Maodo Lo was in the mood for basketball on Friday night and that’s never good news for the opposition. Just before half-time, the Alba Berlin playmaker got the ball after a block from Christ Koumadje in the fast break, pushed it through his opponent’s legs under the ahs and ohs of the crowd and put it easily in the basket. His team was already clearly leading at this point and the second quarter in particular was a single demonstration of Berlin’s offensive power. “Both teams played at an extremely high rhythm, but it became apparent that we could throw them off course if we attacked early,” said Albas Jonas Mattisseck.
Alba scored 61 points in the first half and sent a clear signal towards the competition in the first game of the play-offs. The 114:89 (25:20, 36:25, 31:30, 22:14) against Bamberg in front of 5765 spectators in the arena at Ostbahnhof was the twelfth win in a row. In the quarter-final series based on the “Best of Five” format, the Berliners are now leading 1-0. The second game will take place again in Berlin on Sunday (6 p.m., Max-Schmeling-Halle).
Alba had started the first round of the play-offs as the clear favorite, but coach Israel Gonzalez had a few worry lines on his forehead. In addition to the long-term injuries Marcus Eriksson and Tim Schneider, center Ben Lammers was temporarily out due to muscular problems. The 18-year-old Elias Rapieque was in the squad for the first time. Luke Sikma and Christ Koumadje were battered but able to play.
But the Berliners were not influenced by this after a very short identification phase. Alba found the usual rhythm and scored a high percentage in a very fast game. After a balanced first quarter, the hosts made an intermediate sprint at the beginning of the second ten minutes. Tamir Blatt scored from long range, Malte Delow added two quick threes and suddenly Alba’s lead was in double digits.
Bamberg did not do badly in their own attack, but had nothing to oppose Berlin’s offensive urge and high speed. Alba was now in a real frenzy. Johannes Thiemann meanwhile scored from the outside like Eriksson in his best times and still had 15 points in the first half. But it wasn’t individual heroics that gave Alba a clear lead.
The team combined as if from a single source and a particularly nice combination via Lo and Jaleen Smith was completed by Koumadje with a dunk – the Berlin crowd cheered and the helpless Bamberg team took the next time-out. A little later it was again the center from Chad who ended the first half with a bang. As in previous games, Alba went into the dressing room with a very clear lead.
However, it became apparent afterwards that there is a difference between the main round and the play-offs. The Franks were by no means willing to accept their fate without a fight. The guests played their part in an incredibly entertaining exchange of blows and former Alba pro Kenneth Ogbe provided one of the highlights with an alley-oop dunk. “Both teams ran a lot, there were definitely some mistakes on defense. We didn’t expect a game like that in the playoffs,” said Mattisseck.
In the meantime, Bamberg reduced the gap to 13 points, so that Gonzalez was forced to take a break. That helped his team, who got the game under control again afterwards. After another short run in Berlin, the last quarter was little more than a nice show in front of an audience and shortly before the end, Alba’s trainer helped another young talent from their own offspring to make their professional debut in Rapieque.