Tactics Breakdown - BAXI Manresa v Lenovo Tenerife
BILBAO (Spain) - What a Game. It's not often that a game sets records for scoring by both teams but you find yourself admiring defensive effort whilst you watch the game. But that's exactly what happened. We had the most points in a single quarter in a BCL Final with 52 in the first after it ended 25-27 in favor of Tenerife and also the highest-scoring first half (99 points) of a BCL Final Four game with Manresa up 50-49 at the break.
Both coaches made some adjustments to their starting lineups, with Giorgi Shermadini starting on the bench for Tenerife and Pedro Martinez opting for two point guards to start with Dani Perez and Sylvain Francisco.
Tenerife made their intentions clear from the start as they ran their staggered screens action for Sasu Salin. Watch how Salin runs off the first staggered screen, then sets the ball screen for Marcelinho Huertas and goes full circle back around another down screen. He was involved in four screens in 10 seconds. After a quiet night for all of Tenerife's shooters in the Semi-Final, it was clear Txus Vidorreta knew this was going to be a better game for the likes of Salin, Doornekamp, and Wiltjer. He looked to get them looks early and it paid off as Salin had 10 points in the first quarter.
"They had a very good first, hitting tough shots that were under our game plan," said Marcelinho Huertas. "We knew if they win this way they would have had to play incredible, over the limit". He said.
Well, it really did look like Manresa were prepared to play over the limit. Chima Moneke, in particular, looked very much in MVP mode. The two contested 3-pointers he hit in the tweet below are probably some of the shots that Huertas was talking about. It's not that they wanted him to take threes, it's that it was better for them than the first clip when he's bullying his way to the rim for the and 1.
The same was true for Tenerife on offense as well. They were very much scoring despite Manresa's plan on defense making life difficult for them. This next clip from the second quarter is a great example but there were plenty of other possessions like it.
We see the pressure on the ball full court from Joe Thomasson. Tenerife are looking to run the staggered screens action for Salin that we saw in the first video but watch how Francisco "Top Blocks" Salin and prevents him from using the screens. Then denies him on the other side. For nine out of ten teams, if you completely blow up their offense like this (especially in a Final), the outcome is almost certainly an isolation play from their ball handler. But not with Tenerife and not with Marcelinho Huertas. Instead, Shermadini nails a flare screen for Doornekamp and they create a good shot anyway.
Of course, the big tactical question before the game was how would Manresa defend Huertas in the pick-and-roll. We have seen him turn the corner and cook teams all season and early on Manresa clearly wanted to try and prevent him from getting downhill without significant resistance. But against the MVP of the Finals, that's easier said than done.
In the clip below we see Bako hedge uber-aggressively on the first ball screen. Then on the second, Francisco forces him away from the screen, and Bako hedges again. Huertas was still able to get around the hedge and as soon as you see him jump off one leg in a shooting motion, you know what's coming next.
The third quarter was the one where Tenerife won the game, outscoring Manresa 33-17. In the post-game press conference, Txus Vidorreta was asked about the defensive adjustments they made to slow down Manresa.
"We defended different only on the point guard, Dani Perez," he said. "We decided to avoid the under and deny left every time, and they had more problems finding advantages."
The two clips below illustrate the adjustment perfectly. Clip one is from the first quarter and we can clearly see Hurtas go under the screen. Perez was far from afraid of the moment as he took the shot and nailed it. He had 10 points at the half which is even more impactful when you consider that he had scored in double digits in only two of his previous 27 games in the BCL. The second clip is after the halftime adjustment and we can clearly see Huertas deny the left hand and force him right. Perez was still able to work himself a shot but really what he wants to do in the pick-and-roll is create for others.
The other notable tactical adjustment in the third quarter was Pedro Martinez opting to use a 3-2 in an attempt to break Tenerife's rhythm. "The problem was in the first half we didn't find a way to create doubt in the offense of Tenerife. We tried to be aggressive in the pick-and-roll but they found ways to score close to the basket." Pedro Martinez explained. "In the second half we tried to be more conservative and they made threes, so we put the zone because it is something we have practiced but they moved the ball in the right way and made shots," he continued.
Initially, the zone did look to be disruptive for Tenerife and also allowed Manresa to get out and run, something they would have surely wanted to do much more of. But when you can sub in Sasu Salin, the best shooter we have seen in the BCL, a zone is always going to be a gamble. The shot he hit in the second clip below was also Huertas' tenth assist.
And ultimately that third quarter was enough to win the game for Tenerife. Martinez did gain some traction with a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter but, in truth, Tenerife and Huertas were in full control the entire second half.
The only thing left to see from the game was the clip below. Txus Vidorretta using "Bilbao Action" to get his best shooter going in the Final, in Bilbao. To clarify, the action is the split screens away from the ball after entering the post. A fitting way to end a tactics breakdown of a game won by one of the world's best tactical coaches, who also happens to hail from Bilbao.
Txus Vidorreta, from Bilbao, running Bilbao Action in Bilbao for Sasu Salin!!🏀❗️🪄 pic.twitter.com/VNARDQybMJ— Diccon Lloyd-Smeath (@DLScoaching) May 8, 2022