You can’t blame the giants of Ludwigsburg for not trying everything in the previous two games of the semi-final series. The Swabians play hard, in the first game they surprised the German basketball champion Alba Berlin with a tactical trick and had two shooters in outstanding form in Jordan Hulls and James Woodard. In addition, coach John Patrick tries to put pressure on the referees on the sidelines and in the media with the criticism that his team gets too few free throws compared to Alba. So far, however, all these measures have been unsuccessful.
Alba leads 2-0 and can move into the final series for the fifth time in a row with a win on Friday in Ludwigsburg (7 p.m., Magentasport). After 16 wins in a row and more than two months without a defeat on the national stage, you almost have to ask the question: How is anyone who is not Bayern Munich supposed to beat this Alba team at all?
In theory, the answer used to be quite simple: just like Ludwigsburg plays on a good day. Aggressive, fast, hard. Alba must not even get into the rhythm, has to work out every point against a formed defensive. But even this tactic, which has been very promising in recent years, is currently mostly in vain. Bamberg already played hard in the quarter-finals and lost significantly. The Ludwigsburg team has had a similar experience so far, even if they were at least close in the first semi-final.
“We also know that the opponents want to break our rhythm and we are preparing for it,” says Alba’s national player Johannes Thiemann. The Berliners also benefit from the schedule. During the main round, the team rushed from game to game due to the double burden across Europe, while the opponents were rested and well instructed. “If you have a maximum of 20 minutes to prepare for the opponent, it’s clear that you can’t win every game,” says the 28-year-old. In the play-offs, all teams now have the same requirements. “Then you realize that the better team will prevail.”
The Berliners also benefit from an adjustment in their game. After his promotion to head coach, Israel Gonzalez took over much of the work of his mentor Aito Garcia Reneses, but he has a slightly different focus on defence. “We’re still a bit stronger and don’t have a problem when things get more physical,” says Thiemann. “Israel also values it more than Aito.”
These are not the worst conditions for an away game in Ludwigsburg. “They are fighting to keep their season alive,” says Alba’s captain Luke Sikma, expecting not only an aggressive Ludwigsburg team, but also excited fans. For the Berliners, the main thing will be not to be influenced by external circumstances. If the defending champion reaches normal form, he cannot be beaten by an opponent like Ludwigsburg at the moment, the Berliners are too strong for that in width. “We have to play our basketball,” Thiemann repeats the great Alba mantra of recent years.
The referee’s criticism from Ludwigsburg’s coach Patrick takes Alba’s center relatively easy. “We defend well, we defend cleanly,” said Thiemann. “It is already clear that he is trying to influence the referees or public opinion. But we can’t do anything anyway and it doesn’t affect us.”