From the land of Dirk – Nowitzki and Bauermann, that is – David Hein reports on a few happenings in Germany’s top division of basketball. Read on to find out all about Alba Berlin and Yassin Idbihi pick-and-rolling Bayern Munich to death and overtaking ratiopharm Ulm for second place; s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg moving past Bayern Munich – for now; and LTi Giessen 46ers extending their deal with head coach Björn Harmsen.
Berlin basketball fans came out en masse over the weekend to see if their red-hot Alba Berlin could sweep the season series against the publicity magnate from the deep south Bayern Munich. And Alba did not disappoint a sold-out crowd of 14,500 at the O2 World Arena as Berlin’s bench outscored Bayern’s reserves 46-13 in a 73-52 victory. Munich had absolutely no clue how to defend the Berlin pick-and-roll as Alba back-up center Yassin Idbihi scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and Berlin won the final period 73-52.
Bayern have struggled much of the season in fourth quarters, but this demise was on a different level. “We cannot let that happen with a team like us. That was the worst last quarter in a long time. But we will not head home with our heads down but will build upon the first three quarters which were really good,” said Bayern coach Dirk Bauermann, whose team had won five straight, including three in a row on the road, but dropped to 17-12 for sixth place.
“We are a team and we worked as a team today,” said Idbihi, who scored 15 points in Alba’s decisive 17-2 fourth-quarter run.
And the push from the bench was needed, as Berlin’s top scorer/reigning league MVP DaShaun Wood was held to just four points while the rest of the starters totaled just 27 points.
Regardless, Alba extended their winning streak to 11 games to statistically overtake Ratiopharm Ulm for second place in the Beko BBL at 23-6 – three games behind leaders Brose Baskets Bamberg.
Ulm fell to third place with a 23-6 record after a 77-64 loss at Fraport Skyliners, who are fighting for their playoff lives. Ulm have already booked their spot in the post-season and will host a first-round playoff series. But their underdog title chances took a big hit as point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin had to undergo knee surgery. Ulm management, who have called up standby guard Kelvin Tolbert, hope Mason-Griffin can return in time for the playoffs.
Since mid-February, the Skyliners have beaten Bayern, Bamberg, Artland Dragons and Ulm and lost by only four points in Berlin. But Muli Katzurin’s Frankfurt side is still on the outside of the playoffs looking in at 14-15 with five games to play – three of those against other contenders for the final two playoff spots.
In total, 2.5 victories separate seventh and 12th place in the BBL, with the top eight in the league reaching the post-season.
S.Oliver Baskets Würzburg are all but secured a playoff berth with an 18-11 record, taking advantage of the Bayern loss to move past Munich into fifth place. Bayern, however, holds the head-to-head tiebreaker and Würzburg have a very difficult rest of the schedule with four of five games on the road including matches at Bamberg, at Ulm, vs. TBB Trier, vs. LTi Giessen 46ers and vs. EnBW Ludwigsburg – all of whom are fighting to avoid relegation.
Giessen made some headlines before the weekend action as they extended their expiring contract with head coach Björn Harmsen for two seasons until the end of the 2013-14 campaign: This was clearly a vote of confidence as the club – which has never been out of the German top flight – finds itself in the relegation battle.
“We are absolutely convinced of Björn Harmsen’s work. He works very meticulously and is future-orientated, and that is the same line we want to go the next few years,” said Giessen general manager Heiko Schelberg.
The 29-year-old Harmsen, who arrived in Giessen before this season from MBC, thanked the club for their trust, saying that “There are changes going on here which are very important for the future of the club. I am looking forward to the next two years because in my first season here I have exactly what I was looking for. It’s a city that lives for basketball and celebrates a long tradition.”
Giessen, who have won five German titles (the last one coming in 1978) and three German Cups (last in 1979) went out over the weekend and lost at home against EWE Baskets Oldenburg for their ninth loss in the last 10 games.
Giessen are 8-21 – the same as Phoenix Hagen and second-to-last Ludwigsburg – and still have games at Berlin, Würzburg and Hagen and host Trier and Telekom Baskets Bonn.
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.