Louis Olinde is amazingly close. “You’ve been waiting for it all season. We’ve now played 70 games and are really looking forward to the play-offs,” says the Alba Berlin winger. Strictly speaking, there were even 71 games since the start of the season at the end of September, but who should keep track of this rhythm?
But the exact number doesn’t matter now, because from now on the Berliners can’t buy anything for the previous 45 victories – it’s only the here and now that counts. This Friday (7 p.m., Arena am Ostbahnhof and live on Magentasport) Alba will start the play-offs with the first quarterfinals against Bamberg, at the end of which the third championship in a row should be in about six weeks.
Bamberg’s good form with eight wins from the last ten games doesn’t change that. “They’re on a good run, but we’re the better team and if we play with confidence we shouldn’t have too much of a problem,” said Olinde.
This approach is one of the keys to Berlin’s success over the past five years. Alba wants to exploit its own strengths instead of curbing those of the opponent. “We want to play fast, play aggressively, like we’ve been doing all season,” says Olinde. This has worked extremely well in the last few weeks.
Alba conceded the last defeat on the national stage against Chemnitz at the end of March, since then there have been eleven wins in a row. “Of course you take the momentum with you when you have a good phase like we did,” says Olinde. Together with the clear upswing of the whole team, the 24-year-old from Hamburg has recently gotten in better shape. In February, Olinde injured her thumb and was out for weeks. “That was a difficult phase, after that things didn’t go so well for five, six, seven games,” says Olinde. “But now I’ve found my rhythm again and I’m ready for the play-offs.”
It is a special situation for Olinde that the quarter-finals are against the team with which he took his first steps in professional basketball from 2016 and spent a total of four years. “Apart from Chris Sengfelder and Patrick Heckmann, there aren’t many people left in the team, but it’s special – especially in the hall where I played my first games as a professional,” says Olinde.
After the two home games on Friday and Sunday (6 p.m., Max-Schmeling-Halle), the series continues four days later in Franconia. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if the Berliners left the quarter-finals behind with their first away game. At the moment, however, the focus is only on the start in Berlin, which not only Olinde attaches special importance to. “Whoever wins the first game has a small tactical advantage,” says Alba’s coach Israel Gonzalez.
While many players in the team are clearly talking about defending the title as their goal, the coach from Spain, in the tradition of his predecessor and teacher Aito Garcia Reneses, is much more reserved. “We want to continue our development, to improve,” says Gonzalez when asked about his expectations for the play-offs, but adds shortly afterwards: “Now is the time to measure yourself.” He has to continue on the for months injured triple specialist Marcus Eriksson. Tim Schneider is ruled out for the first two games after meniscus surgery but is likely to return as the play-offs progress.
For sporting director Himar Ojeda, priorities shift at this stage of the year. Alba wants to remain true to his basketball style in the playoffs, but the focus is now shifting from a medium or long-term perspective to the present. “So far we have been concerned with development, now it is only with competition,” says Ojeda. After almost ten months of work, Alba now wants to bring in the harvest.
The Spaniard is very happy with the way the season has gone so far and like so many managers at Alba, he finds it difficult to base his satisfaction on placements. “If we should reach the final, that would be good,” says Ojeda, but he doesn’t really want to think that far ahead. He cites last season as a warning. At that time, Alba lost the first semi-final against Ulm in their own hall, key player Luke Sikma was injured. “We could have been eliminated,” says the sporting director. “We’re favored, but that’s basketball.”