Riyadi defeated Dynamo 82-73 on their home floor on Friday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

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The final of the Lebanese first division men’s basketball championship between Riyadi and Dynamo, two clubs from the capital Beirut, continued on Friday evening with game 3 of the best-of-seven series. In the first two duels, each team won a round, leaving Dynamo and Riyadi tied at 1-1 going into this third encounter.

In keeping with Lebanese tradition, the series is not without its incidents. Before kick-off, the President of the Lebanese Basketball Federation (FLB), Akram Halabi, pointed out that the two finalist clubs had been fined $3,000 each for failing to contain their fans, as insults had been hurled from the stands at the opposing players during the first two matches.

For this third duel, coaches Ahmad Farran (Riyadi) and Jad el-Hajj (Dynamo) fielded their usual starting five. Dynamo were the favorites at Rockland Arena, with the advantage of playing at home in front of their own fans. However, Riyadi changed after the return of Karim Zeinoun to the team in the second set (he scored no less than seven three-pointers), becoming once again a formidable and dangerous opponent. The rest of the game proved this as well, with Manara’s players winning the match hands down and making the break, since the next match will take place on their home turf.

When the whistle blew to kick off the first quarter, Riyadi were the first to gain possession of the ball, although they failed to score. However, Riyadi’s Karim Zeinoun scored the first basket of the game. Gabriel Salibi followed shortly afterward for Dynamo. Two minutes and two seconds into the game, each team had scored two points.

The inspired Duop Reath scored six of Riyadi’s first 10 points. Both opponents played spiritedly, neither taking the lead for long and often being level on points. But two minutes from the end, Jad el-Hajj replaced Gabriel Salibi with Ali Mahmoud. This judicious choice energized the Dynamo’s game and enabled them to climb back into the lead, ending the first ten minutes with a score of 23-15 in their favor.

The second quarter was just as frenzied as the first, with Dynamo maintaining their lead. Until then, Dynamo and Riyadi had not been very successful behind the arc. This was a far cry from Riyadi’s three-point festival in Game 2, with Karim Zeinoun’s seven baskets and Hayk Gyokchyan’s four.

A fragile advantage

In the second half, play slowed down, and fouls accumulated, as did missed opportunities for both teams. With 52 seconds remaining, Dynamo led 40-35, and at the break, the host club had added just one more point to their lead (41-35). A lead that was anything but comfortable.

In the first half, Dynamo scored 14 baskets out of 31 attempts (45.2%), while Riyadi scored 13/37 (36.1%).

Riyadi takes off

After the break, both teams put pressure on each other (46-46) before Hayk Gyokchyan gave Riyadi the lead from behind the arc (49-46). Farran’s men then increased their lead (51-49), but Hajj’s men drew level (51-51, then 54-54), and the score continued to fluctuate. However, for the first time in the game, the third quarter ended in Riyadi’s favor (57-54). A quarter that won’t leave a lasting impression on fans’ memories, as the game was slow and the players uninspired in terms of dazzling moves.

With the start of the final ten minutes, Riyadi increased their lead by ten points (64-54) and then by 12 (66-54 and 68-56). Not to mention, they pushed Dynamo into 12 turnovers throughout the game while suffering just four. A technical foul whistled by the referee against Dynamo created turbulence in the stands as Jad el-Hajj protested energetically. However, the Dynamo players were unable to find the back of the net, remaining mute when it came to shooting. On the other hand, Farran’s men put on a festival of points (77–58) and took off, as if freed from their shackles.

The final quarter was just as crucial and frenzied as the game itself. With two minutes to go, Zach Lofton gave the Dynamo hope by bringing them back into the game (79-69). Then, during free throws, Dynamo climbed back to 79-73. However, this surge was too little, too late. Riyadi managed the end of the game well, finishing 82-73 up.

An excellent operation for Riyadi, who made the breakthrough in this final.

On the other hand, it was a very bad operation for Dynamo, who fell at home and let their opponents slip away in the series (2-1). The next encounter will take place on Sunday in Manara, the Riyadi stronghold. It promises to be an explosive encounter between a Dynamo forced to perform and a Yellow team that will be hard to beat at home.

Schedule and results

Here’s the schedule and results for the final:

Monday, May 22 at Rockland Arena (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi 87-78

Dynamo takes a 1-0 lead in the series.

Wednesday, May 24 at Manara (9:45 pm): Riyadi-Dynamo 92-84

Riyadi equalizes (1-1) in the series.

Friday, May 26 at Rockland Arena (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi 73-82

Riyadi takes the lead (2-1) in the series.

Sunday, May 28 at Manara (5:00 pm): Riyadi-Dynamo

Monday, May 29 at Rockland Arena (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi

Wednesday, May 31 at Manara (9:45 pm): Riyadi-Dynamo

Friday, June 2 at Rockland Arena* (9:45 pm): Dynamo-Riyadi.

* Dynamo has the advantage of an extra game at home.