Leeds Force face an early test of their play-off credentials this weekend when they face two sides blocking their path to the the BBL’s top eight.
Force host eighth-placed Worcester Wolves at the Carnegie Sports Arena tonight (7.30pm) before making the short hop over the Pennines on Sunday to tackle the Manchester Giants (5pm).
They are two teams moving in opposite directions – Wolves have lost their last three while the Giants have won their last trio of league fixtures – but both games should offer more of an insight into Leeds’ top-eight aspirations this season than recent games.
Defeats to Glasgow Rocks and Newcastle Eagles were by no means a surprise, despite the Force providing flashes of their potential in both games, particularly the latter when they gave the storied Eagles a real fight last Sunday.
But after winning just two of their opening eight games to leave them 11th of 12 teams, the need to pick up wins has become pressing.
Standing in their way tonight is Marek Klassen, the Canadian point guard who played a key role in the Force’s late season run to the play-offs last term.
“We all know from last year what kind of a competitor he is, so we know it’s going to be tough,” said Leeds forward Rob Marsden, who also helped elevate the then-second-year club into the top eight last season. “Hopefully we can slow him down, get the ball out of his hands and that will put us in a better position to win.”
This is the first time this season Leeds have had a weekend double-header to prepare for, a factor which has meant a shift in focus this week.
Marsden explained: “At practice on Monday everyone was ready for a big weekend and we’ve been working hard all week looking at Worcester, and we should be ready.
“We’ll have a scout session on Saturday where we watch film and talk about Manchester then. We’ll also have a dry walk through of the things they like to do; their tendancies, formations and so on. Then we’ll look at the plays we want to execute.
“We have a good history against Manchester but they’ve had a better string of results than us, winning three out of three, but it is still a game we’re looking at with high expectations. But until Friday night is out of the way, it’s been all about Worcester.”