It sounds simple enough, but Jeff Dunlap has words of advice for his St. John’s Edge entering Game 4 of their National Basketball League of Canada second-round playoff series tonight at Mile One Centre: play harder.
“Nothing profound,” Dunlap said, “just battle harder. This is a war of wills.”
The Edge dropped a 101-86 decision to the Lightning before 5,398 Mile One fans Saturday night to fall behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven divisional final.
Tonight’s game goes at 7 p.m., with Game 5 set for Thursday night in St. John’s. If necessary, the series will shift back to London’s Budweiser Gardens next Sunday and Tuesday.
The Halifax Hurricanes lead the other playoff series 2-0 over the Moncton Magic, with Game 3 Tuesday night in Moncton N.B.
The Edge dropped the series opener in double overtime last Tuesday night in London, but rebounded for an eight-point win Thursday night.
Back on home court, the Edge and Lightning traded baskets through the early going Saturday night. St. John’s led 27-21 after one quarter, with the Lightning leading by one at the half.
The third quarter was just as tight, but London broke away in the final 12 minutes of play, outscoring the Edge 21-16.
Sunday night, following an optional shootaround, but mandatory game tape viewing, the numbers Dunlap wanted to talk about weren’t fourth-quarter scoring digits, but the amount of rebounds — specifically offensive rebounds — registered the previous night.
“They just crashed the boards relentlessly, and we didn’t match,” said the Edge coach.
St. John’s was also just seven-for-34 from the three-point line, an uncharacteristic number for one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league.
“They do a good job of running our guys off the (three-point) line … making life difficult for us,” Dunlap said. “There’s a lot of switching off players, taking away the shot from Carl (English) and (Charles) Hinkle. And without regard for our bigs.
“We have to recognize that, and take advantage.”
The result, said Dunlap, is the Edge have been forced to play more of an inside game. Ryan Reid had 14 points in only 11 minutes of action before getting into foul trouble. Last Thursday, Reid had 15 points and eight boards.
“He’s playing a lot of minutes,” Dunlap said his post, who has NBA experience with the Oklahoma City Thunder, “so we have to be careful not to run the tank down to empty.
“We have to get Grandy (Glaze) in there. (Ransford) Brempong and (Anthony) Stover, too.”
While the Edge have spread the scoring around for much of the year, only three players were in double figures Saturday — English with 25 points, Desmond Lee with 24 and Reid’s 14.
The bench accounted for only eight points in total, compared to the 37 scored by London’s bench.
Royce White, the former NBA first-round draft pick and NBL Canada MVP, dropped 24 points, while pulling down five rebounds and registering nine assists.
The Lightning are the reigning NBL Canada champions.