Tactics Breakdown - Hereda San Pablo Burgos v SIG Strasbourg
NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Russia) - After producing one of the biggest BCL upsets knocking out Lenovo Tenerife in the Quarter-Final, SIG Strasbourg walked straight into another mission impossible in the second Semi-Final. It was a mountain that proved impossible to climb. We say basketball is a team game but in tournaments like this, it's really more of a squad game. Strasbourg's incredible adventure came to an end as much due to their exertions in the Quarter-Final as it did due to this game. That isn't to say Burgos wouldn't have found a way to win against a fully-rested Strasbourg but more to say that they didn't need to and even more to say that the depth of their squad, combined with Joan Penarroya's excellent rotations were a decisive advantage.
There was, as always, some intriguing moments tactically and some actions to keep an eye out for in the Final and Third-Placed Game.
The obvious place to start was Strasbourg's defense in the first quarter. The French club started like a house on fire and had 5 steals in the first 10 minutes alone. Much like the game against Tenerife, Strasbourg's biggest conundrum was finding a way to manage Burgos size advantage.
In the clip below we can see that they stuck with what worked in the Quarter-Final and sent doubles from the weakside on the baseline side. Notice how Jefferson switched onto Kravic from the down screen for McFadden but instead of fronting or trying to prevent the catch for Kravic, he played the high side, knowing that his help was coming from the baseline side.
It wasn't just in the post that Strasbourg had managed to discombobulate the champs. Their mix of hard hedges and switches was causing confusion and preventing Burgos from finding any rhythm.
The set Burgos are running in the clip below is a regular for them and also one of their most efficient. They start with a staggered screen and then a dribble handoff into a ball-screen.They then have the option to flow into a staggered pin down for a shooter on the other side of the floor. Watch how Strasbourg "Top Block" Benite on the first staggered screen and force the catch further from the basket. Then on the second stagger for McFadden, Udanoh jumps out to hedge and delay the catch until they can recover. Finally, Udanoh switches the middle pick-and-roll and Burgos run out of ideas.
Strasbourg weren't just functioning on a high-level defensively either. The clip below from the start of the second quarter is as good as we have seen all week in terms of half-court execution. The timing of the cut to the low post to receive the pass and then the cut to the basket are a perfect example of what we love about watching FIBA basketball.
The French club's lead got as high as 12 points but they were never quite able to break the game open. Burgos are the champions for a reason and by the midpoint of the second quarter they had started to find ways to control the tempo.
We showed you this exact set from Burgos in the first quarter to highlight how Strasbourg's defense had shut it down. Now let's see it again at the start of Burgos' run back into the game. This time instead of looking to create an advantage from the likes of Benite running off the staggered screen, Omar Cook simplifies things, slows it down and runs a simple, empty-corner pick-and-roll for Rivero. When things aren't flowing, take the single, not the home run.
For Burgos, however, it's almost always their defense that dictates how well they are able to dominate a game and as smart as their playmakers are on the offensive end, what makes them so tough to play against, is that they are equally smart on the other end.
Watch Renfroe in the clip below. First, he recognizes that the action Strasbourg are running and denies Jefferson the ball, then watch his timing to stunt at the ball in the pick-and-roll.
By the mid-point of the third quarter, although the game was still close, the feeling of inevitability was growing. The champs were starting to get what they wanted, when they wanted.
If we go back to the same staggered screen into a pick-and-roll action. that they love to run, we can see that the way they were running it was even more simplified now. They have Cook and Renfroe on the floor together now which means they can run it straight to Renfroe in the pick-and-roll instead of the handoff action. Renfroe finds Kravic inside and that was all she wrote. Also worth noting is that McFadden had found his rhythm shooting the ball by this stage and just leaving him spaced in the corner caused just enough hesitancy in Strasbourg's help-side defense.
And, finally, we go back to the very same set for the "Game-Over" moment. We can see how drained Strasbourg looked on defense, we can also see how Burgos have completely controlled the rhythm and tempo of their execution and picked the French club apart. First McFadden splits the hedge on the pick-and-roll, then the ball swings around, extra pass to extra pass. Efficient and ruthless.
The Champions move onto the Final and in the end, they have done it in relative comfort. Maybe the most ominous thing about the way they have advanced from the Semi-Final is that they have been able to rotate and share minutes across the roster without losing anything in terms of production. Much in the same way that Strasbourg were emotionally drained from their win over Tenerife, Karsiyaka will need to win the rest day in terms of replenishing their energy, physically and mentally. For Penarroya and Burgos it could be more about using the rest day to raise the levels of emotion and starting to get hyped. At least that is what it looks like from the outside. They are, however, the champs and will no doubt do what has always worked for them, it seems like a squad that is equally immune to complacency as they are feeling intimidated by their opponents.