17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
1 Joe Ragland (PERI)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Tactics Board: Have Bonn solved the Ragland riddle?

MIES (Switzerland) - On Wednesday, Telekom Baskets Bonn hosted Peristeri bwin, possibly the hottest team in the Basketball Champions League, for Game 1 of the Quarter-Finals series between the two clubs.

Coming into the game, Peristeri had reeled off three straight wins. Joe Ragland had won the Player of the Month accolade and head coach Vasilis Spanoulis was the Coach of the Month. The challenge laid on the doorstep of Bonn coach Roel Moors and his team was clear: Find a way to solve the riddle of defending Ragland.

Roel Moors and his staff knew they had a challenge to plan for Ragland

In reality, there is no such thing as stopping a player like Ragland and even if you can do it once or twice, nothing works forever.

That's what makes the great ones great.

However, 9 points, 6 assists, and 4 turnovers for Ragland was way below par and about as close as it gets to solving the riddle.

Mixing It Up

When you want to cause really good players a problem with your defense, you can't just pose them one problem to solve, that's too easy. You have to mix it up and throw different matchups and coverages at them.

Ultimately, you need to decide what you are going to give up, because you can never take away everything against a player who reads the game so well.

Bonn decided that instead of sending two players to the ball in the pick-and-roll and allowing Ragland to pick passes to get his team going, they would try to cover every action 2v2, force Ragland to beat them with scoring, and then make it as difficult as humanly possible.

Below you see two clips of Ragland using the pick-and-roll to try and create advantages.

Bonn's coverage is somewhere between a flat hedge and a high drop, meaning that the screener's defender isn't high up in Ragland's grill. He's a step back, just occupying the lane until Ragland's defender can recover back in front.

This offered Ragland an opportunity to attack the big and get into the lane before his defender could recover. The read was for Ragland to be the scorer.

To make life extra difficult for him, Bonn were then sending the next defender, one pass away to stunt and help on the free throw line.

In the first clip, Kirkland got the steal and run out. In the second clip we saw Ragland looking for a kick-out pass to a shooter but nobody is open because the pick-and-roll was covered 2v2, meaning nobody on the weak side needed to leave their man to help.

As we said, you can't just present a player like Ragland with just one puzzle to solve. Bonn also employed a mix of matchups defending him on the ball, We saw a mix of Harald Frey or Glynn Watson, but where they really got success was with the length of Brian Fobbs or even Savion Flagg on the ball.

In the clips below we see how Fobbs in particular had the length and footspeed to make life very difficult for Ragland as a scorer. 

The net outcome was that Ragland had a rough night, and that also had a knock-on effect on Peristeri as a whole.

Instead of their average of 39 percent shooting from deep, they shot 36 percent .Instead of their usual 112.5 points per 100 possessions, they were held to 110. 

There were fewer lobs for Thompson and Renfro and kick-out threes for the likes of Nemanja Dangubic were more contested. 

Nothing Always Works 

So, that's it then, Bonn have solved the riddle of Ragland and will win the series easily, right? 

Nope, that's not how it works.

Nothing always works and against good players and good teams, even the best-laid plans won't always work.

Below we see how Ragland and Peristeri still found angles of screens that made it possible to get him downhill and into better scoring angles.

In the first clip,  Peristeri could flip the angle of the screen late and Ragland could set his man up and get downhill 2v1.

The second clip is an angle ball screen with the next defender along in the corner and unable to help or stunt to the level of the free-throw line.

 What can we expect in Game 2?

Well, for sure we will see Bonn using the same coverages and matchups that 'worked' in Game 1, but watch out for the adjustments that Spanoulis and Peristeri come up with to remove that next help defender, one pass away. Also look out for a higher volume of Horns sets and middle pick-and-roll action.

No matter what you do, don't miss Game 2. It should be a fascinating watch.


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.