Ahead of flying to Madrid for the Euroleague Final Four, BiE’s Emmet Ryan spent his weekend in front of a huge PC screen watching the Bundesliga playoffs.
There is something delightfully German in its aping of American culture around the Bundesliga playoffs. While it may not be Europe’s best league, the competitive balance coupled with the clear focus on offence makes its playoffs, #PlayoffsBaby, incredibly watchable. That and it’s the easiest league in Europe to watch HD streams from BiE Towers. We take what we can.
Saturday began in somewhat predictable fashion. Bamberg’s fans were loud. Bamberg were also far too good for Ludwigsburg and the 87-79 scoreline flattered the visitors. A 1-0 lead for top seeds. Not a huge shock.
The second game of the day ensured something far more interesting. Telekom Baskets Bonn simply had to win away to ratiopharm Ulm. As a lifelong broadsheet newspaper hack, I have a dislike for any company that doesn’t use a capital letter for the start of a proper noun but I have nothing against the people of Ulm. Their guys looked the better outfit than Bonn for chunks of this game but this was really the same kind of hot mess than Game 1 was. Ulm had taken that on the road but in a fourth quarter whether neither side really wanted to take charge down the stretch, it was Bonn who erred the least while in command to take the W. A 1-1 series between two sides who look more than capable of going the full five, before being served up to a likely fresher Bamberg side in the semi-finals. Those are the breaks.
That series is likely to be the highlight of the opening round but the story everyone wants to see play out is one that delivers a semi-final series between FC Bayern and Alba Berlin. Bayern were first up, taking on Fraport Skyliners in the opening game of their series. Skyliners needed this game to be a track meet and they took that attitude from the start but Svetislav Pešić had this game well-scouted.
The Frankfurt club troubled Bayern through to the half and were still well in contention with 10 minutes to go but the home side had that extra gear, and clearly the stamina, to close out comfortably. Bayern had done their bit to keep the hottest series possible on course. Then coach Pesic took to the white board to explain his thoughts to the press. It’s not unusual, a couple of weeks back he used his grandson, Marko Pesic’s son, as a prop to explain his coaching philosophies to the press (thanks to Mr Hein for that tidbit).
— David Hein (@heinnews) May 9, 2015
It wasn’t all good news for Bayern, as Hein also reported Johannes Voigtmann missed the whole second half and looks doubtful for the rest of the playoffs with an ankle injury.
Alba would make much harder work of matters than the other two parts of the big three. Credit where it’s due to EWE Oldenburg. They clearly knew what they needed to do to beat Alba and for 37 minutes they executed well. They forced a hard tempo on Alba early, clear from the fatigue that was visible on both sides in just the opening quarter. It was an effective game and one that looked to have them on course for the upset W on the road. Alba rallied late however but it was Oldenburg’s game to lose all square at 90-90 when the visitors intentionally fouled to deny Alba the last shot. I’ll let Simon Jatsch explain why this wasn’t the smartest play…
(Gladly) we only see the foul while tied or up one maybe once every 250 chances. But when it does happen, it's on a 75% FT shooter of course
— Simon Jatsch (@sJacas) May 10, 2015
And that was before Oldenburg turned the ball over on the subsequent inbounds play. Still, trailing 93-90 with 11 seconds to play, the visitors at least had a shot to force overtime again. That was until they gave up another turnover on an inbounds play. Oops. If you come for the king, you better not miss. Sasa Obradovic knew he had gotten out of jail, a smile filled with relief across his face as he shook hands with fans at the end. Alba had dodged a bullet.
The schedule for these playoffs is horribly accepting of Germany’s place in European hoops right now. There are games on the board for Friday, when the Euroleague semi-finals will be played. Fortunately the wifi in Madrid may actually be good enough to keep an eye out.