Newcastle Eagles v Sheffield Sharks - Jalon Pipkins wants Sharks to play to own strengths more

JALON PIPKINS believes Sheffield Sharks need to stop allowing teams to impose their will on games if they are to secure a top-four finish in the British Basketball League.

Sixth-placed Sharks head to Newcastle Eagles tonight, the team that holds that coveted fourth spot Atiba Lyons’ side is chasing.

A top-four finish gives teams a slight advantage in the first round of the play-offs which this season adopts a best-of-three format. Higher-ranked teams get two home games as opposed to one.

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Sharks have lost two more games than they have won this season with Pipkins admitting the team have been guilty of bending to the will of their opponents.

GAME TIME: Sheffield Sharks' Jalon Pipkins Picture: Tony Johnson.GAME TIME: Sheffield Sharks' Jalon Pipkins Picture: Tony Johnson.
GAME TIME: Sheffield Sharks' Jalon Pipkins Picture: Tony Johnson.

“It’s about us just finding our identity,” says the explosive point guard who immediately after the Newcastle game hot-foots it down to London to play in the British Basketball League’s All-Star Game.

“Sometimes we let who we’re playing change our identity, when maybe we should stick to that by playing hard, playing tough and playing smarter.

“Sometimes we might sway off into another identity in different games, so we’re trying to stay consistent and as players we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable and go out there and do it.

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“The games we’ve lost we were never out of it, we might have just a quarter and not recovered. We need to stay consistent with everything we do.”

Sharks’ qualification for the play-offs for a 29th consecutive season is all-but assured but given their differing fortunes at home and on the road, it will be in the back of their mind the importance of earning a top-four finish.

At the Canon Medical Arena, the brand new venue they moved into in October, Sharks have a 10-3 (win-loss) record.

Conversely on the road, they are 3-12.

“Top four is definitely the goal,” confirmed Pipkins, who is averaging 11.9 points per game.

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“Everybody looks forward to the play-offs. We’re not looking too far down the road, we’re taking it game by game, but we’re definitely looking top four.”

However Sheffield enter the play-offs, Pipkins is just happy it will more represent the format he is used to.

Growing up in the United States, a best-of format was the only way to decide play-off series.

Up until last year, which was Pipkins’ first in the British game, play-off ties were decided by an aggregate score over two legs - copying the football model.

“Last year I came into something I had no idea about,” laughs Pipkins. “In Finland it was a best-of-five, so I was like ‘what?’.

“So this summer I was happy to see they had changed it.”