Filou Oostende - Clutch Kings
OOSTENDE (Belgium) - The Basketball Champions League is unpredictable at the best of times, but this season the competition has taken unpredictable to new levels. It would probably be hard to find a better case study for this, than Filou Oostende's crazy flip-flopped season.
Coach Dario Gjergja's men are used to dominating domestically, but the Belgians started the BCL season woefully. A late-game collapse against an (at the time) out of sorts Besiktas on Gameday 6, left Oostende 1-5, and staring down the barrel of another season without making the knockouts. Since that game, things have taken a dramatic turn for the better.
Dario Gjergja has been a perfect fit for @FILOU_Oostende for years now, but this 5-game winning run in the @BasketballCL is unreal:— Igor Curkovic (@IgorCurkovic) January 16, 2019
+3 at Strasbourg;
+4 at Promitheas;
+1 vs Bologna;
+2 at Neptunas;
+2 at Olimpija.
Clutch coaching by the Croat! pic.twitter.com/qTuN0B0Vsh
Oostende was a team that was veering from narrow wins against Neptunas, to narrow defeats to against Petrol Olimpija and demolitions from Bologna and Bayreuth. They are now mentally tough and finding ways to win instead of finding ways to lose.
Let's dive into some of the stats and video to find out what's changed.
The chart above looks at some of Oostende's advanced stat production on a game by game basis. The line moves by Gameday and if the color is yellow that indicates good levels of production. Black, on the other hand, indicates poor production. The chart has three tabs, each tab contains two separate advanced metrics. What we are specifically looking at is what happens from Gameday 6 onwards.
Offensive and Defensive Rating
In the first tab (ORtg & D Rtg)) you can see a slight upward trend in Offensive Rating but no major change in offensive points per 100 possessions. Defensive Rating, however, certainly does show a significant uptick starting from Gameday 6. Before that point, Oostende had given up more than 110 points per 100, every game. Since then, they have been consistently below 110 every game aside from the road win at Promitheas.
Even in that game, it was defense that enabled the Belgians to get over the hump in Patras. Watch the clip below and you see Oostende with a 3 point lead and under 2 minutes to go. Coach Gjergja's men are extending their defense and making every catch difficult (notice where #22 Kesteloot forces Lypovvy #3 to catch the ball). Then #24 Chase Fieler perfectly executes a stunt and return to prevent #21 Meier taking a catch-and-shoot on the pick-and-pop. Finally (#42) Djurisic forces Gikas (#8) into a deep 3-point attempt and then gets the technique perfect on the "fly-by" contest.
Contrast that with a play in a very similar game situation, at home to Besiktas. Buza is too aggressive with his positioning on the switch and gives up an easy driving lane. It could be that he was instructed to force Rich to his left hand, but still, the foul given up after that was poor and put Oostende in the penalty - they never recovered after that. The difference between the two clips gives a clear window into the increased defensive focus for Coach Gjergja's men.
Offensive Rebound and Turnover Percentage
In the third tab, you can see that turnovers have been an issue for Oostende all season. All season, until Gameday 8 that is. If you turn the ball over on 20% of your possessions, you are always going to struggle. Since Gameday 7, three of the four games have seen Oostende below 20%. The fact that all of those games are wins, is no coincidence.
Execution (Clutch Kings)
Now for the fun part... As you see in Igor's tweet above, it's not just winning that has caught the eye. It has been the way that Oostende have been winning. Close games, tough road venues with hostile crowds and hot shooting opponents have all been conquered. Despite teams coming back at them in the last 2 minutes of each of those wins, time and again the Belgians have found ways to win. None more impressive than this play of the season candidate from Chase Fieler against Olimpija:
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We will go into the details of why Dario Gjergja also deserves a fair amount of credit for that play shortly. But that was not the first time this season that Oostende executed in the clutch. On the road in Klaipeda for Gameday 10, both teams served up a slugfest down the stretch. Watch the two clips below and twice you see Oostende suck the help in from the corner and find the open man.
Then to win the game, Dario Gjergja called timeout with 4.7 seconds on the clock, down by a point. Yes, Kyle Weaver (#25) committed a cardinal sin by fouling the jump shooter, but the execution of the screen by (#9) Jean-Marc Mwema, and the cut from Fieler forced him into a hard closeout.
Chase Fieler has quickly become Coach Gjergja's closer in these late-game situations and if we go back to that out of bounds play against Olimpija, Gjergja went to him again. This time, watch the clip again and notice that two important bits of misdirection enabled Fieler to go one on one; first Kesteloot curls to the weak side corner to occupy one potential help defender, then Djurisic (#42) flashed to the ball, leaving his defender with a difficult choice between helping on the drive and leaving a 6 meter closeout (essentially leaving him wide open).
Up next for Oostende is the visit of medi Bayreuth. The Germans dismantled them in the first leg and will need a similar result again if they are to stay in the Play-Offs hunt.
Oostende's streak has put them in a strong position but at this stage of the season, every game is a must-win.
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