2015 Beko BBL Quarterfinal Playoff Preview: Alba Berlin-EWE Baskets Oldenburg 3-1

If there is one thing that Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic hasn´t had a lack of in his basketball career, it has been tasting different types of Champagne over the years as a player and coach as he won two league titles in the former Yugoslavia with Crvena Zvezda Beograd and Buducnost Podgorica, in Germany three cups with Rhein Energie Cologne, a Korac cup with Alba Berlin and two European championships and one World championship with Yugoslavia and as a coach he took home a league title with Rhein Energie Cologne and won the 2013 and 2014 BBL cups with Alba Berlin. Even with so many titles under his belt, the 46 Serb continues to have that drive to want more and more. A few weeks ago Alba Berlin and Obradovic were rudely dismissed by the Brose Baskets Bamberg in the cup semi´s in Oldenburg and did it again on the last game day winning in Berlin 78-72. It hasn´t been an easy last few weeks for the ex point guard who is always thinking and looking ahead as he did shortly after the cup loss to Bamberg. Instead of going back to the hotel to grab a bite to eat and do some early video of the loss, he remained in the Oldenburg arena, found a seat between various media representatives and followed the second semi final between Oldenburg and the Telekom Baskets Bonn like a diligent professor. At times it seemed like he would have enjoyed stepping in for one of the head coaches of the respective teams and given his two cents concerning the course of the game. It seemed like the basketball god from above might have given Obradovic the tip that one of these two teams might just be the next playoff opponent for the 8 time Beko BBL champion. Just how much smarter Obradovic could become from the masterful 72-70 Oldenburg win concerning how to shut down a Casper Ware from making impossible off balance shots in the lane, Rickey Paulding nailing another three pointer or annoying the beast Philipp Neumann is unknown, but one thing is for sure, Alba Berlin has only one more title to play for after being denied a third consecutive cup win and won´t be ready to go home for an early summer vacation.

It has been a while since Alba Berlin finished the regular season in first place as there was a span between 2004-2009 where they were first for six seasons in a row. On account of a loss on the last regular season game against Bamberg, Alba Berlin finished in second place with a 28-6 record. They had a very successful Euroleague season reaching the top 16 and were one win away from reaching the quarterfinals. In the BBL, Alba Berlin started the season with a 14 game winning streak and then had winning streaks of eight games and five games. They had a 1-3 record against Bamberg and Munich being swept by Bamberg. They were a scoring machine scoring 80 plus points 26 times and produced 90 points or more 13 times. They also belonged to the top defensive teams allowing 70 points or less 13 times. Alba Berlin had only four players in double figures scoring, but overall a potent attack with each position having two strong players on the field and one from the bench. The club is led by power forward7center Jamel Mcclean(13,9ppg, 6,5rpg, 1,9apg) who made his international break through this season in the Euroleague averaging 13,0ppg, 5,6rpg and 1,6apg and scored in double figures in 16 of 21 games. He belongs to the most dangerous inside scorers in the league with John Bryant. Alex Renfroe(10,9ppg, 4,7rpg, 4,3apg) who helped Bamberg win their last title in 2013 has given his new team much experience primarily being that energy player from the bench and explosive scorer. Reggie Redding(10,8ppg, 3,9rpg, 4,5apg) is the team´s third leading scorer and top assist man. His versatility is his biggest asset as he can play so many positions. He had some big games against FC Bayern Munich with 23 points and 27 points against Zalgiris. Leon Radosevic(10,1ppg, 4,2rpg, 1,1apg) continues to adjust well to the BBL in his second season and is that presence inside, but doesn´t shy away from placing the mid distance jumper through the net. The Croatian scored in double figures 17 times and had big games against Bonn and Bamberg netting 18 points a piece and had 16 points in the 80-70 win against FC Barcelona. Croatian Marko Banic(9,5ppg, 3,4rpg) also presents his inside out game to perfection, but especially inside is difficult to contain. He scored in double figures 15 times. American Cliff Hammonds(9,2ppg, 2,9rpg, 3,1apg) who balled at Clemson(NCAA) continues to be the top defender in the league and is just that reliable point guard that keeps an offense moving and netted 18 points against Frankfurt and Ulm. Two time NCAA champion with UCONN Niels Giffey(7,0ppg, 2,7rpg) has had a solid rookie campaign adjusting well to the European style and packed Alba Berlin roster. His best game was 17 points against TBB Trier, but on a team that is stocked with scoring power, he helps the team on defense and does small things not seen on the stat sheet. Alex King(6,5ppg, 2,5rpg, 1,2aapg) has matured unbelievably as a player who has gone from Murat Didin´s doghouse in Frankfurt 10 years ago to a respected Euroleague player. He is the team´s captain and an athletic bull that really can do so much well now from shooting to finding the open man. German Akeem Vargas(5,7ppg, 2,5rpg) started only seven games, but when one defensive pest in Hammonds took a breather then came in the next defensive pest in Vargas. Vargas is regarded as one of the most annoying players as he likes to use that physicality and had some good scoring games with 15 against Phoenix Hagen and 14 against Artland. German Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann(2,7ppg) got lost a bit in the big man shuffle this season fighting for minutes, but he is always an asset as he continues to develop. His best game was 10 points against BG Goettingen. The club also boast talented German Ismet Akpinar(3,2ppg) and veteran Jannik Freese(1,9ppg, 1,7rpg) who came to Alba Berlin in the second half of the season and went from practice player to rotation player.

The Ewe Baskets Oldenburg have had a turbulent last six weeks, but mostly have had success. The club let go off head coach Sebastian Machowski who had led the team to a final in 2013 and semi final in 2014 was rudely let go shortly before the end of the regular season. The team appointed Pro B head coach Mladen Drijencic as interim head coach and then rewarded him with a contract extension after he led the club to only their second team title winning the 2015 cup on their home court over Bamberg. He also led the German Pro B team to 2 straight Pro B titles the last two years even if the last one he missed the last few weeks because of his new duties, he still found time to support the team in Wedel in the fan area of Oldenburg a sthe Pro B team became champion. The club is going into the playoffs with a lot of self confidence and finished the regular season in seventh place with a record of 19-15. The club had a solid first half at 10-6, but in the second half were up and down including having a six game losing streak. Their biggest wins of the season were twice against Bamberg and once against Alba Berlin. They often showed their offensive talent scoring 80 points or more 17 times, but when they had problems scoring also had problems winning on those nights where they gave up many points as they relinquished 80 points or more 17 times. However they finished the season strong allowing 69 points average in the last seven games. The club finished the Eurocup season at 4-6. The club has five players scoring in double figures led by Casper Ware/13,1ppg, 3,1rpg, 2,3apg) who played 9 NBA games with the Philadelphia 76ers and is a player that can score in so many ways when weaving in and out of traffic had to take a lot of criticism as he isn´t the essential playmaker, but that scoring point guard. He was key in 26 point games and wins against Bamberg and BG Goettingen. 33 year old big man Adam Chubb(12,6ppg, 4,9rpg) is playing his ninth season in Germany and fourth with Oldenburg and not slowing down. His experience and consistency still stand out as he scored in double figures in 21 games including 24 point games against Bamberg and Bonn. Mr Oldenburg Rickey Paulding(11,2ppg, 3,4rpg, 2,7apg) is playing his eight season in Oldenburg and remains the heart and soul of the team. Even if he may have lost a step it doesn´t seem it, because his energy and heart are still there. He has scored in double figures 22 times including a 22 point effort in the win against Bamberg. American Julius Jenkins(11,2ppg, 1,2rpg, 2,4apg) started only three games, but the former BBL allstar, cup and finals MVP is that clutch shooter from the bench that can still score in buckets. He scored in double figures 16 times including a 23 point game against Bremerhaven. Serbian Nemanja Aleksandrov(10,2ppg, 4,3rpg) who is the white version of fear the beard gives Oldenburg the perfect inside out game as his facial hair is an attraction. This season he scored in double figures 18 times including 21 points in a 77-74 win against the Artland Dragons. Chris Kramer(7,2ppg, 4,2rpg, 4,3apg)shines with his all around play third in rebounding, first in assists and steals on the team. The Indiana native is playing his third season with Oldenburg and scored in double figures 11 times including an 18 point effort in the win against Alba Berlin. German Maurice Stuckey(5,5ppg, 2,1rpg, 1,3apg) always brings energy from the bench as he is most dangerous on the penetration. He scored in double three times and twice against Alba Berlin. Philipp Neumann(5,4ppg, 3,3rpg) is playing his second season with Oldenburg and is that hard working center that brings the needed physicality to survive in the paint. He scored in double figures five times including 18 points against Tuebingen. Robin Smeulders(4,0ppg, 3,1rpg) comes from the bench and dropped a bit on production from the last year, but the forward can bring that scoring punch at times. German Philipp Zwiener(3,4ppg, 1,7rpg) hasn´t seen many minutes, but could be a starter for many other BBL teams. He brings a lot of intensity and can score inside out. The team is further fortified from German license players Dominik Lockhart and Jan Niklas Wimberg and veteran Leo Niebuhr.

When looking at the head to head team stats, Alba Berlin leads the EWE Baskets Oldenburg in all important stats with scoring, field goal percentage, three point shooting, rebounding, assists and turnovers. Both teams split the season series winning respectively on the road. Alba Berlin won the first meeting in Oldenburg 93-86 as defense was put on hold as rebounding decided this battle. The EWE Baskets Oldenburg won the second meeting 89-83 in Berlin. Alba Berlin won the rebound battle again easily 42-29, but couldn´t hit the ocean as Oldenburg nailed 13 three pointers. Both teams did a great job taking acre of the ball combining for a total 31 turnovers in both games. Alba Berlin has controlled the boards the whole series and probably will continue to do so. Oldenburg will have to rely on their outside shooting to have success as Jenkins, Paulding and Aleksandrov will have to be consistent. The duel of the series will be the two guards Ware and Renfroe who can light up the scoreboard at anytime. The Drijencic high off the cup win will end against Alba Berlin as Alba Berlin is the better and more disciplined defensive team and when push comes to shove will capitalize best off their oponents mistakes in a five game series.

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