Game of the week - Turk Telekom vs BAXI Manresa
MIES (Switzerland) - As a league that requires clubs to qualify based on sporting merits, the Basketball Champions League thrives on its new clubs being able to come in and compete immediately. Turk Telekom and Baxi Manresa have both proven to be exactly that. When the two clubs face off this Wednesday, we will not only be watching two closely matched new teams, we will be watching two teams that will both be a very real threat to make a deep run in the Play-Offs.
Turk Telekom vs Baxi Manresa
Three teams sit tied for 1st place in Group A; BAXI Manresa, Turk Telekom, and Dinamo Sassari. Pedro Martinez' Manresa holds onto first place due to their head-to-head advantage over both teams. The points differential separating Manresa and Turk Telekom is just 10 points, with Burak Goren's team +10 even though Manresa's 5 point win in Northern Spain sees them control the head-to-head.
BAXI Manresa rode the energy of their homecourt on Gameday 4
The first meeting of these teams saw eleven Manresa players score, with Toolson and Ferrari dropping 19 points each. The only player not to score for Pedro Martinez was Dani Perez and he dished out 7 assists. It was a total team performance on the offensive end. For Turk Telekom, Muhammed Baygul had his best game of the season. His 20 points kept his team in the game as both R.J Hunter and Kyle Wiltjer had poor shooting nights.
Hunter recorded 15 points but 22.2% from behind the arc and 26.7% overall is out of character for one of the league's most unerring snipers. Manresa may have kept Hunter and Wiltjer off-beat but Moustapha Fall's 13 points and 4 assists were very much on par for what we can expect to see in Ankara on Wednesday. In truth, it's hard to garner much of a tell from the last meeting.
The form for both clubs in the BCL has the game very much in the balance. If you read our Power Rankings, you would know that Manresa come into the game sizzling, they are 5-0 in the ACB and 4-1 in the BCL. The only slight concern from the form book for Pedro Martinez is that all three of their losses in Europe this season have been on the road. Turk Telekom are going through a patch of on/off form.
They were very good, against a very good Lietkabelis team last week, then got blown out by Galatasaray in Turkey. They are 3-2 in their last 5 BCL games, with only that unexpected loss to SIG Strasbourg in Ankara looking like an unusual result. Home advantage possibly leans this one towards Turk Telekom but it's a fool's bet either way.
Turk Telekom holds a slight advantage for efficiency with a Net Rating of +8.3 (5th in the BCL) points per 100 possessions vs Manresa's +6.7(8th). Turk Telekom are one of the very best shooting teams in the league. With an Effective Field Goal Percent of 56%, only two teams in the BCL shoot more efficient shots. The reason Coach Goren's men are able to shoot at such high percentages is the types of shots they generate.
A typical possession for Turk Telekom consists of transition threes for the likes of R.J. Hunter and Kyle Wiltjer, or the ball going into the post for Mostapha Fall. Whether the big man is able to finish himself, or the ball is forced out to their shooters, the men from Ankara are getting a very high percentage shot.
Pedro Martinez' BAXI Manresa are the best passing team in the BCL. We are used to seeing Iberostar Tenerife and Neptunas dominate the Assist Percentage rankings but with 75.4% of their buckets coming from a dish, the men from Northern Spain are the very best at moving the ball to create easy looks. Manresa are at their most lethal early in the offense. They are especially dangerous when the ball goes through David Kravish as the Quarter Back in the trail spot, or when they are creating an advantage from early pick-and-rolls with spacing and ball movement.
If we look a little deeper, the key battleground statistically could be the offensive glass. In terms of Offensive Rebound Percentages, the two teams aren't divided by a huge margin. Manresa pulls down 27.4% of their own misses, whilst Turk Telekom are at 29.4%. The big difference is what happens after those offensive rebounds.
Turk Telekom's shooting percentage from inside the arc jumps up by 10% after an offensive rebound and they are a completely bonkers 31% better from deep. For Manresa, those numbers go in the opposite direction. From inside the arc, their shooting percentage is pretty much identical after they pull down an offensive rebound but from behind the arc Manresa's shooting drops by 19% after an offensive rebound.
The story here isn't for Manresa to try and find higher percentage shots after an offensive rebound, it's about how they keep Turk Telekom off the glass and how they defend them after they pull down a rebound. Turk Telekom score 4 points more than Manresa in second-chance opportunities. The main threats for the team from Ankara are Moustapha Fall, Kyle Wiltjer and, perhaps surprisingly, Muhammed Baygul. Those three are alone responsible for 51% of Turk Telekom's offensive rebounds.
For Turk Telekom the whole team is built around the gravitational pull of big man Moustapha Fall. The shot-blocking and low post beastings were almost expected from the giant France international. The thing that makes Fall so important for Turk Telekom is the space that he creates for the likes of Hunter, Wiltjer, Johnson, and Baygul on the perimeter. Turk Telekom have four players shooting over 40% from deep this season. All of them are getting easier shots because of Moustapha Fall.
For BAXI Manresa the key man is their wildcard, Luke Nelson. Scoring guards and Pedro Martinez have always been compatible and since Jordan Davis left and Frankie Ferrari got hurt, there has been a space to fill. Luke Nelson has the ability to really get going offensively and Manresa will need him to if they are to leave Turkey with the W.
Nelson has scored 15 points twice in 4 BCL games so far, with shooting numbers of 51.6% overall, 44.4% from deep and 100% from the Free Throw line. After a season out injured many will have seen Nelson as a risky pickup by Pedro Martinez, now it's starting to look an inspired one.