Actually, things could hardly be better at Alba Berlin at the moment. In the play-offs for the German basketball championship, the defending champion easily reached the semi-finals, there are a total of 14 wins in a row at national level and now the team even has a whole week to prepare for the next tasks.
But after the 103:70 in the third quarter-finals in Bamberg on Thursday evening, playmaker Maodo Lo revealed unforeseen abysses within the team. When asked about the donuts that Malte Delow has to donate to achieve the 100th point, Lo said on Magentasport: “If they are brought along. A lot of people are behind, including me.”
Maybe it’s even better at the moment that the team’s internal “penalty catalogue” isn’t observed quite so closely. In the three games against Bamberg, Alba twice scored three-digit points, in May four rounds of donuts would have been due. Presumably, such masses of pastries don’t go too well with the nutritional ideas of athletic trainer Pepe Silva Moreno.
Otherwise there is really nothing to complain about with Alba. As in the first two games in Berlin, the favorites dominated from the first to the last second in Bamberg. With speed, playfulness and a completely absurd rate of three at times – twelve of the first 14 attempts from distance were successful – Alba underpinned its own claim: title defense.
The class difference between the Berliners and the Bambergers, who started the play-offs with a lot of self-confidence after a strong sprint towards the end of the main round, also made a lasting impression on the Franconians. “You are fantastic. It’s not just the quality, it’s the way they play,” said Bamberg coach Oren Amiel appreciatively. Captain Christian Sengfelder’s praise went even further. “They are currently the hottest team in Germany, maybe also in Europe.”
In view of the Euroleague Final Four that is currently taking place in Belgrade, that may be going a bit too far, but the form of the Berliners is undoubtedly outstanding. With Marcus Eriksson, one of the best distance shooters in Europe has been missing for three and a half months – Alba sets a club record in Bamberg with 19 successful three-pointers. With Luke Sikma and Johannes Thiemann, the regular power forwards are not playable – Oscar da Silva helps from the center position and does an excellent job. “We played very well, defended well and had high shot rates,” said coach Israel Gonzalez soberly as usual. “We can be happy.”
Alba now has a week to prepare until the first two home games in the semi-finals are scheduled for next Friday (7 p.m.) and the following Sunday (6 p.m.). Opponents are the giants Ludwigsburg, who also won 3-0 against Ulm, but had to go into extra time in the first two games. “Ludwigsburg is always tough,” said Lo.
Alba lost the two games of the main round against John Patrick’s team, but the Berliners lacked almost all their centers in October and also lacked strength due to the high Euroleague load. “We know they are a very good team and we haven’t beaten them this season,” Gonzalez said. “But in the playoffs, it’s different.”
Above all, Alba will now be rested. Sikma and Thiemann should be fit again next week – and if not all donut rounds are made up at once, Alba will be well prepared for the semifinals.