08 October, 2019
04 October, 2020
15 Linos Chrysikopoulos (AEK)
17/12/2019
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Game of the Week - AEK vs Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem

MIES (Switzerland) - AEK and Hapoel Jerusalem, two of the Basketball Champions League's biggest clubs and this season, two of the BCL's best teams (they were last year as well). For just about anyone watching the BCL, the home and away legs of this matchup were instantly accompanied by a pencil-drawn circle on the calendar. When the first meeting on Gameday 2 served up one of the finest Regular Season games we have seen in the BCL, the return leg in Athens was instantly converted into a thick, red, marker pen around the 18th of December.

AEK vs Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem

There is a healthy rivalry developing between these two teams this season and its the kind you just love to see. Both teams look like Final Four material already and even though the outcome of this game is unlikely to be decisive for either club's hunt to reach the Final Four, it could very well decide who gets the easier route. 

Jerusalem fans brought the noise on Gameday 2

AEK must have left Jerusalem after Gameday 2 wondering how they didn't win. It is very rare that any team manages to outshoot their opponents from inside and outside the arc, have more assists, more rebounds, more steals, and more second-chance points, yet still not come away with the W. Then, when you consider that AEK spent 28 minutes of the game with the lead and were up 10 with 4 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, you realize the degree of smash-and-grab involved in Jerusalem's come back victory.

 

Statistics

In terms of efficiency, this game is #1 vs #2. With an Offensive Rating of 111.7 points scored per 100 possessions and a Defensive Rating of 100.9 points allowed per 100, AEK leads the BCL with a Net Rating of +10.8. Oded Kattash's squad comes in second with an almost identical Net Rating of +10.3. Despite allowing 110.5 points per 100 (which puts Jerusalem amongst the BCL's ten worst defensive squads) the red machine from Israel scores an unbelievable 120. 8 points per 100 possessions. They are not only the best offensive team in the BCL, but they could also be the best offensive team ever. If they maintain this scoring rate, they will overtake that EWE Baskets squad from the 2017/18 that scored at 118 per 100. 

The statistics clearly tell us we should watch two specific areas of the game; transition and the pick-and-roll. Whilst both teams are identical in terms of fastbreak points at 12.4 per game, AEK are the #1 team in the BCL for transition scoring (remember transition scoring includes early offense as well as fastbreak scoring). AEK score a league-leading 1.5 points per possession (PPP) in transition. This is primarily thanks to Howard Sant-Roos also leading the league in transition scoring. Sant-Roos has already scored 37 points this season before the defense sets, and he has scored those 37 at a frightening rate of 2.1 PPP. Those 37 points came from 15 made field goals (FG), with 6 FG's coming from dunks after a steal. Need we say more?

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If Jerusalem does end up finishing the season with the best ever Offensive Rating it will be thanks to the way they ruthlessly execute the pick-and-roll. Oded Kattash's squad were a great pick-and-roll team last year and they have only gotten better. If you include scores directly from the ball handler or assists out of the ball screen, Jerusalem are #1 in the BCL at 1.05 PPP (per Synergy).

This should come as no surprise when you look down the roster and note the caliber of players handling the ball. James Feldeine will pull the trigger with less daylight than a Scandinavian Christmas party, Tamir Blatt won Best Young Player last season, almost exclusively due to his savant understanding of the ball screen, and J'Covan Brown probably isn't referencing "#Murder Season" because of his ability to create in the pick-and-roll, but he could be. By the way, if you weren't sure how locked in Brown is this season, allow him to enlighten you......

 

Key Men

AEK - Marcus Slaughter

Yes, absolutely, Keith Langford is #2 in the MVP Race for good reason. Over 20 points per game with uber-efficient shooting from inside and outside the arc, make Langford the best offensive player in the BCL by a good margin this season. Yes, absolutely, Howard Sant-Roos impacts winning in more ways than possibly any player we have seen in the BCL. Despite those absolute truths, neither of them will have as much impact on AEK winning this game as Marcus Slaughter.

A fully healthy Marcus Slaughter defending the pick-and-roll is AEK's best chance at getting the ball out of the hands of the best ball screen backcourt in the league. Watch the clip below and keep your eye on Marcus Slaughter (highlighted) to understand. You will see a perfectly executed hedge and recover to the post. His footwork and use of his wingspan in this clip are special.


Honestly, I could have found 5 minutes of clips like that from this season alone. Against Jerusalem, Slaughter may need to be inch-perfect every time. Coach Kattash's squad are relentless and will force AEK to defend multiple ball screens on every possession. AEK will need to find ways to stop the likes of Feldeine, Brown, and Blatt scoring or creating for Thomas and Braimoh. One of those ways may not be murder, but it will be called Slaughter.

Hapoel Jerusalem - James Feldeine

The equation is simple, shot for Feldiene = points for Jerusalem. The man from the Dominican Republic is a human 🔥 thrower. On the season, Feldiene is shooting 45% from 3-point land, on 8 attempts. If maintained, this would comfortably be the best 3-point shooting season ever in the BCL. What is it with Jerusalem this season and all-time bests?

Feldeine was 1/4 from behind the arc vs EB Pau Lacq-Orthez and 4/15 overall against San Pablo Burgos. Those are the two games that Hapoel Jerusalem have lost this season. There are no such thing as coincidences... It is very, very difficult to beat AEK in the OAKA. If Jerusalem are going to do it, Feldeine needs to get going.


So, there you have it, Wednesday the 18th December, 20:30 CET, AEK vs Jerusalem, watch it or regret it. Last season we saw teams from the same Regular Season group reach the Final Four, there is a good chance this could be a preview for a Final Four - even a Final - match up this season. This game may not be winner-takes-all yet but it is one that is already rich with fascinating matchups and narratives that could run until the story ends. You don't want to miss this. 

 

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.