Tactics Board: What do we expect to see in Game 3?
MIES (Switzerland) - What is it that makes the Basketball Champions League unique? Five out of the eight Play-Ins going to a do-or-die Game 3, that's what. Try to predict this league at your peril!
Of those five series, two really stand out when it comes to unpredictability: PAOK Mateco vs Tofas Bursa and Cholet Basket v Banco di Sardegna Sassari. In both matchups, homecourt advantage was lost in Game 1 and then stolen back in Game 2.
How do you predict the impossible to predict? The answer is you don't, but maybe we can dive a little deeper into what might end up deciding who makes it to the Round of 16.
PAOK Mateco v Tofas Bursa analysis
If we look at the advanced stats over the two games these two have played, the advantage sits with the Turkish club. They have a Net Rating of +19 points per 100 possessions during this Play-In so far (obviously meaning PAOK are -19 per 100).
This is mostly thanks to offense, where Tofas have scored at a rate of 113 points per 100 so far, whilst their opponents have struggled at just 94 points per 100.
In the chart below we see Player Impact Estimate (PIE) per player across the two rosters. We can see that Marcus Denmon, Cassius Winston, and Austin Wiley have been the vital cogs in the Tofas machine.
However, on the PAOK roster, we see a much more even spread with the strongest PIE contributions coming from five players: Elvar Fridriksson, Jamuni McNeace, Nikos Tsiakmas, Andrew Harrison and Laurynas Beliauskas.
In fact, this spread is the one area where PAOK have enjoyed the better side of the matchup over the two games. They have scored more than 30 points from their bench in both games and outscored Tofas' bench at home and on the road.
Whilst Game 1 was a blowout win for Tofas in Thessaloniki, Game 3 is much more likely to be tightly contested, and possibly could even go down to the wire like the double overtime we saw in Game 2.
When it comes down to those thin margins, games are often decided by who can create their own shot - and make it.
In Game 2, the ability to use a ball screen and create a shot 1v1 was the tightest battleground, with PAOK creating 20 opportunities and scoring them at a rate of 1.1 points per play, whilst Tofas created 23 opportunities 1v1 from a ball screen and scored them at a rate of 1.13.
Whilst PAOk have enjoyed great contributions from the bench with the likes of Tsiakmas making big shots and also reliable creation from Fridriksson, the man that they will most likely need to step up if they need creation in the clutch is Andrew Harrison.
The American was PAOK's top scorer in Game 1 with 16 points and added 17 more in Game 2.
For Tofas to repeat the feat and win Game 3 on the road, it might have to be Marcus Denmon who steps up again.
They have the firepower throughout their roster with players like Caleb Homesley and Cassius Winston but basketball is all about matchups and the new man Denmon seems to have added something to Tofas that PAOK have struggled to find an answer to.
Denmon has scored 41 points across the two games whilst shooting 43 percent inside and 47 percent from the outside.
Cholet Basket v Banco di Sardegna Sassari analysis
The very last Game 3 on the slate for the 2024 Play-Ins may end up the most dramatic and entertaining - it usually is in the BCL.
Sassari carry a slight advantage when it comes to advanced stats across the two games. The Italian side have a +12.6 points per 100 Net Rating, mainly thanks to a - quite frankly absurd - scoring rate of 121 points per 100 possessions. They have dished out 50 assists across the home and road leg whilst shooting 54 percent from the floor.
The one area where Cholet have had the upper hand is scoring off turnovers. Laurent Vila's roster have scored more than 20 points from turnovers in each game and outscored Sassari in this area on both occasions.
In PIE, we see strong spread of contributions throughout the box score from Sassari's roster, with Charalampopoulos and Kruslin leading the way for Piero Bucchi's team.
For Cholet, Craig Randall II had a huge game in Sardinia with 30 points on 50 percent shooting and we see that reflected in the chart, as he's clearly had the biggest impact for the French club.
For the home team, Craig Randall II has been the danger man the whole series. He's scored 45 points in two games whilst shooting 40 percent from deep.
The shot that possibly has to fall for Cholet to win the game is the one that Sassari have struggled to contain in both games.
Randall has been able to create separation off dribble and knock down threes against any match-up Sassari have thrown at him.
The main man for the Italians has been stretch forward Vasilis Charalampopoulos.The Greek forward presents so many challenges for Cholet with his ability to score inside or space the floor and move without the ball.
When you have a power forward that can pick and pop or spread the defense out, that opens up the floor for the likes of Brandon Jefferson to penetrate and rack up assists. If Charalampopoulos knocks down his catch and shoot opportunities Sassari will be in good shape.