Petar Bozic’s squad is unbeaten on the road so far this season, but a big test awaits in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Wolves look to fight off the flying London Lions
The matchup between Wolves Vilnius (4-3) and the London Lions (6-2) in Group A of the 2023-24 BKT EuroCup should be a great barometer of where these two ambitious teams stand. This Tuesday evening (18:00 CET) at Avia Solutions Group Arena, a fascinating clash looms.
First of all, let’s talk about London. Playing in its second season in the EuroCup, the team led by first-year head coach Petar Bozic is flying. If last year was London testing the water in the competition under then-head coach Ryan Schmidt, Coach Bozic – together with some terrific off-season moves by GM Brett Burman – has taken the Lions into Phase 2.
London Lions are on a roll
London comes into Tuesday evening’s game on a three-game winning run, while it is a perfect 4-0 on its travels this season. In fact, in regulation, London would be 6-1-1 but it ended up falling at home to Paris Basketball in overtime in Round 4, before then losing at home to Hapoel Shlomo Tel Aviv in front of a limited crowd one week later.
Since that Hapoel defeat, however, London has responded in style by downing Joventut Badalona, 76-87, and Besiktas Emlakjet Istanbul, 80-83, on the road, then Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana, 101-95, at home. Importantly, with star player Sam Dekker having not played since that Round 4 defeat to Paris, the likes of Matt Morgan, Gabe Olaseni and Conor Morgan have really taken their games up a notch to get London back on track.
The good news for London fans is that Dekker is set to make his return to action on Thursday evening, with both the 29-year-old and the Lions’ social media accounts hinting that he will play some part against the Wolves. Given that Coach Bozic’s side has shown that it can record important wins in Dekker’s absence, the return of the 2022-23 All-EuroCup Second Team selection only adds to London’s array of weapons.
Wolves have looked comfortable at this level
In some ways, the Wolves are coming up against an organization they can take some lessons from. Yet, in their debut season in the EuroCup, they are showing that they are growing game by game. Notably, the side led by experienced head coach Kestutis Kemzura is also demonstrating that it can overcome setbacks and remain competitive.
Despite a tricky start to the campaign that saw the Wolves lose back-to-back games on the road at Paris Basketball, 105-78, and Joventut Badalona, 107-98, they have tightened up their defense and managed to put together a 4-1 record since then, which includes wins against two teams currently in the playoff spots: Besiktas, 90-88, in Round 4 and Prometey Slobozhanske, 85-71, in Round 6. Last week, the Lithuanian team got back to winning ways after downing Veolia Towers Hamburg, 71-84, having lost in Round 7 to Umana Reyer Venice, 77-93.
Impressively, they have done this with veteran forward Jeffrey Taylor yet to play this season, star addition Arturs Zagars having suffered a season-ending injury before their third EuroCup game and Rasheed Sulaimon, the Round 6 MVP, having not played in the team’s last two fixtures.
So far, so good, you could say. The Wolves announced that Sulaimon is out for four weeks on November 16, meaning that they will be without their leading scorer and the player with the highest average PIR until mid-December, but the likes of Tre’Shawn Thurman, Djordje Gagic and Adas Juskevicius have picked up the load since then.
Both in the playoff places
London enters this game sat third in the Group A standings, tied on a 6-2 record with second-placed Besiktas, while the Wolves are in fifth after going 4-3. Coach Kemzura’s group has a 2-1 mark in Vilnius so far this season, but it did lose on its last game on its home floor, falling to Reyer.
The Wolves are averaging an impressive 5,836 fans at Avia Solutions Group Arena through their first three home games to this point, so a good crowd is expected for this clash. Two clubs with sky-high dreams are ready to go to battle, but who will come out on top? Will London improve to 7-2 and 5-0 on the road, or will the Wolves make it five wins from six? Make sure to tune in from 18:00 CET to find out!