04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
Ilias Kantzouris (AEK)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Tactics Board: three things to watch in the Game 3 matchups

MIES (Switzerland) - Three Quarter-Final series went to a decisive Game 3, so we have picked out three things from each winning side in Game 2 to watch out for in this week's win-or-go-home clashes.

BAXI Manresa's pressure cooker

Manresa are starting to look like the real Manresa at exactly the right time in the season. Very few outside the Pavello Nou Congost were expecting them to force a Game 3 against Lenovo Tenerife but Devin Robinson and Brancou Badio looked very much like they never had any other outcome in mind.

Manresa have just followed that up with a huge victory over Granada in the Spanish Liga Endesa, where they have recovered after a slow start to the season.

Last season's team had pressure defense as their calling card on the way to the Final Four. They would hound the ball full court, destroy pick-and-rolls, and jump passing lanes (when the defender jumps in the space to steal or stop the pass).

We may not have seen as much of that so far this season but we absolutely saw it against the defending champs in Game 2. They forced 14 Tenerife turnovers in the game, including three turnovers from none other than Marcelinho Huertas in the fourth quarter.

The atmosphere in the Pavello Nou Congost certainly helped, but as we can see in the clip below, those turnovers were far from unforced.

  • Manresa are using a switching, full court, match-up press full from the inbound. Watch Jaumpi Vaulet (#22) switch twice to maintain pressure.
  • Frankie Ferrari (#17) picks up the ball full court, forces the ball handler to change direction at half court, and then turn his back to the game.
  • Babatunda Oluwuyina (#21) uses his foot speed and length to blitz the ball screen with Ferrari (check the wingspan on the freeze frame). 
  • Vaulet pokes away the ball to force the turnover.

This type of defense is as exciting to watch as it is demanding to play but against a team like Tenerife, with ball handlers like Huertas and rollers like Shermadini, if you blitz ball screens like that, you leave yourself open to the short-roll pass. Manresa, however, have an adjustment for that too.

  • Ferrari again hounding full court and forces several changes in direction.
  • Marcis Steinbergs (#12) jumps out to blitz the pick-and-roll.
  • This time Ferrari sits on the roller and prevents an early pass.
  • Guillem Jou (#5) helps from the corner to prevent the pass over the top of Ferrari and then times his return perfectly to cause indecision in the offense.

Manresa will likely not be able to rely on 14 Tenerife turnovers on the road in Game 3 and they certainly can't expect four turnovers from Huertas again. However, if they are going to work the miracle and make it to a second consecutive Final Four, it will more likely be thanks to a return to that full-court, pressure defense that served them so well last season.

Telekom Baskets Bonn don't know what mismatch you're talking about

If you were to pick a series to reach a Game 3 before the Quarter-Finals began, it would surely have been Telekom Baskets Bonn vs SIG Srasbourg. The two teams are so well matched in so many positions and there are fascinating tactical battles to be examined at every spots. Undoubtedly the biggest match-up question for any team playing against Bonn is T.J. Shorts. How do you cover him? And how can you attack him?

As we see in the clips below, Shorts, despite standing at 5'9" (1.75m), is not the mismatch that teams can be seduced into thinking he might be and, even if he were, this Bonn team plays like a collective (Telekom Baskets Borg?) and have ways to turn it into a strength when teams attempt to target their star man.

  • Shorts (#0) is matched up against Rodions Kurucs (#00) in the first quarter. This was a Bonn decision to match up 5'9 Shorts against, 6'9" Kurucs.
  • SIG throws the ball in the post. Shorts plays the high side and forces Kurucs to the baseline.
  • Michael Kessens (#6) is waiting to double on the blind side.
  • Tyson Ward (#3) jumps the passing lane and Bonn turns the steal into three points on the other end.
  • History repeats itself in the second clip as they allow a shot they want instead of SIG getting anything from Kurucs vs Shorts in the post. The outcome was another huge three points for Bonn.

In the timeout immediately after the second clip from that video, we could hear Luca Banchi telling his SIG squad "If you pass out, repost." It will be intriguing to see if SIG continues with this policy and possibly fall into Bonn's trap by targeting Shorts in the post again in Game 3.

It's worth remembering that DeAndre Lansdowne's pivotal, fourth foul was also an offensive foul from targeting Shorts in the post and getting frustrated by being unable to get a good position against him.

For AEK, 4 is the magic number

If you were to look at the box score and indeed, the game highlights of the Game 2 encounter between AEK and Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, Brynton Lemar's 24 points would undoubtedly stand out as a key factor in the Queen's bid to turn the tie on its head and force a Game 3. And he was excellent in that game.

However, the big discrepancy between the two teams came from the three-point line, with AEK shooting 46.4 percent from the great beyond. Isaiah Miles' (#15 in the video) candy stroke was a huge factor in AEK's hot shooting, as was AEK's ability to stretch the floor by spacing their fours so high on the court when Akil Mitchell was rolling to the rim.

  • Miles is playing the power forward role in this AEK lineup and starts positioned on the high side of the weak side corner. 
  • As AEK re-screens the under on the pick-and-roll, Miles is already lifting to the wing, knowing it would be his defender tasked with helping on Mitchell as he rolls to the rim.
  • In the second clip, Miles is again guarded by Jerusalem's first line of help in the pick-and-roll, so this time starts the play in the slot position on the weak side.

It wasn't just Miles taking advantage of open shots by being positioned high on the court. Madsen and Oriola also hit three balls from the top of the key whilst playing the four. AEK are clearly looking to create a north and south pole when it comes to their spacing alignments and it helped them create open looks from deep in Game 2.

For Jerusalem, it will be vital to find a way to adjust to AEK's hot shooting and in particular navigate their spacing and use of Mitchell's gravity rolling to the rim.

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.