As Germany made surprisingly hard work of an unimpressive Montenegro team to punch their ticket to the quarter final, Emmet Ryan was mesmerised by one man who often goes unnoticed. Maodo Lo might well be the key to any success Germany hopes to have at this tournament.
Maodo Lo is not Germany’s most famous player, not even close, but he might well be the Mannschaft’s most important as his display against Montenegro demonstrated on Saurday.
A few minutes into the second quarter I needed to do a double take looking at the boxscore. Somehow, Maodo Lo had only registered 1 assist in his 7 minutes up to then. He’d racked up 7 points and an offensive rebound along the way but his contribution felt far greater.
The average fan has heard of Germany’s NBA stars. Franz Wagner of the Orlando Magic has been a superstar at this tournament. Dennis Schroeder’s efficiency has been, well very Schroeder, but there’s no denying the energy the Houston Rockets man brings. Daniel Theis of the Indiana Pacers would be a name NBA fans know too.
Lo? Well he’s always been a promising body in Europe who developed at a steady pace and he’s always been fearless. Despite being 29, he plays with the energy of a much younger man. After playing his college ball with Columbia, Lo came home and went straight to Brose Bamberg where he won the first of his 4 championships in the last 5 Bundesliga seasons, picking up his second with Bayern Munich, and his most recent pair with Alba Berlin.
He’s seen the highs (quarter final in 2017) and lows (going out of the group phase at home in 2015) with this German national side but his role was rarely as vital to making everything work.
In the first quarter we got to see exactly how important he has become as a key guard. As his team mates failed to convert chances, Lo remained brutally efficient and nailed a three on the buzzer to ensure they had a 9 point lead after the first frame.
As for the game once Germany got rolling, this one felt like it was out of hand in a hurry. The only thing Montenegro had going for them was that ridiculous inside inefficiency from the hosts in the first quarter. After that was solved, it was all too easy for Germany to make light work of a listless opponent that appeared ready to go home for the whole of the first half.
All the time Lo was on his toes, hopping about to force a shot to be that extra foot away than the man he was defending wanted. Using the head start of that position to jump start the fast break and look for where the opponent didn’t want him to be.
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Through his pro career, Lo’s role has been all about evolution. He was the plucky young baller that added a spark for a brillian Bamberg team. He moved on to be a bigger contributor with Bayern but it’s at Alba where he has reached the level of The Chariman, the nickname he got from Columbia fans. He understands the real estate on the court and directs his strategy around it smartly. Has the opponent backed off more than they should from an inbounds? Lo is going to take that extra foot if he’s receiving or, as he did with Schroeder in the second quarter, direct him to move up and then let the Houston Rocket race up unguarded for the dunk to hammer home a ludicrously large advantage.
As Lo stepped to the line late in the half, a huge roar went up from the otherwise mild home crowd. It wasn’t for him unfortunately, Dirk Nowitzki had appeared on the big screen, but Lo knows he has a lot of love in this buiilding. Through those two pandemic impacted championship runs with Alba, he’s proven his value and through the first 5 games of the tournament for Germany he was getting almost the perfect compliment from journalists whenever discussing his nation’s performance. Every time a player’s performance, usually Wagner or Schroeder. was mentioned the follow-up would almost inevitably be “yeah but have you seen how well Maodo Lo has been doing?”
That conversation was mostly reflecting his scoring, with him hitting 14.4 points per game coming into the elimination games on 70/49/77 shooting but his real value wasn’t being reflected on the stat sheet. That eye for movement and where to get those small edges that often don’t even matter but make all the difference when they do, that’s accelerating the way Germany play on both ends and ensures their movement remains smooth.
Surprisingly, Montenegro made a game out of this one in the second half, pulling as close as 3 points having been down by 24 at the half and 27 at one stage. Still Lo harried and shuffled. He hadn’t taken the pause the ret of his team mates seemed to have in the first 15 minutes of second half play.
There he was with the board and right up the floor to feed Johannes Thiemann who drew the foul. Then there was the little dance to move Vladimir Mihalovic out of his way and restore Germany’s double digit lead.
Against Greece or Czech Republic, probably the former, he’s going to need to provide all of the attention to detail we’ve seen so far but there’s no reason to doubt it at this point. Lo respects every opponent the same way in that he doesn’t care who they are, he’s certain he will figure them out and find a way to win every battle. That’s an attitude normally associated with Schroeder, who has undoubtedly inspired this current generation of German talent to believe in themselves unconditionally. While Lo certainly appreciates Schroeder’s psychological role for his team mates, the truth is he didn’t need a Dennis Schroeder in his life to be the player he is. Lo has always been convinced that he can get whatever is asked of him and more done.
In front of his own fans at the quarter final stage, that’s going to be a hell of a sight.