17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
9 Marcelinho Huertas (LNTF)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Tactics Board: A Marcelinho Masterpiece

MIES (Switzerland) - In the wake of a game in which Kyle Guy introduced himself to the Basketball Champions League with 25 points in 28 minutes and Giorgi Shermadini passed 1,000 BCL career points as he won the battle of the bigs against the new kid on the block Vernon Carey Jr, it might seem strange for Tactics Board to be turning the spotlight on Marcelinho Huertas.

Nonetheless, such was the mastery on display from Huertas that we were left with the overriding feeling we couldn't - and shouldn't - take a performance like this for granted.

Huertas finished with 17 points and 15 assists, posting the 10th double-double in points and assists in his BCL career. The only other player to have posted more than 10 such double-doubles? Joe Ragland, with 12.


It was also Huertas's second BCL game with 15+ assists, as only the second player in eight seasons of the BCL to record 15+ points and 15+ assists.

You don't need the memory of an elephant to find the first one: Joe Ragland - yes, him again - had 25 points and 15 assists against Rytas Vilnius this season. Where this Marcelinho Masterpiece does have the edge is that Ragland also recorded 2 turnovers in that game, whereas Huertas only lost possession once on Tuesday night. 

We dive into the film with Tenerife's first score of the game. What we see is Touch action with Huertas throwing the ball ahead to #21 Abromaitis and instantly running to get the ball back. The idea is to move the defense before getting into a scoring action. 

We see Karsiyaka hard hedge the first ball screen with Carey Jr. getting his huge frame in the way, and Huertas picks up his dribble.

No problem for Tenerife, as Ilimane Diop makes himself available and Huertas shapes to use another Touch action, then fakes his defender to get open for the pass back.

Just this was enough to get Karsiyaka scrambling and Huertas pump fakes Carey Jr. and had his pick of options to find with the defense scrambling. There is nobody better at making the right decision in these situations and Huertas picks out Diop under the rim. 

There was a symmetry to this Huertas performance, almost as if he was writing his own subplot to the game, and we see that in the next three clips from overtime.

With the game on the line, Huertas went back to the same touch action and ball screen, only this time with Shermadini. 

Pinar Karsiayaka had mixed their coverages all game, including zone and matchup zone schemes to try and break Huertas's rhythm from picking them apart.

By the time the game had reached OT, Karsiyaka had decided that a zone was the best way to stop the Brazilian. It made no difference though. Three consecutive possessions with exactly the same play, three layups at the rim from Huertas assists.

This trend of Huertas refusing to allow any defensive scheme fro Karsiyaka to stop him getting what he wanted was present all game.

In this next clip, we flashback to the first quarter and Tenerife using a Drag screen in transition. Karsiyaka cover the first screen 2v2 with Carey and then Hilliard fighting back to get in front of Huertas.

In a different mood, Huertas might had moved the ball on and Tenerife would flow into the next options as only they can.

But not this time. Instead, Huertas stays put, makes eye contact with Dip for the re-screen and goes to work again. The outcome? two more points for Tenerife.

Similarly, in the next clip, we see Karsiyaka hedge and recover to manage the Huertas pick-and-roll 2v2.

And again Huertas throws a pass and go to get it back. This time, as the second ball screen loosens the defense, Huertas gets downhill and spots the weakside defense over-helping on Diop as he rolls to the rim.

Against Huertas in this kind of mood, one step too far is all it takes.

We close out the film session with a play that has become a trademark for Tenerife since coach Txus Vidorreta combined the forces of Huertas and Shermadini.

Often named the Argentina break after the Flex offense that the Argentinian national team became known for, the play starts in transition with a drag screen for Huertas up top and an off-ball screen for Shermadini down low in the same direction of travel.

Karsiyaka had clearly done their homework on the call for this play and were already well set to defend it - focus on #3 Errick McCollum pointing the direction that Shermadini was going and the position of Carey Jr. as he was getting ready to slide over the screen.

Huertas and Tenerife however instinctively have the perfect counter to the defense lined up. Huertas rejects the ball screen and turns back to find his big man early. Also, watch the adaptation from Fitipaldo to screen up on Shermadini's man. 

The masterpiece rivalry

This performance from Huertas to win on the road in Izmir was simultaneously one of the best we have seen in the BCL to date, and yet thanks to the aforementioned Ragland outing on the road in Vilnius, possibly not even locked in to be the best individual performance in January.

If Huertas was writing his own subplot for this game, we don't have to wait long to watch the Huertas v Ragland subplot also play out in real-time.

Two of the finest point guards to grace the BCL face off next Wednesday in Tenerife, as Peristeri come to town.

The last time these two matched up was in the 2022 Final Four, with Ragland playing for Hapoel Holon at the time.. He had 22 points and 5 assists, whilst Huertas steered Tenerife to victory with 17 points and 9 nine assists.

The upcoming matchup looks set to be box office material once again. 

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.