Iberostar Tenerife vs Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem - a closer look
MIES (Switzerland) - One former champion and Final Four host, against one of the pre-tournament favorites to host the Final Four and become the new champions. Wednesday's Quarter-Final first leg, between Iberostar Tenerife and Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, initiates a bonafide Clash of the Titans.
Both clubs aim to create more iconic moments at this year's Final Four
The road to the Quarter-Finals
Iberostar Tenerife: The 2017 Champs were drawn in Group B with PAOK, Nanterre 92, Umana Reyer Venezia, UNET Holon, Telekom Baskets Bonn, Fribourg and the Czech minnows, Opava. In Coach Txus Vidorreta's first season back on the island since winning the BCL, the Canarians dominated from the starting gun and qualified comfortably as the #1 seed. Their only two losses were by a combined 3 point margin, at home to PAOK and Venezia.
No less than seven players from the 2017 BCL winning squad are still calling the island of Tenerife home. For that reason alone, It should have come as no surprise to see this year's iteration of Iberostar Tenerife gel and start to look like their old selves so quickly. Their Regular Season highlight performance has to be the overtime win in Bonn. After coming back from a ten point deficit, Vidorreta's men scored 51 points from the bench and dealt a morale bruising defeat to their German rivals.
The Round of 16 saw Tenerife face Promitheas Patras. The Greek newcomers were competing in their first season in Europe and continued their pattern of catching teams by surprise. Promitheas looked set to send a shockwave through the competition as they finished the first leg in Patras with a 12 point lead. In three seasons, no team had ever progressed in the Play-Offs after losing the first leg by more than 10 points. From the opening tip of the second leg, it was clear that Promitheas had poked the bear. The way the Canarians executed on both ends of the floor, was like the extra focus of a straight-A student that had just flunked their first test. The longer the second leg progressed, the more the outcome felt inevitable.
Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem: The Brigade of Jerusalem has looked like a Behemoth all season. It could be said that the Israeli's are another survivor of Group C, but in truth, it was the other teams in the group that had to survive them. Coach Kattash and the club put together a roster that boasted four of the most athletic big men in the Basketball Champions League. And those bigs delivered. Jerusalem have been at the top of the rebounding charts all season, and have consistently created bedlam on the offensive glass with their unending hunger for crashing the boards. After beating AEK in Athens on Gameday 1, Jerusalem only lost two games in the Regular Season - a shock loss in Antwerp and another close fought battle with AEK in the Pais Arena. By the time the final buzzer sounded on their 2 point win in Dijon, Jerusalem roared into the Play-Offs with a six-game win streak. The highlight win was probably the 103 - 89 beat down of Brose Bamberg in Israel.
The Round of 16 saw the Lithuanians Neptunas Klaipeda step into the battle arena. Over the course of the two legs, the matchup ended in an oblique 32 point win for Coach Kattash's men. They dominated on both ends of the floor for nearly 80 minutes. TaShawn Thomas made the Team of the Round, averaging 13.5 points and 7 rebounds on 65% from the floor.
The statistical compare and contrast for these two teams make for thought-compelling reading. Tenerife are the most efficient shooting team in the Basketball Champions League and have been all season. In fact, they probably would be if the season went on for 100 games. For that reason, it should come as no surprise to see them dominate the shot chart zones below. They are the best shooting team in eight of eleven areas on the floor and seven of their eight zones are efficient shots in terms of points per shot - that left-wing midrange shot at 35%, isn't an area that Txus Vidorreta and his coaching staff should be designing plays to target. For Jerusalem, two of the three zones on the floor where they outshoot Tenerife are efficient shots - 29% from the top of the key is a bad area for both teams. The context to consider is the relative strength of opponents in each team's respective groups. No doubt Tenerife will shoot the ball well against any defense (just ask Baskonia, Barcelona, Gran Canaria, and Malaga). The question is would they have shot the ball as well in the group that Jerusalem came through?
Iberostar Tenerife: 81.3 points,11.4 turnovers, 48.7 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 75.9 FT%
Hapoel Jerusalem: 89.7 points, 12.2 turnovers, 48.3 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 77.5 FT%.
Iberostar Tenerife: 119,6 ORtg, 98.5 DRtg, 57 eFG%, 15.2 TOV%, 57.1 Reb%, 34.3 OReb%, 71.4 AST%.
Hapoel Jerusalem: 119.3 ORtg, 102.3 DRtg, 56 eFG%, 14.3 TOV%, 55.2 Reb%, 34.4 OReb%, 66.5 AST%.
Narratives are a human condition, almost a human need. They are also capable of causing mass cases of blurred vision. These basic statistical profiles already challenge some established narratives for both teams. The rub on Tenerife is that they are a 3-point gunning, offensive juggernaut. The numbers here, however, show that despite Tenerife outshooting Jerusalem on so many areas of the floor, it is Jerusalem that shoots a higher percentage from behind the arc and their overall FG% is almost identical. Yet somehow, Tenerife still tops the league in shooting efficiency (eFG%).
If you asked ten journalists which of these two teams is the better rebounding squad. Ten answers would come back starting with the letter J. In fact, whilst Coach Kattash's men are happy to send five players to the offensive glass and are still the best offensive rebounding team in the BCL, it's the Canary Islanders that lead the league in overall rebounding percentage.
Amar'e Stoudemire has pulled down a rebound every 3 minutes
No matter which way you analyze it, rebounding and shooting look set to be the two key performance indicators in deciding this tie. Jerusalem allows the most 3-point attempts of any team left in the Play-Offs, but they also limit teams to the lowest percentage. In essence, the team that limits teams to taking the lowest percentage shots from outside the arc is matched up with Tenerife, the team that has the most efficient shot selection in the league. The BCL's best offensive rebounding team in Jerusalem is facing the best defensive rebounding team in Tenerife.
Iberostar Tenerife: Txus Vidorreta has always eschewed the benefits of rotating deep into his bench and he has always had teams at the top of the table for bench points as a result. The chart below shows that nothing has changed in that department. You can clearly see a consistent group of four starters and five players that rotate in at the end of the first and third. The reason you don't see five starters is down to Thad McFadden leaving the club. Abromaitis and Beiran are the only players that stay on court north of 20 minutes. The other interesting thing to notice is how fluid the fourth quarter is. It appears that Txus Vidorreta follows a uniform pattern for the first three quarters and then allows himself the freedom to choose the best group to close out the game. Ferran Bassas and Nicolas Brussino appear to be the most trusted lieutenants down the stretch. Also worth noting is that Davin White rejoined the club late in the season so his minutes don't appear as clearly. The American has joined that second unit and gives Tenerife a clear rotation of twelve players, all playing more than 10 minutes.
Key Players: Tim Abromaitis, Colton Iverson and Sebastian Saiz lead the team in scoring. Iverson and Saiz both average 10 points or more in just 17 and 16 minutes respectively. Tenerife clearly follows a strict recruiting policy that affords them the roster depth and flexibility to be unpredictable. At any time, one of their squadron of wing players can heat up and take the game away from an opponent.
If there is an alpha dog in this pack, it is most likely Tim Abromaitis. At 2m (6'8") Abromaitis can perform multiple roles. He's able to guard the perimeter and also opposition Power Forwards. On the offensive end, his versatility really comes into play. Abromaitis can get out in transition and throw down dunks, but as you see in the clips below, he can play the creator in the pick-and-roll and his movement off the ball is more like a shooting guard. Corner 3-pointers are a huge component of Tenerife's offense and his ability to shoot over smaller players or put it on the floor and attack closeouts are vital to the way the team plays. Abromaitis may not be a headline-grabbing player, but none-the-less, he remains one of the toughest covers in the BCL.
Hapoel Jerusalem: Coach Kattash runs a much tighter rotation. Whereas Tenerife is happy to rotate in twelve players, the lions share of the minutes are taken by eight players in Jerusalem. Their chart below looks more like a Play-Offs rotation than one that has been used all season. James Feldeine and Da'Sean Butler both start and also have their minutes spread across the first three quarters. The fourth quarter shows only Feldeine as the ever-present. After that, it seems that other than Chris Johnson and Lior Eliyahu, everybody stands an even chance of being on the court in the fourth. It is worth considering that nine of Jerusalem's sixteen games have seen the Israeli's up big in the last stanza. The blurred rotation in the fourth may well be down to players resting during junk-time.
Key Players: James Feldeine, Tashawn Thomas and Amar'e Stoudemire lead the team in scoring. Stoudemire's 12.4 points in 18 minutes off the bench is an especially crucial contribution. Tamir Blatt has grown throughout the season and taken another huge stride in a rapidly developing young career. His 10.9 points and 7.2 assists have seen him become the clear favorite in the race for the Best Young Player award. The young Israeli guard sees passes and angles that other players don't.
Of all Jerusalem's stars, the one that probably needs to shine the brightest for Jerusalem to reach the Final Four is James Feldeine. The Dominican guard has made big shots for the Brigade all season. 38.5% from deep on 6.5 attempts makes him one of the premier shooting threats in the BCL. The Spaniards have the length advantage on the perimeter and he will more than likely spend the full 80 minutes guarded by somebody with a 10cm reach advantage. In his favor is his range and if Feldeine gets hot, you can forget about any length advantage.
Coaching and Tactics
When you watch these two teams play, the first word that comes to mind for both squads is chemistry. The two sets of players look bonded and extremely well versed in what role each player must perform when they are on the floor. This doesn't happen by accident and is a clear sign of good coaching.
For Jerusalem, it manifests most clearly in the partnerships that have formed in the squad. We know that Tamir Blatt and James Feldeine will be important for Jerusalem but more important, is Blatt's instinctive ability to know where Feldeine will be open and find him. Those instincts come from a well-taught system where everyone understands the different reads. In these two clips below, Jerusalem uses their Horns series to exploit JDA Dijon and Nymburk helping off Feldeine. First on the weak side, then the strong side (that lefty pass from Blatt in the first clip shouldn't be underrated as well).
Then there are the lobs. We knew about J'Covan Brown's partnership with Josh Owens from their time at Karsiyaka. The two have picked up where they left off. It didn't take long for Tamir Blatt to build that understanding with Owens either.
Of course, Tenerife also knows a thing or two about spacing the floor up as well as out. Ferran Bassas, in particular, is expert at playing cat and mouse around a ball screen, then as soon as he has created an advantage and drawn the rollers defender, the ball is already in the air for Niang or Saiz.
Txus Vidorreta has also shown us his acumen as one of the BCL's best play-callers out of timeouts. The set in the video below against Nanterre is from the first half of the season. Vidorreta was deceptive as he used the target shooter (McFadden), as the original screener, then Gillet faked to the ball before screening for McFadden shoot.
On the defensive end, the coaching battle will be just as interesting to watch. For Jerusalem, it's about finding ways to keep Tenerife's shooters off the 3-point line but also balance that with keeping their shot blockers in the paint and stopping Tenerife from taking their most efficient shots in the paint. For Tenerife, it will be about the way they change defenses and use traps and scramble rotations to keep Jerusalem and Tamir Blatt from finding a rhythm.
This is a Quarter-Finals matchup that has the potential to be a classic. Two of the best teams we have seen in the Basketball Champions League to date. Jerusalem comes armed with a wizard young playmaker, a perimeter sniper and an army of mobile, athletic big men. Tenerife come with championship pedigree, perimeter depth, and an interchangeable roster that can disrupt on both ends of the floor.
The two team's recent form would suggest that Jerusalem come into the first leg as slight favorites. The quality and experience that this Tenerife team possess make that edge negligible. The two clubs' stats suggest that this tie will be won at the 3-point line and on the glass. The only downer is that we are seeing these two teams face off in the Quarter-Finals. It's a shame that one of these teams has to go out before the Final Four.