardens
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