19 September, 2017
06 May, 2018
6 Paul Lacombe (FRA)
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Tactical Breakdown - Monaco beat MHP at their own game

ATHENS (Basketball Champions League) - Coming into this game, we knew we were about to see a battle between the Basketball Champions League's two most physical teams. We also knew that winning that physical battle, would probably manifest itself by winning the Turnover and Steal count. The other narrative coming in, was the absence of Justin Sears.

The Yale graduate and Great Britain international, put the Giants on his back and carried Ludwigsburg through a turbulent fourth quarter in Bayreuth, to reach the Final Four - but picked up a knee injury, ending his season and leaving Ludwigsburg's front court rotation, without a key piece. Lugdwigsburg put his shirt on a seat, as mark of respect but in truth they needed him in more than spirit.


The final stats won't make happy reading for MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg fans. Monaco shot 51% from the field compared to 41% for Ludwigsburg, with an Effective Field Goal % (eFG%) difference of 58% to 45% respectively. Monaco scored 10 more points in the paint and 11 more points from Turnovers. Monaco forced 16 Turnovers, including 11 steals, whereas Ludwigsburg only forced 9 Turnovers and 7 Steals.

Ludwigsburg finished the game with an Offensive Rating of just 96 points per 100. Monaco on the other hand - 129! It's worth noting that Monaco did take some time to get going. Their first half eFG% was just 42%, in comparison to the ridiculous 78% they recorded for the second half.


The first key decision that stood out when the starting fives were announced, was Aaron Craft starting the game on the bench. This served a double purpose; first it meant that Monaco always had a fresh Point Guard on the court, as DJ Cooper and Craft could rotate in and out. It also meant that Monaco used Gerald Robinson against the Ludwigsburg press. The plan worked. DJ Cooper and Aaron Craft had one Turnover between them and the Ludwigsburg press - that has destroyed so many teams this season - only forced one turnover in the backcourt the entire game. One of the Basketball Champions League's best weapons, effectively neutralized. 

MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg did cause Monaco issues early in the game with their smaller line up. This steal isn't in the backcourt or from a trap but Gladyr was rushed by the pressure that Ludwigsburg put on Monaco early. Watch McCray get close enough to force Gladyr into a sprint dribble, then stay in front and turn him. Then as the pick-and-roll arrives, he forces him to the middle, into traffic.

Key Battles

The absence of Justin Sears, no doubt aided Elmedin Kikanovic but he was outstanding none-the-less. Kikanovic recorded 19 Points and 7 Rebounds, including 4 Offensive Rebounds. If he'd made his Free Throws in the first quarter, his stat-line would have been even more impressive. Ludwigsburg never found an answer to Kikanovic on the glass and in the smaller lineups, the help rotations had no chance of doing much more than fouling. 

Kikanovic was also excellent defensively. Monaco decided to defend any pick-and-roll above the Free Throw line, with aggressive, 'Hard Shows'. In the clip below, Kikanovic shows on the pick-and-roll until Craft can fight over, then makes an excellent recovery to Evans on the pop to contain the drive.

Now contrast that with the way they chose to cover the pick-and-roll vs Banvit in the previous round. The guard is still fighting over but the screeners man is staying much lower to contain.

The extra aggression paid off for Monaco and effectively decided the tie. Monaco are a team that relies on steals to get out in transition and find their rhythm. After a slow start, where Zvezdan Mitrovic described his team as being "scared to make mistakes against maybe the most aggressive team in Europe", it was the physicality in the pick-and-roll, that wore Ludwigsburg down and lead to so many steals.

This clip was the first time Monaco got out on the break. Watch how Georgi Joseph gets his entire body and outstretched arm above the screen, forcing Walkup to change angle and allowing Craft to recover. With no advantage created, Walkup slips and Monaco are in business.

In each of these clips, it's more of the same. Monaco's aggression defending the pick-and-roll, causing Ludwigsburg problems and giving them opportunities for steals and run-outs.

It should also be mentioned that John Patrick spoke about Ludwigsburg's schedule coming into the Final Four. To play the brand of basketball they do and have three games in five days, was undoubtedly an overload. The injury list and shortened rotation also no doubt, played a part in the fatigue that lead to an uncharacteristically high Turnover count.

They can justify some wistful thinking and wonder what might have been if Johannes Thiemann and Justin Sears had stayed healthy. They can also be very proud of an outstanding season. Monaco on the other hand, have no time for pride - they have more business to take care of on Sunday.

Up Next

AEK. The Queen presents a completely different challenge to MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. The men in black and yellow will want to slow the pace and pick apart Monaco's team defense, with individual match-ups. The more 1v1 AEK play, the less likely Monaco are to get steals and run. We may see a completely different pick-and-roll coverage from Monaco as well. The threat of Manny Harris getting downhill on dribble drives and Dusan Sakota's pick-and-pop 3-point shooting, might make it a dangerous policy to be equally aggressive in the final. 


Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.