04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
2 Levi Randolph (JLM)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
to read

Tactics Breakdown: Lenovo Tenerife v Hapoel Jerusalem Semi-Final

MALAGA (Spain) -  The first tactical move of the first Semi-Final was Tenerife head coach Txus Vidorreta moving Giorgi Shermadini out of the starting lineup. Moves like this are designed to bring Shermadini into the game later in the quarter when Jerusalem head coach Aleksandar Dzikic wants to think about resting his starting center Zach Hankins. 

The reaction from Dzikic was to go straight to Hankins in the post on the game's very first play. 

The next thing you always have to look at whenever Tenerife play is how teams defend Huertas in the pick-and-roll, and how Vidorreta finds ways to put him in control of the game.

Watch how the design of this play uses Salin running off a flare screen to move Hankins away from Fran Guerra before setting the ball screen. This allows Guerra to arrive alone when he sets the screen and now Hankins can only drop on the pick-and-roll.

This is always the decision you are forced to make against Tenerife and Huertas. Do you leave him the mid-range shots and prevent him from finding anyone that you help away from, or do you live with his scoring and then at least you hope that the entire Tenerife team doesn't find rhythm?

In truth, neither works 100 percent of the time and Jerusalem used mixed coverages. However, when you see the box score that Huertas and Shermadini scored 20 and 18 points, respectively, then see that nobody else was able to get it going, it tells a story of its own.

One of the players Jerusalem had clearly planned to stop was the sharpshooter Sasu Salin. Anytime there was a sniff of a chance that he might get open, Jerusalem switched late on screens and then forced him to be a playmaker instead of knocking down threes.

Early in the game, Salin showed he was up to the challenge and in fact. it was his playmaking that forced the game's first timeout from Dzikic.

After the timeout, Jerusalem's defense started to show why it have been the best in the league all season. Whenever a team hedges so hard or 'blitzes' the pick-and-roll, it often leaves itself open to a short roll.

Watch how Hankins puts his body in the way to prevent the first pass to the short roll, then #24, Oz Blayzer, helps off the shooter and uses his length to recover and contest. For Tenerife to win the game, they needed to make these shots and in the end, they didn't make enough.

And thus the game was set. Jerusalem's defense determined to muddy the waters and give nobody else anything easy, while Huertas continued to get where he wanted to on the court.

It appeared Tenerife would end the half on top until Khadeen Carrington showed up. Big players have big performances in big games and the way he ended the half was a warning sign for Tenerife. The score at the end of the half resulted in Jerusalem stealing a 30-34 lead.

If the end of the quarter was a warning, it clearly hadn't been heeded. Carrington and Brown looked to take the game away from the champs from the the first inbound of the third quarter.

With the game escaping them, Tenerife needed to make adjustments. Of course, when they need something it's usually Huertas that brings it. Watch how he twists their usual 'Argentina' break to get to the rim and score with the third quarter winding down. Usually, this is a screen down low for Shermadini, it ends up a very deep screen for the Brazilian.

Vidorreta also made an adjustment to trap ball screens for Jerusalem's guards, Carrington especially. Maybe the biggest driver of Tenerife's comeback from 15 down was Elgin Cook.

The American goes unsung in this Tenerife team but when you trap the ball up top, you need someone making plays on the backside, Cook was coming up with steals, blocking shots, and protecting the rim like a seven-footer.

All of a sudden the lead was two with under two minutes to go, then it was four! And then it was Vene. Just when the game was in the champs hands, he ripped it back out.

All that was left was for Khadeen Carrington to seal the deal. After getting trapped the entire fourth quarter, he finally rejected the screen and got all the way to the rim, at exactly the right moment. His coach said in the press conference after the game he would be fined for that. Something tells you that Carrington would gladly pay it.



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.