Monaco and Ludwigsburg keen to prove defense really does win championships
ATHENS (Basketball Champions League) - Top defensive teams collide in the Basketball Champions League Semi-Finals, with AS Monaco taking on MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg on Friday.
Looking beyond the basic stats, the advanced numbers tell you all about this matchup. AS Monaco allow only 95.3 points per 100 possessions, ranked number one in the Basketball Champions League for the second season in a row in that department. Last season they allowed only 92.4 points per 100 possessions, and won the third place.
However, their Semi-Finals' opponent also knows a thing or two about defense. Third in defensive rating at 99.0, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg know how to keep piling on the pressure, which led them to a first-ever Final Four appearance by a German club.
Both teams are looking to add to their trophy collection on two fronts this season. AS Monaco are leading in the French Jeep Elite League, whilst MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg gained home court advantage for the first round of easyCredit BBL Play-Offs in Germany.
It's a duel of teams that have made a habit out of winning. AS Monaco are 16-2 in the Basketball Champions League this season, but as MHP played in the Qualifiers, they already celebrated their 20th win of the campaign. They enter the Basketball Champions League Final Four on a 20-4 record since the start of the competition in September 2017.
They said: "We were upset because of the way it ended last season. We had done a great job last season, but we didn't make it to the Final, so that was one of our main goals for this season. Now we get a second chance. (MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg) really play specific kind of basketball, especially on defense. But we are excited, can't wait to get on the court tomorrow." - Amara Sy, AS Monaco team captain
"The fact that we had to go through the Qualifiers and all the travels we had to take because of it early on in the seasons, we gelled because of that." - David McCray, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg team captain
"We went out on a last second shot in the Quarter-Finals last season, and that made the whole team hungrier this time around. This year we suffered a tough injury just two days ago, as Justin Sears went down with torn ACL and meniscus, but we have Jake Wiley, a guy who played in the NBA this season, ready to step up in that role. We are at our best, better than last season. So, no more nightmares." - John Patrick, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach, recalling the lack of sleep after Jordan Theodore's buzzer beater sent his team packing a year ago
"We have a completely new team, but we kept the old habits. We try to beat everybody with our team basketball. We don't have superstars, but we demand of our players to give their all on the defensive end first. Then that will allow them to go on fastbreaks and put on a show for the fans." - Zvezdan Mitrovic, AS Monaco head coach, on the ability of his players to pull off highlight plays in both Basketball Champions League seasons
Key matchup: Who do you rely upon when the opponent keeps pressuring you? It's your point guard's duty to read and react when he sees the defense. D.J. Cooper is one of the best distributors around, his assists are always on point, whether we are talking about alley-oops, kick-outs for shooters or bounce passes on the run. He'll have the biggest test of his season so far, with Thomas Walkup ready to match Cooper's intensity. Walkup is a triple-double just waiting to happen, and he was just a point shy of reaching it in the Round of 16.
Key numbers: Nobody protects the ball better than Ludwigsburg. John Patrick's boys commit just 10.4 turnovers per game this season, which is an amazing feat given the fact that they also steal the ball on 10.3 occasions per game. Their composure will be tested, AS Monaco are the leading team in steals per game with 10.7 in that stats column.
When and where: Friday, May 4, 17:30 CET (18:30 local), OAKA Olympic Indoor Hall, Athens.