We have to focus on defence, insists Plymouth Raiders centre Andreas Schreiber
DEFENCE is the way forward for Marjon Plymouth Raiders to seriously challenge in this season's BBL play-offs, believes centre Andreas Schreiber.
Schreiber made crucial defensive plays late in Friday's 104-100 win over Durham Wildcats at the Pavilions in the BBL Championship.
Victory ensured Raiders bounced back from last Sunday's heavy 96-79 home defeat to defending champions Newcastle Eagles.
Eagles and Leicester Riders are the firm frontrunners to prevail in the post-season, which tips off in seven weeks on April 12.
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Behind those two, Raiders have as good a chance as anyone – providing they continue to tighten up on defence.
"We have to step it up defensively," said Schreiber. "It's all about defence now. We know we can score."
Raiders lead the league in scoring this season, averaging 93.6 points per game, but their defence is only ranked eighth out of 12, conceding 84.5 points per game.
Raiders finally got on top of Wildcats for good on Friday when they consistently stopped them scoring late in the fourth quarter.
Love said: "I thought, although the score does not suggest that, we played pretty tough defence."
Schreiber said: "Durham suck you in and have great three-point shooters. I think sometimes we were a little slow to react.
"But Durham play a hard game and it was a fun game. The referees let things go a little bit.
"It was competitive. Durham came right back at us because they've got great shooters."
Schreiber was making his seventh appearance for Raiders after joining the club in January.
He was a free agent, so naturally it has taken the 25-year-old Swedish-American time to achieve full fitness.
He is still doing that, but had 17 points on 7/9 shooting, seven rebounds and three blocks on Friday, after averaging 11.8 points per game in his first six appearances.
Schreiber said: "I feel like I've got my game legs back now and I feel I know everybody at the club.
"That has given me confidence and (Raiders) coach (Gavin Love) is great at helping give me confidence by just telling me to go to work when I'm out there.
"If I miss a shot, he says, 'Don't worry, just keep working'. He gets angry when I start passing the ball!
"It's a relief for me to just play with that kind of freedom. I like it here in Plymouth a lot and the atmosphere at games at the Pavilions is amazing."
Raiders forward Jamal Williams is also starting to come into his own nicely now we're nearing the business end of the BBL season.
He was only averaging 3.3 points in 13 minutes per game prior to Friday and has been a peripheral figure for spells this season in an eight-man rotation.
Against Wildcats he was Raiders' sixth-man, finishing with nine points on 4/6 shooting and two assists in 24 minutes.
Williams surprisingly started against Eagles last Sunday to specifically guard their lynchpin on offence, Charles Smith.
Williams did a decent job. Smith did not score from the field until late in the first quarter and only when Williams was sat on the bench having a breather.
True, Smith was dominant in the fourth quarter when Eagles ran away with it, but by that point he was matched-up with Colin O'Reilly, who could not guard him.
"I thought Jamal was a big factor for us," Schreiber said of Friday. "He had a great game inside and brings a lot of energy to the team during games and during practice in the week.
"I was just glad he got the chance to play and show everyone that he's a great player."
Schreiber added of last weekend's reality check against Eagles: "Newcastle are a really good team. We're still trying to get better. Hopefully come the play-offs we can put pressure on teams like that and compete. It's going to be interesting.
"We have to learn you can't stop going at a team like Newcastle. In a matter of minutes they can go up by like 15 points.
"Offensively, I don't think we have a problem in that situation, but defensively it has to be a team effort."
Raiders are next scheduled to play in two weeks at Sheffield Sharks on March 8, but may remain inactive for three weeks and March 15's trip to Eagles if Sharks reach the BBL Trophy final.