The Miles Basketball Minute: 2016 Beko BBL Semi-Final Playoff Preview Brose Baskets Bamberg-FC Bayern Munich 3-1

Sometimes just looking at the career stats and achievements of a young gifted player won´t always necessarily give you an overall picture of the person on the court, but then again when two seasons are as different as night and day, one has to wonder is a player only really made for a certain complicated system of a team? When looking at the young career of current FC Bayern Munich guard Justin Cobbs who is a 25 year old 191cm guard that calls Los Angeles, California home sweet home, he has played for 6 teams in just two years and is for the third time on the heels of winning his first professional title even if he still has to help contribute to 6 future wins with the mighty FC Bayern Munich. His whirlwind career started as a rookie where he was briefly with Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa), then was the final cut of the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) and played a month with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL) before ending his rookie cinderella story with the Fraport Skyliners where he helped lead the team from last to the playoffs and was close to winning the 2015 Eurochallenge bowing out to the scrappy Romanian team Rovinari. With the Fraport Skyliners, the guard was instrumental in the teams success as he played 27 games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 4.4apg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 80.3%, 2.9rpg, Assists-4(6.1apg), FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 83.1%. He was a legitimate MVP candidate and instead of staying with head coach Gordon Herbert who gave him all the freedom he needed to prosper, he left for Turkey for the bucks. He started this season with Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-BSL) where nothing fell into place for the talented guard as he played only 10 games averaging 7,6ppg, 2,1rpg and 3,3apg. There he played for a 1-9 team before departing in December and probably the only good memories he spoke about was his Frankfurt days with then teammate Sean Armand. He moved to FC Bayern Munich in December and played BBL and currently is averaging 7,0ppg, 1,5rpg and 3,2apg and 10 Eurocup games averaging 5,2ppg and 2,1apg. He went from a rookie season from being a main option in Frankfurt to a Munich team with endless super stars and having to come from the bench for Alex Renfroe. Cobbs has started games and had his moments like in the cup semi-final hitting big buckets in ousting Bamberg and scoring 16 points against ratiopharm Ulm, Alba Berlin and MBC, but other than that has taken on his role quietly and just been professional about his situation.  Even if he has played only a minor role in the Ludwigsburg series, the American now is focused on helping his team master the upset against Bamberg. Even if Cobbs has a lesser role, he now is on a stage where the little things could determine between a win and loss. Brad Wanamaker is the reigning Beko BBL MVP and there are many ex NBA players on the court, but Cobbs is always due for a big game and should Bamberg be up by many in games, Cobbs will always have his rookie memory of leading the Fraport Skyliners down 18 points at halftime to the biggest comeback in their history and clinching a ticket for the 2015 Eurochallenge final 4, so Bamberg will always be aware of his beast capabilities. Cobbs just needs a chance and more minutes to make a suitable impact.

As defending champions, one may have thought that there might be some added pressure this season to repeat, but in the regular season, The Brose Baskets Bamberg have proven that they have been the best team by a long shot. They finished the regular season with a potent 31-3 record and swept top teams Alba Berlin and FC Bayern Munich and only lost to Frankfurt, Giessen and Oldenburg. They were perfect from December to April and lost their third game recently against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. They could have been scratching at a perfect record had they not lost in Giessen by one point and in Frankfurt by two points. Bamberg not only has a powerhouse lineup, but also played like one making a name in Europe by reaching the Euroleague top 16 and with a little more luck here and there might have been able to reach the quarterfinals. When you are the second best scoring team in the league with 89 points per game and second in points allowed with 70, there won´t be many nights where you will have difficulty winning a ball game. The biggest strength of the team is their amazing sense of togetherness and lethal team chemistry. They kept a small core of players with Brad Wanamaker, Janis Strelnieks, Daniel Theis Darius Miller and Elias Harris and did a good job finding the missing pieces to help compliment their five remaining players. By bringing in Nicole Melli and Nikolaos Zisis, the club brought in old and new, but two Euroleague players that boosted the club like no other two players in the past. The development of ex Boston College(NCAA) guard Patrick Heckmann and late addition of Leon Radosevic have also panned out to be successful acquisitions. Besides their overwhelming team chemistry and never die attitude on defense, their other big strength is their overpowering offense where their ball movement is out of this world. There is seldom a night where their offense isn´t on as they scored 80 points or more in 28 of 34 regular season games.

It has been two years since FC Bayern Munich last won the Beko BBL title and for Germany´s most famous team, this feels like an eternity because nothing but the best is always expected. After losing in the cup final to Alba Berlin and losing in the Eurocup quarterfinals, the club wants to save it´s season by at least giving head coach Svetislav Pesic that last title before he moves on, but it will take extreme hard work as Bamberg will be in the way in the semi-finals. However before the club can think about freak city and the boisterous crowd, it has to dispose of Ludwigsburg who won´t just lie down and surrender as they will give FC Bayern Munich a hard series as nothing else is expected from a club led by John Patrick. FC Bayern Munich finished the regular season in fourth place with a record of 26-6 and had a very strong 9-5 against the playoff teams that were in the hunt as they split with Alba Berlin and Frankfurt, but lost both games to the Brose Baskets Bamberg. During the season they were able to post winning streaks of seven and eight games, but then again had loses against teams like ratiopharm Ulm and the Telekom Baskets Bonn that would have been wins on a normal day. The low point of the season was being embarrassed against the Mitteldeutscher BC who moved back to the Pro A losing 93-90 in Leipzig. Nobody can really complain about not keeping a healthy core of players as they kept six players with top players Anton Gavel, Bryce Taylor, Anton Gavel and Nihad Djedovic who are all players that any other team would drool over. The club fortified their club with guys like Alex Renfroe, Deon Thompson, and Maxi Kleber, but the German missed some months due to injury. Like any other team, the Bavarian side had to fight injuries to not only Kleber, but probably their best player Nihad Djedovic. It also didn´t help the team chemistry that they lost KC Rivers in the middle of the season and Vasiilije Micic. The club bolstered the roster by getting American Justin Cobbs who was instrumental in helping the club get by Bamberg in the cup semi´s and has been a solid back up to Renfroe. Recently the club got sharp shooter Chad Toppert who never met a basket he didn´t fancy and athletic high flyer Vitalis Chikoko. With an offensive attack like that, it didn´t surprise anyone that they had the best offense in the league scoring 90 points per game and ranked fifth in points allowed at 77 and sixth in rebounds with 32. With possibly the deepest bench in the league, the club still should have been able to perform better during the season despite the roster fluctuations and injuries. The team was unable to make the needed adjustments to rack up more wins. Their biggest strength is their firepower, bench and ability to give a top defensive performance when they need to.

The Brose Baskets Bamberg reached the Beko BBL semi-final by totally dominating the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg and rudely sending them into an early summer vacation with the sweep. The numbers were mind boggling, but then again not a big surprise considering the domineering state of the defending champions. The Brose Baskets Bamberg outscored the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg 296-183 and averaged 98 points per game while Wurzburg was held to 60 points per game. Bamberg won game one by 41 points, game two by 37 points and game three with 35 points. It didn´t really matter what statistical category one dissected, because Bamberg came out tops in every one. In the first two wins, Bamberg had five and six guys score in double figures while the team netted 25 three pointers and won the rebounding duel. Despite scoring 93 points in game three, Bamberg only had two guys that scored in double figures, but their whole team was involved as all 12 guys were able to figure as a scorer. The big winner of the sweep was ex NBA player Elias Harris who has been the back up to rising star Daniel Theis mostly this season, but was in the starting lineup twice in the series. In the first 25 Beko BBL games, he scored in double figures only six times, but in the last four games each time. Not only has Harris been scoring, but doing it very efficiently as he averaged 16 points in 16 minutes per game in the Wurzburg sweep. It doesn´t really matter who or when, but any one of the 12 players on the stat sheet can be a top scorer on any given night which gives them a huge advantage over other teams. FC Bayern Munich didn´t have as easy of a time with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg as they had to grind out a hard fought five game series where it came down to a fifth game in Munich where the home team prevailed. The game was as tight as a packed elevator on the Empire State building at five PM on a Friday afternoon in the first half, but Munich just wore down Ludwigsburg in the second half winning 79-68. Even if the series went five games, FC Bayern Munich was able to keep a consistent effort at the defensive end as they kept a strong Ludwigsburg offensive team to 76 points per game and in the last three games kept them to 70 points. In game five when it mattered most, FC Bayern Munich shot a high 51% from the field and won the rebounding battle 36 to 28. One might think that a John Bryant and Nihad Djedovic would have been their two most potent scorers in the series, but like Bamberg, FC Bayern Munich can carve up any opponent with various scorers as Bryce Taylor averaged 16 points in the five game series and German Maxi Kleber 14 points.

After losing to FC Bayern Munich in the playoffs twice in a row, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick was hoping three might be a charm, but it wasn´t and FC Bayern Munich could be thinking the same in a way. Sand witched in between their Beko BBL title in 2014 was two playoff loses to Bamberg in 2013 and 2015 and they are hoping to finally get over the hump this time, but that is a lot easier said than done. The Brose Baskets Bamberg won the season series 2-0 and each game was a high scoring affair as Bamberg averaged 98 points per game while FC Bayern Munich averaged 88 points per game. However FC Bayern Munich did win one game in Munich getting past Bamberg in the cup semi-final. This is a semi-final that could easily have been the final in the last years, but this is just another opponent for the Brose Baskets Bamberg to continue to get warm for their potential final meeting with the Fraport Skyliners or ratiopharm Ulm. Both teams are high scoring explosive teams that can also defend at a high level on a nightly basis. FC Bayern Munich have been trying to find themselves all season long and the 5 game series with Ludwigsburg might have sharpened their competitive edge as nothing was given to them, but in retrospect the series just put more strain on their bodies as they will travel to Bamberg on 72 hours rest while Bamberg had a week to recuperate. Bamberg´s biggest asset is their undeniable team chemistry and sense of team basketball and an offense that no defense can contain for 40 minutes. Bamberg also have the deeper and more talented bench and the leagues MVP Brad Wanamaker that averaged 27 points in the two regular season games. FC Bayern Munich will give a good fight, but won´t peak in this series as Bamberg will waltz into the final in four games.

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