Who could forget the amazing one on one battle last season in the easyCredit BBL cup semi final in Munich between Jordan Theodore and Jordan Taylor as the Jordan´s produced a duel on the court that wasn´t near as great as the game 2 Thomas 53 and Wall 40 point performances this week in the NBA, but for German fans they gave their all as Taylor went on to the final leading his team past the home team FC Bayern Munich and gave Alba Berlin their third cup in four years while Theodore would get revenge on Taylor in the playoffs and win his title with the Fiba Europe Cup. However after the gratifying German cup win against FC Bayern Munich, their season abruptly ended there as mentally and physically they have been a totally different team which somehow carried into this season. Last season Alba Berlin closed out the season in poor fashion having a very unsatisfactory 6-6 record and then got majorly embarrassed by the Fraport Skyliners as they got swept out of the Fraport arena as the only thing missing from their flight home to Berlin was unearthing the supermarket bags to cover their faces as they landed back at Tegel in Berlin. Except for a very potent run from November to February this season where they won 12 of 13 games including 10 in a row, it has been a very inconsistent season and especially since that run, the club has played under their worth losing 9 of 14 games as many have been wondering what has happened to the once mighty Alba Berlin that once won 7 titles in a row? This poor run from February to the playoffs has that parallel from last season as they stunk up BBL buildings until the end of the season. There are some guys that have won cup titles with Alba Berlin like Elmeden Kikanovic, Ismet Akpinar or Akeem Vargas who has two and even Nils Giffey owns one, but he has something else that none of them have. Giffey is only one of 13 players that has ever won two NCAA titles with UConn and with ex ratiopharm Ulm guard Lee Humphrey the only two that have won two and balled in the BBL. Now would be the perfect time for Giffey to remember his title runs with Uconn in 2011 and 2014 with top point guards Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier and let some of that special inspiration carry over to his teammates, because if their play doesn´t drastically change to the better and become more consistent then Alba Berlin could experience back to back sweeps and getting the Munich broom treatment is a lot more bitter than that of Frankfurt.
Alba Berlin have the budget and talent this season to have been a top 3 team, but instead have underachieved and there are some reasons for that. Even if former head coach Ahmet Caki is an up and coming coach in Europe, his hiring was a misunderstanding. He did a good job during the huge winning streak, but as soon as the losses started to pile in, he lost influence on his team and couldn´t reach them anymore. The club also wasn´t put together as well as it had been in past years as they also had an influx of players coming and going which didn´t help build it´s team chemistry either and injuries also took it´s toll on the teams´s nerves. Even if the team is ninth in the BBL in points allowed giving up 80 on average, the club is worlds apart from the defensive intensity and success of the Sasa Obradovic teams that took pride on the defensive end. Caki who was recently replaced with Thomas Pach and the Turk was never able to place a sound defensive structure that his team understood and could successfully transpose on to the court. The team gives up seven points more than last season. The team also has struggled rebounding the ball as it is only 13th in getting defensive boards. The club does have positives as it boasts a top filled roster from top to bottom, but a majority of the players just haven´t been able to perform at a consistent level. Club top scorer Elmeden Kikanovic has grown into a top center in Europe and the offense revolves around him in the paint. With top defensive player Akeem Vargas who nobody likes to go one on one with, athletic flyer Malcolm Miller, sniper Niels Giffey and point guard Gerald Robinson, the team has a nice starting five, but none that can seriously compete with FC Bayern Munich in a five game series. They have a lot of quality from the bench with ex NBA player Tony Gaffney, Spanish Endesa veteran Carl English, ex Turkish national player Engin Atsur and German Ismet Akpinar who is allowed to start games on occasion. Strengths of Alba Berlin is their offense as they average 81 points per game which is sixth best in the BBL which allows them to move the ball well as they are second in assists with 20 per game. They also have nerves of steal at the free throw line as they shoot 80%. They also only have a near satisfactory record against all playoff teams as they couldn´t steal a win from Ulm, Munich or Bamberg, but swept Ludwigsburg and beat Bayreuth, Bonn and Oldenburg.
Fc Bayern Munich have quietly had a very strong season as they finished in third place and got lost in the hoopla around ratiopharm ulm that allowed them just to play basketball and leave any kind of pressure on the back burner. They have demonstrated solid consistency this season winning 11 of their first 12 games and then had their worst month going 2-2, but in 2017 are the best team having a 15-1 record ousting ratiopharm ulm and Bamberg who both have lost two games in 2017. They also have a super record against every playoff team having beat every team at least once and swept Alba Berlin and Ludwigsburg. The club kept top players Maxi Kleber, captain Bryce Taylor, Anton Gavel and Nihad Djedovic. Club CEO Marko Pesic did a fantastic job hauling in the right pieces as team chemistry was established and a solid team identity. This team could compete with Brose Bamberg as having the deepest roster in the BBL. The club has the money and can pretty much get who they want bringing in guys like ex Fraport Skyliner Danilo Barthel, ex NBA player Nick Johnson, 2016 top France Pro A player Devin Booker, ex Euroleague player Reggie Redding, and Serbian national player and 2014 Eurocup winner Vladimir Lucic. The biggest strength of FC Bayern Munich is their overpowering offense as they achieve the second most points in the BBL with 86, are the best shooting team from the field at 52% and dish out the most assists at 22. However one always looks first at the offense, but they share just as much pride on the defensive end with their effort giving up only 69 points per game second best in the BBL.
It´s Fc Bayern who are playing their best basketball of the season meeting Alba Berlin who are playing their worst basketball of the season. Alba Berlin lost in the cup semi-final to FC Bayern Munich 76-70, but their two pathetic performances in the regular season can´t be hidden as they stunk up the house losing by a combined score of 63 points and FC Bayern Munich had their number holding them to 57 points per game. FC Bayern Munich crushed Alba Berlin at home 97-58 where they dominated from the two point range making 35 of 49 shots, won the rebounding duel and forced Alba Berlin to 18 turnovers. In the return game in Berlin, FC Bayern Munich won easily again 80-56 where they shot well again, dominated the boards and held Alba Berlin to the big goose egg from outside 0/15. With all due respect to Alba Berlin, but they have about as much chance of winning this series as Steph Curry getting lost in Las Vegas and missing game 3 in Utah. The absences of Peyton Siva(Club hopes he can play in game one) and Dragan Milosavlevic hurt the club to the highest degree. FC Bayern Munich took advantage of Alba Berlin´s two weaknesses in the two regular season games annoying them with their lethal offense and just embarrassing them on the glass. FC Bayern Munich have the weaknesses on the offensive glass and having that point guard that can´t decide a game in crunch time. Both problems have been taken care of with the signings of beast Maik Zirbes to clean up the boards properly and floor general Dru Joyce. Joyce might not be that overpowering scoring point guard like a Malcolm Delaney or Justin Cobbs, but that playmaker at heart that the team was missing. People should stop making this point guard that has to score in crunch time an issue. The club has enough other scoring options that can always decide a game. FC Bayern Munich will waltz into the semi-final as Alba Berlin will be swept for the second consecutive playoffs.