Games within games
LONDON (Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider) - Gameday 10 was pivotal for most of the teams in the Basketball Champions League. For four teams, it was crucial. Victory providing a huge leg-up towards the Play-Offs and defeat, a critical body blow.
In group A, UCAM Murcia visited Dinamo Sassari, positioned in 4th, with Sassari in 5th and holding a one game advantage but the Italians owning the head-to-head. Defeat for Murcia on the road would have taken their place in the Play-Offs out of their hands.
Group D was an almost identical situation for Sidigas Avellino. Only this time Avellino had an identical record to Oostende but also owned the head-to-head, having beaten the Belgians at home. With the top 3 in group D quickly shrinking into the horizon, Gameday 10 meant the loser of this encounter would be two games back, with four to play and the winner likely to be controlling the head-to-head. Battle lines drawn….
The jeopardy of the Play-Offs race weighing heavy
Games like this are huge for everyone involved at each club. From the cleaner to the head coach, everyone will be feeling it. Coaching staff in-particular will be on overdrive. Having already played their opponent, hours of extra video work and game-planning will have been put in, searching for any extra advantage. After the prep is done, it comes down to who can execute the best. In Belgium, Avellino and Oostende played out a cagey, low-scoring duel, where execution was everything. Sometimes the margin can be as small as the ability to execute one set play or action and for Avellino, it was exactly that.
"Flex" action is not new to basketball. Since the '70s teams have been using that cross-screen, with a down-screen for the screener. Coach Sacripanti likes to mask his Flex offense with an east to west ball-screen at the same time as the cross screen. The issue with Flex is that it can be a spacing killer and in the first half Avellino came out cold from three-point area, allowing Oostende to play "down" on the ball-screen and suck in to take away all the space for entry passes. Watch how far Schwartz helps off Fitipaldo in the corner (twice).
The other issue for Avellino was Ariel Filloy picking up two early fouls and sitting the 2nd Quarter. Whilst his impact on the boxscore wasn't huge, Filloy's impact on the game was possibly more important. Instantly after re-entering the game in the 3rd, Filloy went 2-of-2 from 3 and opened the floor for everyone. With the wind behind them, Avellino's pick-and-roll game suddenly had space to cut slices in Oostende's armour and time and again they went back to the Flex. Three clips in the video below tell the story of Avellino's hold on the game.
Twice Avellino went to the quick-hit on the cross-screen. A combination of miscommunications (clip1) and great execution (clip2) and the damage is done. By the time Oostende overreact to the cross-screen in the 3rd clip, they are behind the play on the screen-the-screener and subsequent pick-and-roll. The outcome is a soul-crushing lob to N'Diaye (watch Scrubb’s cut to remove any help on N'Diaye). Excellent execution and Game Over!
For UCAM Murcia in Italy, the going was also tough early. The fix this time was as simple as a substitution and didn't leave Coach Navarro waiting until the 3rd quarter for his team to click. When they are rolling, UCAM Murcia's offense is fluid and a joy to watch. Well-timed actions, extra passes and rhythm. Early in the 1st that wasn't happening and maybe the best representation of that was their struggles with "Flow" actions in the early offense.
Coach Navarro likes his team to reverse the ball through the trailer ("Lithuania Break" alignment for coaches and basketball nerds), triggering a down-screen, into a dribble-hand-off and finally the option of a pick-and-roll or another reversal. Get it right and they are a blur of ball and player movement. Get it wrong and it's stiff and easy to defend. This clip shows you the latter. The ball reverses and they go through the motions. The pick-and-roll is late arriving, allowing Sassari to communicate easily and "Ice" Clevin Hannah back to the right side of the floor (Killing the ball reversal and leaving their help-side defense intact).
The fix was easy. Whether part of the rotation, or coach Navarro pulling the trigger early, the introduction of Brad Oleson gave the Spaniards a jolt in the chest. This clip and they run the same Flow actions in their early offense but this time they choose the option of a staggered pin-down for Oleson. The veteran playmaker accelerates through the 1st screen, slows, then accelerates again through the 2nd. Outcome = Bucket and Oleson cooking early. Bad news for Sassari.
From there on, Coach Pasquini was scratching his head trying to find a solution for Oleson gunning it or attacking the basket. The answer was elusive. It wasn't just in the early offense that Oleson was doing damage. In transition, the Murcia guards knew their task was simple; sprint the ball up the floor and find Oleson. UCAM Murcia dominated the game in transition with 23 fast break points, largely thanks to Sassari scrambling to find the American in transition, leaving space down main street for the likes of Hannah and Ovie Soko, to do Ovie Soko things.
This is Murcia's Horns action. You will see plenty of teams running action like this out of a Horns set, with the initial screener (false action), flaring to the weak-side and the 2nd big arriving for the pick-and-roll. Coach Navarro likes to use Oleson as the initial screener and for good reason. Watch as Sassari try to stay attached to Oleson no-matter-what, completely ignoring any help responsibility. A simple lift from the ball-side corner and it’s lob town, with nobody home to stop the show.
Sassari even tried a match-up zone but with Ovie Soko’s athleticism and ability to put it on the floor and UCAM Murcia now in a full-flow of player and ball movement on the perimeter, it did nothing to slow the Spaniards.
Again, outstanding execution on the road deciding the game and potentially the outcome of the Play-Offs race. With UCAM Murcia struggling in the ACB, the Basketball Champions League could quickly become the primary objective and if they continue to play like this for the rest of the tournament, they will take some stopping!
UCAM Murcia getting it done
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