Play-Offs preview: Group L
MIES (Switzerland) - Group L resembles a lions' den, even before you consider the fact it includes two clubs with a depiction of a lion in their logo and a third club representing a region famous for the lions in its coat of arms.
The fourth group of the 2020-21 Play-Offs is poised to be the most competitive and possibly the most attractive to neutral fans. It's the only group that comprises of four teams that have been to the Quarter-Finals before and make no bones about their ambition to repeat that trip this year.
Brose Bamberg, the only team still undefeated in the BCL this season, made the Quarter-Finals in 2018-19; Dinamo Sassari had made the trip in the inaugural edition of the competition in 2016-17; both Casademont Zaragoza and ERA Nymburk were in the Athens Final 8 of 2020.
Perhaps more important though than the 'been there, done that and feel like giving it another try' factor are the performances these teams put up in the Regular Season. These six contenders had a combined five losses between them (fewer than any other Play-Offs group) led of course by Bamberg's flawless 6-0 record.
Last but not least, it just so happens that the league's two best defensive teams this season, Bamberg and Nymburk, have both landed in Group L. There is nothing quite like some bone-crashing defense to evoke images of a lions' den.
- Bamberg run a truly pluralistic offense that relies on the system rather than on star power. In the absence of Tyler Larson, who is unlikely to return from injury in time for the Play-Offs, David Kravish and Devon Hall are probably going to share a somewhat heavier load than most other players. Kravish is averaging 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while Hall only played about 20 minutes per contest and averaged 7.8 points per game, but he leads the team in scoring in the German BBL.
- Dylan Ennis left Zaragoza a couple of years ago but he came back triumphantly last season and has by now evolved into their unofficial franchise player thanks not only to his inspiring performances but also his involvement with the club off the court. The American combo guard is averaging 16.5 points, 4.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.
- Some say that big men who are not particularly athletic, no matter how crafty, have gone out of fashion in modern basketball. Luckily for Sassari, Miro Bilan didn't get the memo. The Croatian big man is averaging 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and his partnership with Marco Spissu, who is having a career year at point guard, forms an axis of success for Sassari.
- Nymburk made several changes to their roster this season but the steady value by the name of Vojtech Hruban remains the heart and soul of the team. The all-time leading scorer in BCL history is averaging 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game in perhaps the most efficient fashion ever.
The key numbers
- Bamberg's and Nymburk's defenses were so good in the Regular Season that even Zaragoza's solid defensive showing pales by comparison. Bamberg had a league-best defensive efficiency of 98.8 points per 100 possessions and Nymburk were not far behind, allowing 100.9 points per possessions. Zaragoza's defensive rating was 107.6 and Sassari's far more permissive, at 115.2 points.
- Bamberg allowed opponents to shoot a paltry 26.8 percent from behind the three-point arc, an excessively low percentage in modern basketball which is predicated on long-range shooting. Nymburk are the second-best in the league in this respect, holding opponents to just 32.7 percent three-point shooting. The Czech team are also the second-best (behind VEF Riga) in the league in opponents' two-point shooting percentage, holding teams to just 46.5 percent from within the arc.
- Three of the teams in Group L are among the league's top-six in scoring. Nymburk average 91 points per game, Zaragoza 87.8 and Sassari 87.3 points per contest.
- Zaragoza are leading the league in two-point field goal percentage, with 62.4 percent and Bamberg are second, shooting 61.8 percent from two-point range. Nymburk lead the league in rebounding, averaging 44.7 boards per game.
How they got here
Brose Bamberg were the only team to conclude the Regular Season undefeated and they won Group F on a 6-0 record. The only time they came close to tasting defeat was the home game against Pinar Karsiyaka, a very tight affair which the German team ended up winning 83-82.
Casademont Zaragoza claimed top spot in Group D but it was not quite as easy as their 5-1 record suggest, since the Spanish team won three of their games by a win margin narrower than 6 points, and one of them was in overtime. Zaragoza's only loss in the Regular Season came when they fell 94-86 at Falco Szombathely after the Hungarian team outscored them 13-2 in the final stretch.
Dinamo Sassari finished second in Group A on a 4-2 record despite starting off with three wins in as many games. In round four, the Italian team suffered a 93-71 shock defeat to Bakken Bears at home, and then in the next round they fell 115-85 to eventual group winners Lenovo Tenerife.
ERA Nymburk finished second in a three-way tie with Tofas Bursa and JDA Dijon at 4-2 in Group B, with the Turkish team coming out on top. The Czech champions starred in one of the most memorable plot twists in BCL Regular Season history as they suffered a heavy 85-61 loss at JDA Dijon in the opener but a few weeks later they demolished the French team 94-54 at home.