Pinar Karsiyaka v Hereda San Pablo Burgos - a quicker look
NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Russia) - One more game. Just. one. more. game. For the players, coaches, and fans of Pinar Karsiyaka and Hereda San Pablo Burgos, that will be the thought echoing in their heads like the sound of a ball bouncing in an empty gym.
It's hard to quantify what it means to win a competition like the Basketball Champions League at the best of times, but when we consider the extra miles, sacrifice, and measures it takes to complete a season during a pandemic, those feelings are magnified to the power of ten (and not just for the clubs, believe me). The photos below are already the lasting images of this season but we really need to take a minute to consider their context before we head off into the luxuries of enjoying the Final this evening. This is not just any trophy they are fighting for tonight.
Ordinarily, I would write this "closer-look" preview of the game and take a deep dive into the data of the teams and the tactics they have used to get this far. This time I am going to (try) and concentrate the juice down to something that will leave a lasting taste when you watch the game (ok, I'll admit that's an awful metaphor but it's the Sunday of a tournament, what do you expect?)...
You can explore the data story above for yourself but in summary, what you are seeing is an advanced stats comparison of the two teams through the lens of the statistical categories that are statistically significant with winning basketball games. In other words, if either team finishes the game with better numbers in these categories, they will have almost certainly won the game. For those of you not of the persuasion to explore for yourself, allow me to explain what I read from it.
Efficiency Ratings - Advantage Burgos. They have the best Defensive Rating and as a result, they have been +3 points per 100 possessions than their opponents.
Shooting - Tie. The Spaniards have been the more efficient shooting team from all distances on the court but Pinar Karsiaka have done a better job of getting to the Free Throw Line.
Rebounding - Advantage Pinar Karsiyaka. It's an extremely small advantage though. The two clubs have identical Offensive Rebound Percentages but Ufuk Sarica's squad have been +3 percentage points better on the defensive glass.
Assists and Turnovers - Tie. Burgos move the ball so well and create a considerably higher percentage of their made field goals from an assist. On the flipside, Pinar Karsiyaka turn the ball over on a considerably lower percentage of their possessions.
It's probably going to sound like a "Captain Obvious" statement to say that the team that wins the battle on the glass and turns the ball over less will win the game but that is the way it looks. We saw Burgos dominate Strasbourg on the offensive glass in the Semi-Final. We saw Pinar Karsiyaka turn up their defense and force late turnovers against Zaragoza. Both teams have shot makers - especially in the clutch moments and it will feel like the game is decided by the guys that make shots tonight. But, in reality, shooting will only be winning the battle. To win the war they will need to take care of the ball and the glass. In big games like this, it's more often than not the role players and not the stars that make these kinds of "extra" contributions.
If you want to take a slightly deeper dive into the tactics that got both teams to the Final, you can read the breakdowns here, and here. Yes, that is a shameless self-plug because I wrote them but really I have just made this preview a quicker read for you by putting the links instead of ten videos on each team. You see what we do for you guys... To keep it simple, I'll give you one set to watch out for each team and a possible reason (ok, complete guess) why.
Hereda San Pablo Burgos
There has been some excellent coverage of the X'andO's of the game going on with Fastmodel and their coaches that share the game online. The play in the tweet below is great example of what to watch for with Burgos because it involves a staggered screen for Vitor Benite. So much of what they do is based around making the defense choose between covering the perimeter threat of Benite and McFadden running off screens, or managing the interior threat of Rivero and Kravic.
Another tweet and another set or action that could be pivotal. Pinar Karsiyaka have a potential advantage in the positionless nature of their frontline. The fact that they can use Amath M'Baye as a playmaker in the pick-and-roll could be huge. As could the fact that Raymar Morgan might give them a speed advantage in some matchups without losing much on size and strength.
We could spend all day talking about who guards Benite and McFadden or Sek Henry and Raymar Morgan but let's leave that for someone else. Really the most interesting match up in this game is the number three v the number two. Or more specifically, Dejan Kravic competing for his third straight BCL title against his former teammates Tony Taylor and Amath M'baye fighting to catch him up on two. Make no mistake, they have been chirping at each other about this in the lead up to the tournament. No doubt that has only intensified as soon as they found out they are meeting in the Final.
There is history to be made everywhere you look in this Final; Karsiyaka could be the first Turkish club to win the BCL, Burgos could become the first club to win back to back, Thad Mcfadden could overtake the likes of Kevin Punter, Mike Green, and Marius Grigonis and become the first player to win two Finals MVP awards. Add that to what we already spoke about with the context of the season we are playing in and we can see just how much is riding on this. We have yet to see a Final in the BCL with a margin under 4 points, It would take a brave gambler to bet on this one not being our first close one. Everything is set for an absolute ripper. Let's GO!