The semifinals are underway in Germany and, as always, David Hein has one eye on the action there. Read on to find out about the Brose Baskets Bamberg-Artland Dragons and Ratiopharm Ulm-s.Oliver Baskets matchups in game one … plus, a bit of distressing news for forward-thinking Oklahoma City Thunder fans.

The top two seeds in the German Beko BBL playoffs defended home turf to start the semifinals as two-time defending champions Brose Baskets blasted Artland Dragons, 103-70, while ratiopharm ulm knocked off s.Oliver Baskets, 77-65.

Bamberg’s win over the Dragons could prove costly, however, as star center Tibor Pleiß went down with a right knee injury in the fourth quarter and reportedly underwent an MRI yesterday to determine the extent of the injury.

Bamberg went ahead 55-37 in the first half and then allowed just eight points in the fourth quarter; the team was led by 21 points, eight rebounds and three steals from P.J. Tucker. Anton Gavel added 12 points and seven assists, while five other Bamberg players scored at least 11 points.

“We are happy to be leading 1-0. I’m happy that we played really well over long stretches of the game,” said Bamberg coach Chris Fleming. “As opposed to the Bonn series, we did a good job today answering the runs of the opponents. … But I think the guys have worked hard since then.”

Fleming’s team did a good job controlling the ball with just eight turnovers while shooting 55 percent from the floor.

Anthony King paced Artland with 14 points with David Holston adding 13 points in the losing effort – which was Artland’s third playoff game in the last 92 hours.

“We would make things too easy if we used that as an excuse,” said Dragons head coach Stefan Koch about opening the semis on Saturday despite finishing the quarterfinals on Thursday.

“It is how it is. It’s not exactly favorable for us, but we can’t make a big deal out of it. And it would lessen the performance of Bamberg and how they deserved this win.”

Artland will host Game Two on Tuesday.

Ratiopharm ulm also head on the road with a 1-0 lead after beating s.Oliver Baskets 77-65 thanks to an 11-0 run over the final 2:29.

Per Günther scored six of his team-high 16 points in Ulm’s decisive spurt while Steven Esterkamp nailed five three-pointers for 15 points. MVP John Bryant was held to 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, but Ulm still out-rebounded Würzburg 44-33.

Chris Kramer came off the bench to lead s.Oliver with 22 points while John Little made just one of 11 shots for a mere two points.

Würzburg missed 10 of their first 12 two-point shots in watching Ulm pull ahead 31-11. But Würzburg stormed back to within two at 33-31. Kramer helped keep Würzburg close before the closing run, which started with Ulm ahead 66-65. With the game tied, Esterkamp nailed two straight three-balls to shift the momentum.

“It was the tough game we expected because Würzburg played with an unbelievable intensity,” said Ulm coach Thorsten Leibenath. “If we want to have a chance in this series, we must hold our own … I think we did that well, which you can see that we held the best rebounding team to just six offensive rebounds.”

“Ulm was clearly the better team for the first 14 minutes, and we lost the game there. If Ulm gets going they’re hard to stop,” said Würzburg coach John Patrick.

“I’m proud that we came back and had a chance. But we were lacking the energy and intensity at the end. And very decisive were Steven Esterkamp’s two three-pointers to make it 69-65.”

Würzburg host Game Two on Thursday.

Germany-based David Hein is often (justifiably, we think) dubbed by BiE as “the hardest-working man in European sportswriting.” Aside from contributing to BallinEurope, FIBA’s official website and the Bundesliga Basketball League official website, he also writes for numerous German- and English-language outlets on sports from soccer and basketball on down. Check out far-ranging samples of his work at heinnews.com.

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