20 October, 2020
09 May, 2021
Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon v Hereda San Pablo Burgos - a closer look
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Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon v Hereda San Pablo Burgos - a closer look

NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Russia) - Eight teams left.  Eight coaches hatching plots. Eight squads of players, hungry, sharp-eyed, focused. Right now is the still before the storm and everyone waits patiently. Just enough time to take a closer look at the dogs in the fight and how they match up. 

We start with the last of our Quarter-Finals. The upstarts Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon take on the Champs Hereda San Pablo Burgos. Let's take a closer look at their journey's thus far and how they might play.

Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon

The data story above shows you Holon's season so far through the lens of the "Four Factors of Basketball Success"; Shooting, Turnovers, Rebounding, and Free Throws. We have also included tabs for efficiency ratings and possessions. Before we discuss the data let's quickly review where Holon ranks for each factor and efficiency ratings amongst the teams at the Final 8.

Effective Field Goal Shooting: 54% (Fourth)

Turnover Percentage: 16.2% (Seventh)

Offensive Rebound Percentage: 20.6% (Eighth)

Free Throw Ratio: 28% (First)

Offensive Rating: 113.1 points per 100 possessions (Seventh)

Defensive Rating: 111.6 points per 100 possessions (Eighth)

Looking back to the data story and the first tab facing you is Pace. anything you see in yellow is above Holon's season average for possessions per game and anything you see in purple is below. You also have a moving average line to give you an idea of season trends. Instantly, jumping right out in front of us we can clearly see that from the first game of the Play-Offs, Holon's pace increased. The win over Brindisi was easily their highest pace game of the season with 80 possessions. If we filter for wins and losses or home and road, we can also see that across the season so far, Stefanos Dedas's squad played at a higher pace at home than they did on the road. Of their six road games,  five were at or below their season average for possessions. The only outlier being the win over Brindisi on the penultimate game of the Round of 16. 

Looking at the ratings tab on the story, there is no clear pattern as the season has progressed.  The first game of the season on the road at AEK is a clear outlier with both Offensive and Defensive Ratings way above average. But still,  nothing really indicates a trend over the season. However, if we then filter for wins and losses, what we can see is that Offensive Rating seems to be more consistent with winning than Defensive Rating. In four of Holon's seven wins, they scored at a rate above 110 points per 100 possessions. All of their wins were at a rate above 106 per 100. Other than the first and last game of the season, Holon's Defensive Rating was consistently within the same channel for wins or losses.

Holon's overall statistical strength is shooting. They rank first for the ratio of how often they get to the line at 28 percent, and fourth amongst Final 8 teams for Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) at 54 percent. This has a lot to do with the type of shots, or shot profile that Holon uses because eFG% is a metric for evaluating shooting that considers the extra point value of a 3-point shot. 51 percent of all their field goal attempts are from behind the 3-point line, this is considerably more than any other Final 8 team.

If we look at Holon's shot map above, we can see Holon’s most efficient scoring areas are directly under the basket where they shoot 63.2 percent, from the right corner where they make 50 percent, and in the total painted area where they shoot 55 percent. Their most used scoring areas are in the paint, where 23.9 percent of all their shots are attempted, and the corners where they attempt 15.9 percent and 15.1 percent of their shots respectively. Their best area for a combination of volume and efficiency is the right corner 3-ball which generates 1.5 points per shot for Stefanos Dedas’ Holon team. 

How they play

The play in the video below is almost the perfect example of what Holon basketball looks like under coach Dedas; five-out spacing to start the play, Miles (#32) sprinted to set the "Angle" ball-screen then popped. Bourdillon (#8) cut to prevent his defender from helping on the pop and then the ball reversed to McGee (#25) who had a shot or drive decision to make. In this case, the defense was good and he needed boomerang the ball to create a second drive and kick opportunity. The advantage was created by the second drive and although the defensive rotations from Tofas were good, the ball movement was better and they found an open Bourdillon in the corner for their favorite shot. This is such a simple set up but so well executed it's almost impossible to stop. 

The reason or essence behind the play above being unstoppable is the quality of shot-making that Holon's guards possess, particularly off the dribble. A simple ball-screen - either the Angle variation as you see above or a "Drag" as you see in the video below - is always enough to force two defenders on the ball. Even then, if the defense makes the slightest mistake in the timing of their coverage, the likes of C.J Harris and Tyrus McGee are going to punish them. There really isn't a team in Europe as willing as Holon to pull the trigger on a 3-pointer off the dribble so early and so often in the shot clock. 

Another benefit to the way Holon play with five-out spacing and shooters pulling defenders out of the paint is all the empty areas around the rim for backdoor cuts. You would be hard-pressed to find a better team in the BCL this season when it comes to scoring from backdoor cuts.

If the essence of the way Holon play is rooted in the shooting ability of their guards, then the next most indispensable element of their offense is their shooters. Veteran Guy Pnini is undoubtedly a huge part of the system, especially in the clutch, but Isaiah Miles shooting 52 percent from deep as a stretch-four (sometimes even stretch-five) in their small-ball lineups, is what really makes this team such a tough cover for teams with traditional big men. The ability to run a Power Forward off staggered pin downs is a weapon that coach Dedas has used to lethal effect all season.


Hereda San Pablo Burgos

As we did with Holon, before we jump into Burgos' data story for the season, let summarize where they stand overall. 

Effective Field Goal Shooting: 56% (Third)

Turnover Percentage: 15.4% (Fifth)

Offensive Rebound Percentage: 24.9% (Third)

Free Throw Ratio: 18.6% (Seventh)

Offensive Rating: 115.2 points per 100 possessions (Fifth)

Defensive Rating: 103.9 points per 100 possessions (Fourth)

Looking at the data story and the season rankings amongst Final 8 teams, the standout stat for Burgos is clearly Defensive Rating. Penarroya has steered the team to the best rating at Final 8 and the second-best in the league overall. This is largely driven by the fact that they have also kept opponents to a league-lowest 41.4 percent shooting from the field. If we slide over to the "Ratings" on the data story we can see that Burgos also had the best single-game Defensive Rating of the season in their road win at VEF Riga. They held the Latvians to just 68.7 points per 100 possessions.

Another point to notice for Burgos is how strong they have been offensively and defensively at home in the Coliseum. Four of their six home games have seen them record an Offensive Rating above 122.2, which is the season average for Tenerife and also an all-time BCL record. Defensively, five of their six games have seen them record a rating below 103.1 which is the season average for JDA Dijon and the best ranking in the league this season. The outlier on both the offensive and defensive end was again the home win against VEF Riga, where they recorded their second-lowest offensive efficiency of the season but still come away with the win thanks to their performance on the defensive end.

When it comes to shooting, Burgos are at their most efficient directly under the basket. They score on a league-best 79.6 percent of their shots at the rim, which is good for 1.6 points per shot. This sets them up perfectly to play the inside-out game, with their next two most efficient scoring zones; the right corner, where they shoot 41.7 percent, and the top of the key where they shoot 40.2 percent. By far the area where they attempt their highest ratio of shots is in the paint. They get their feet wet on 28 percent of all their shot attempts. In fact, if you combine the percentage of shots that Burgos attempt at the rim (15.9 percent), in the rest of the paint (28 percent), from left wing (16.2 percent), and right wing (14.9 percent) you account for over 75 percent of all the shots they attempt from just those four areas of the floor. 

How they play

Before we look at what to expect from Burgos on the offensive end, we should cover one further statistic on the defensive end which is Steal Percentage.  If we look a little closer, there have clearly been tweaks to the way Burgos are approaching the game as opposed to last season. They lead all teams at the Final 8, picking pockets and jumping passing lanes on 12.4 percent of their opponents’ possessions. Last season that number was just 9.6 percent.

Xavi Rabadseda is the perfect player to showcase when it comes to stealing the ball. he leads Burgos with 1.9 steals per game and ranks third overall in the BCL for individual Steal Percentage at 5 percent. In the video below you can see the versatility he has on the defensive end. Whether it's jumping passing lanes or taking the ball in one v one situations, Rabaseda is excellent at finding opportunities to steal the ball.

On the offensive end, everything is about balance for Joan Penarroya. If the essence of Holon's game comes from their guards creating advantages from the threat of shooting off the dribble, the same is true for Burgos' inside out game. They create more of their shots from an assist than any other team travelling to Russia with an Assist Percentage of 71.9 percent. Dejan Kravic is second in the league for Assist Percentage amongst Centers at 19 percent. If the defense collapses to stop him finishing at the rim, he makes that kick out pass from the short-roll as well as any player in the BCL, (possibly even Europe). Their Point Guards, Alex Renfroe and Omar Cook are as good as it gets when it comes to finding him or Jordan Sakho on the roll, or reading early help and hitting the open shooter. They rank first and third respectively for individual Assist Percentage at 49 percent and 43 percent. And that is amongst all players, not just Point Guards. 

Almost certainly the most common action you will see from Burgos is a side pick-and-roll out of their "Horns" set. In the video below, it's Renfro finding Kravic on the short-roll at the Free Throw line. Igokea left him one v one so he made the floater in the paint.

In this next clip, you see Jordan Sakho in the same role, this time the defense collapses and he finds Rabaseda cutting from the perimeter. Burgos' chemistry in these situations is so good and only gotten better after a season with confidence of playing together as Champions.

The other medium Burgos use to build their inside out game is, of course, in the low post. The set below is another option out of their Horns alignment. This time they use an early "Spain" pick-and-roll where the ball side guard sets a back screen for the roller. In the clip below they establish Rivero as the low post pivot, then run Vitor Benite off a side to side screening action that looks like a windscreen wiper. 

The play in the video below is the same action to start but the defense was good enough to prevent the ball from entering the low block. Burgos just flow into the core of their offense with McFadden finding Kravic on the short-roll. What you also see in this clip is the growth of Jasiel Rivero as he first spaces to the corner and then times the cut perfectly, The fact that Penarroya can rely on him for offensive production inside and outside the 3-point line is what has made the Cuban such a key cog in the Burgos machine.


The Match-Up

Both sides come into the Final 8 on the back of some confidence-building results away from the BCL. Holon have just claimed the Balkan League title, their first European trophy.


Burgos just celebrated clinching a place in the ACB Play-Offs again with a fourth quarter demolition of Betis. There is no hand hotter than Vitor Benite's right hand as we head into Final 8  right now. Burgos' brilliant Brazillian was shooting it like he was throwing stones in the ocean against Betis.


For Holon, it could be about finding ways to keep their turnovers down and limit the opportunities for the likes of Rabaseda and Cook to generate steals and easy looks in transitions. Then finding a way to match up with the size of Kravic and Sakho without leaving too much space on the perimeter for McFadden and Benite. Even then if they are able to take this team out of their rhythm they will still need to find the right defensive match up for Final 8 MVP McFadden in one v one situations. Veteran Chris Johnson could be a huge player for Holon in these situations. Johnson is undoubtedly one of the league's best defenders in any situation. If he is tasked with slowing McFadden, he will need to be. It's also worth remembering that AEK tried going under the ball screen against Renfroe and Cook in last year's Final in an attempt to prevent them creating advantages and cut the head of the snake. It failed and although both are pass first Point Guards, in knockout situations, Holon need to account for both.

For Burgos, it's may come down to the unenviable task of slowing C.J. Harris and Tyrus McGee off the dribble. The likes of Kravic and Sakho will have to be inch-perfect in whatever coverage coach Penarroya selects. Their work won't end there either as Isaiah Miles and Max De Zeeuw present very real matchup challenges with their ability to play inside and out. Jasiel Rivero and Maksime Salash could be the keys for Penarroya. He will need to get his rotations right when it comes to finding a balance between size and rim protection with exterior mobility. Then after all that is taken care of, there is still the small matter of Guy Pnini. The veteran Israeli may not be the fastest player on the court but he's always one of the craftiest and in clutch situations, you absolutely have to know he is one of the most competitive. 

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.