Basket City or Freak City? Bologna take on Bamberg in the first Semi-Final
ANTWERP (Belgium) - The 2019 Basketball Champions League Final Four is set to begin with Segafredo Virtus Bologna and Brose Bamberg in a battle of loaded backcourts and unique coaching talents.
Segafredo Virtus Bologna enjoyed a dominant start to their campaign, finishing as Group D winners with ten wins in the first 14 games. To get to Belgium, they had to go through France twice in the Play-Offs, taking down the French champs Le Mans in the Round of 16 and the hot shooting Nanterre 92 in the Quarter-Finals, after being down by 8 in the first leg.
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Brose Bamberg were third in Group C with a 9-5 record after the Regular Season, and they had arguably the toughest pair of games away from home in the Play-Offs. But they emerged victorious in both ties, against Banvit in the Round of 16 and AEK in the Quarter-Finals.
Key matchup: It is hard to pinpoint a single matchup, with both teams having a wide arsenal of fireworks both on the inside and the outside. But in a tournament like this, you have to get contributions from your star players, making this a battle between Tyrese Rice and Kevin Punter.
Advanced stats will put Rice in the middle of the pack when it comes to points per possession, with a 0.89 mark. But Bamberg's point guard is a definition of a clutch player, winning a number of big games for the German team, including both of the Play-Off ties away from home.
Kevin Punter is leading Bologna in usage percentage, with 25 percent of Virtus possession ending up in his hands when he's on the floor. Like Rice, Punter also has the know-how of winning trophies, having taken AEK to the crown just 12 months ago.
Key stats: It will be about keeping it under control for Bamberg, and making it a bit more chaotic for Bologna. Bologna turn it over just 10.5 percent of the time, making them the best team in the entire competition in that department. In comparison, Bamberg are only 14th in turnover percentage, handing the ball over to their opponents on 15.1 percent of their possessions.
If they strike that rate in Antwerp on Friday, they could be in trouble because Bologna are a Top 5 team in steals percentage, where Bamberg rank in the bottom five. If Bamberg take good care of the ball, they will improve their chances of making the Final on Sunday.
They said: "Our goal was to reach the Final Four, and we had a nice run until the second phase of the group. Then the new coach, coach Djordjevic arrived, and it gave us a big boost to reach the Final Four. I think we are facing probably the most experienced team of the four, but our goal is to try and bring back to Bologna a European title that is missing for ten years." - Pietro Aradori, Segafredo Virtus Bologna team captain
"It was a very tough year for us. In the beginning, we had a lot of ups and downs as a team. We also had a change of the coach, and I think after that the team started to play better, to play together, we tried to do things better offensively and defensively as a unit, and not as individuals. That was the key for us, not only for the German Cup (which Bamberg won this season), but also to arrive to this Final Four. " - Nikos Zisis, Brose Bamberg team captain.
"It's going to be a great honor, first of all, to be a part of this Final Four, for me personally and for who I represent. I think that Segafredo Virtus Bologna is in the right spot right now, we have a chance to fight for a trophy, and that's our goal, that's why we are here. The only way I know how to front this kind of competition is with joy, enthusiasm, smile on your face, peace in your mind, fire in your heart. Nothing else." - Aleksandar Sasha Djordjevic, Segafredo Virtus Bologna head coach.
"Nobody expected me, it was a kind of surprise also for me (when I was named Bamberg head coach), but I believe that my team really worked hard since January. We went through some difficulties, and I believe that winning in Athens and also in Bandirma was a great signal for us. Now we are here, we want to compete." - Federico Perego, Brose Bamberg head coach.
"(Bamberg) are a great team. They are a great club, I believe they deserve a lot of credit for the last I don't know how many years of dominating the German League, winning a lot of titles, and playing the EuroLeague at the highest level with great system, great players, great organization, great coaches, and this is what brings them here. They have a lot of experience on the floor, lot of physicality, their bigs know how to play these games, but I think we have our arms that will be brought to the table once the game starts." - Sasha Djordjevic, Segafredo Virtus Bologna head coach.
"I am happy that we don't have to play one on one. The teams will play." - Federico Perego on the coaching matchup with Sasha Djordjevic.
"Bologna has a lot of talent in all the positions and they are very, very deep. They improved a lot in this period. They are playing better defense, they are more solid, especially in the last games, so we know that we have to be super-focused, and we have to put the best effort to play them." - Federico Perego, Brose Bamberg head coach.
When: Friday, May 3, 18:30 CET.
Where: Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium.