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MIES (Switzerland) - If basketball is our religion, then the play-offs are surely our holy days. The fans, the atmosphere, the expectation, there really is nothing like it. Game 1 of the Quarter-Finals  in the Basketball Champions League didn't disappoint on any of those points.

The fans were incredible in every venue and the extra tension produced high-quality basketball in every game. The rowdy crowds led to home advantage counting in every tie, bar Telekom Baskets Bonn v SIG Strasbourg.

Let's have a look at the best set plays from across the first round of games in the Quarter-Finals.

Lenovo Tenerife: Four-Man Game

We start with the champs, Tenerife, and a play we have called "Four-Man Game".  Not only does this name work because it's the four-man (#43, Aaron Doornekamp), setting the decisive screen for Bruno Fitipaldo but also because it's an action on one side of the floor with four players involved.

We are very used to seeing the almost endless combinations of the three-man game on one side of the floor, where the defense has to be aware that any of the threes can score from the action.

Well, Tenerife being Tenerife, decided to make it even more difficult to guard. If you are aware of their "Argentina" break with a ball screen at the top of the key and a cross screen for Shermadini in the paint, the set in the video below has very similar dynamics.

  • Doornekamp sets the ball screen for Huertas.
  • Fitipaldo sets the 'Rip' screen for Shermadini on the same side of the floor.
  • Fitipaldo's defender is forced to stunt in front of Shermadini to prevent an easy post catch.
  • Doornekamp sets the down screen on a scrambling defender for Fitipaldo to shoot.

SIG Strasbourg: Iverson high-low

One of the fun things for hoops nerds to look out for in the play-offs is teams using their opponent's sets against them. In the clip below we see Luca Banchi and SIG Strasbourg using an "Iverson" cut to enter their offense, with the cutter receiving the ball with an empty corner on that side of the floor.

Pretty much every team has some kind of Iverson set, but running it like this with the empty corner is almost exactly the way Bonn have been killing teams all season. Also of note is how Rodions Kurucs is able to cause matchup issues for Bonn when they switch on defense.

  • DeAndre Lansdowne makes the 'Iverson' cut along the FT line. Tim Frazier cuts the baseline to empty the corner on the ball side.
  • Massa sets a 'Wedge' screen for Kurucs to screen on the ball.
  • Bonn switch and Kurucs seals his defender on the high side with an empty paint for the high-low pass. Note how far outside the paint Kurucs is able to seal his man off.

Telekom Baskets Bonn: ghost veer

Bonn and Tuomas Iisalo will be disappointed with the result and at times the performance against Strasbourg In one timeout in particular, Iisalo could be heard telling his players "There is lag on every action". Bonn were slightly off with their timing on both ends and those fine margins can cost you at this level. The timing was almost perfect in the play in the clip below, however.

The countless hours of scouting and preparation by this point in the season mean that these teams already know what to expect from each other. For Bonn to use an action they have used all season, from a dead ball situation, against a set defense, and still get exactly what they wanted? That execution needed to have zero lag whatsoever.

  • Shorts inbounds the ball to the eventual shooter, Malcolm.
  • Kratzer sets the "Ghost" screen for Shorts meaning his defender stays to hedge on Shorts and is late to cover the "Veer" screen for Malcolm.
  • Bonn have a "double-gap" spacing to the corner. If the defense is too aggressive to contest the shot, Kratzer is open on the short roll.

Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem: ATO BOB screen your own

Last but by no means least we have a set from the loudest arena on Gameday one. Speedy Smith said after the game he felt a lack of respect towards his teammate Or Cornelius and, if it's love Jerusalem players want, it's love they are getting for the play design and execution in the video below. 

With under five minutes to go and AEK fighting back, coach Dzikic drew up this play from a timeout and got a wide-open look, directly under the rim. The momentum teams gain from getting these plays right in clutch moments can have a huge impact on the outcome of a game.

What makes this set even more intriguing is that it's the kind of action that we would ordinarily see run for the offense to screen their own defender against a switching defense - only this time against a defense that doesn't want to switch.

  • Or Cornelius creates the misdirection using a staggered screen as if to catch and shoot. Watch the inbounder's defender shift and focus on that side of the floor.
  • As the defense is distracted, Levi Randolph sets a backscreen for Oz Blayzer in the paint.
  • Jerusalem know the defense doesn't want to switch and leave Randolph's defender mismatched under the rim, so Blayzer instantly re-screens for Randolph, leaving him wide-open under the basket. 

There you go, the Quarter-Finals are only one game old and we have already seen some fascinating X's and O's narratives starting to unfold. No doubt we also missed some but keep an eye out for the way Manresa adjust to Tenerife's four-man game, Bonn figure out Strasbourg running their own sets, and AEK trying to find a way to stop Jerusalem in the clutch. We already know that Bonn are going to keep doing what they do and getting what they want, that series already has the hallmarks of a BCL classic. If only we had seven games...

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.