The last time that the Deutsche Bank Skyliners won the German cup was in 2000 when they were called The Opel Skyliners, the era of Bill Clinton as President was ending, Dan Duquette was still running the Boston Red Sox and they were still being cursed by the bambino, the Twin Towers in New York was still standing gracefully on lower battery park in New York and the Spanish music craze of Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias was in full swing, and now the Frankfurt club tries again at winning the prestigious title on home court after losing to Alba Berlin last year in the semi final in Hamburg.
It may not be June and playoff time yet in the Ballsporthalle, but with the warmer temperatures with the start of Spring and a full arena, an early playoff feeling should be present on Saturday April 10th as The Deutsche Bank Skyliners face off against The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven at 19:15. The first semi final will be played at 16:25 between two time BEKO BBL champion Brose Baskets Bamberg and BG Goettingen the team each opponent hates because of their aggressive never die attitude.
The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven have had a curious season and had a 7-7 record on December 19th and had been up and down and then went on a seven game winning streak as ex NBA player Rodney Buford had returned to the States and since then have been up and down with a 4-4 record, but seem to have found their rhythm again currently having a four game winning streak. They are the second highest scoring team in the BEKO BBL behind BG Goettingen.
“Bremerhaven is a very strong team and their strength is their offense and depth and I think that they have the best offense in the BEKO BBL. Their only problems have been some key injuries and they tend to cruise with their talent”, stressed Quentin Pryor.
Giordan Watson saw his ex team play Bamberg recently and was impressed with their play.
“They are a very strong inside team, are very deep and their guards are also very strong. Their biggest strength is their experience and that they are very deep up front”, warned Giordan Watson.
Currently the team is in fourth place and on a good way of reaching the playoffs.
The Deutsche Bank Skyliners are currently in seventh place and didn´t do their playoffs chances any good by losing the last two games against The Duesseldorf Giants at home and on the road against the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven. In the first few months, Frankfurt was known as the comeback team that could win games in the last seconds, but in the last games had comebacks, but fell short losing both games by a combined score off four points. Frankfurt has been unable of having a very long winning streak this season as they had one four game winning streak and two three game winning streaks. The team also has had problems winning against the top teams this season as they were only able to beat Alba Berlin, Artland Dragons and The Brose Baskets Bamberg once. Frankfurt is not in the playoffs yet and with a very difficult schedule to end the season, the team might have to play Alba Berlin or Oldenburg on the road in the playoffs and risk another early summer vacation. The team has looked to find a healthy rhythm this season, but simply have been to inconsistent.
Since The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven entered the BBL in 2005-2006, they have had some interesting battles with The Deutsche Bank Skyliners. Bremerhaven have had the number of Frankfurt in the last four season posting a 6-3 record. In the first two seasons, Bremerhaven totally dominated Frankfurt with a 4-0 record. Who could forget the stunning 89-88 Bremerhaven win in their first meeting ever in the fall of 2005 as Brian Jones won the game with a buzzer beater. The Eisbaeren won the return date in Bremerhaven 94-78 as ex Skyliner Nino Garris played one of his few good games for Frankfurt dropping 20 points.
However in the last two seasons, The Deutsche Bank Skyliners have had a positive record of 3-2 and are 2-2 at home. The curious thing is that the last two games at home were decided by one point. In the 2007-2008 season, Frankfurt lost 82-81 in the Ballsporthalle and last season Frankfurt nipped Bremerhaven 66-65 with 16 points and 11 rebounds from ex Skyliner Lorenzo Gordon and the only thing missing was a buzzer beater. In their first meeting this season, Frankfurt had a lot of fortune at the end as they had been trailing for most of the game and then made a sweet comeback in the fourth quarter and won the game with three seconds left with a Aubrey Reese game winning shot 70-69. Last week, Frankfurt came up short in Breemrhaven with their comeback attempt losing 76-74 as a last second Grayson Moyer bomb fell short.
The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven have the second best scoring team in the BEKO BBL behind BG Goettingen averaging 81 points per game. Bremerhaven has a 10 man rotation where each guy can step on any given night. Even the departure of ex NBA player Rodney Buford and departure of 17,5ppg, has not fazed the club as they have enough options inside and out. The team is capable of putting up points with ease each night the same way George Clooney can leave a bar each night with two women on his side. The Eisbaeren have scored 80 points or more 20 times this season. Mr incredible Jeff Gibbs has scored in double figures 26 times and is about as reliable as best mans friend the dog getting your slippers after a hard day at work for having top games each week. You can´t underestimate his three pointer either as he is shooting over 40% from the three point line. With top BEKO BBL point guard Lou Campbell, the team has the perfect playmaker that is aggressive passing and scoring. With Americans Torrell Martin and Andrew Drevo, the team is very versatile getting scoring production from inside and out. The team also has rookie Brandon Brooks who is still learning from the master Campbell, but has had some big games where his scoring was needed. German Phillip Schwethelm is probably the best German player currently that nobody knows about. He can hurt you anytime from outside and is only getting better. The team has American veterans Bryan Lucas and ex NBA player Norman Richardson who can never be underestimated, because they are very talented and experienced guys who will score in double figures if asked. Big guy Kevin Lyde was almost was a Utah Jazz a few years ago and may not always look pretty running up and down the court, but he knows how to find the space in the zone and score and rebound.
The Deutsche Bank Skyliners also have a potent offense, but are only 11th in scoring points in the BEKO BBL and have scored 80 points or more only eight times this season. The leading scorer is American Derrick Allen, who has kept showing a great attitude this season despite coming often from the bench. The days where he was the sole number one option are history. He is averaging 15,1ppg, 5,8rpg and 1,3apg and has scored in double figures 25 times. In the last two games, he was a beast in the zone scoring 46 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. With his current top form, the club will wish that he will have a explosive weekend. Another big scoring force is Aubrey Reese who was missed in the last 7 weeks as he was injured. His leadership and calmness in crunch time will be needed this weekend. His playmaking and penetration to free up space in the lane will be needed. He is averaging 14,2ppg, 3,3rpg and 4,7apg and has scored in double figures 21 times. The team has not had consistent center play this season, but were helped recently getting 22 year old Serb Dragon Labovic as he scored in double figures in four of his first five games as he is averaging 12,0ppg, and 3,8rpg.
The rebound force has been American Seth Doliboa who has picked up the rebounding slack this season. He is averaging 11,6ppg, 6,8rpg and 1,2apg. He often is mismatched against more athletic guys, but he always gives 100% and his three pointer has saved the team countless times this season. The team also has Mr reliable captain Pascal Roller who is the only player on the team that was on the court 10 years ago as they won the cup. With Reese on board, the 33 year old doesn´t have to always worry about the playmaking and 10 year younger and quicker guards, but can slide to the shooting guard position to unload his pretty bombs from the parking lot. Possibly the teams most versatile guy is American rookie Grayson Moyer from San Diego. He has been the big surprise coming from the world of the NCAA 2 and has had big games this season. He has been very consistent averaging 6,6ppg, 2,2rpg and 2,1apg and has scored in double figures 11 times. Besides his all round sound game, he does the little things that one doesn´t see in the stats. Rookie Quantez Robertson is the teams spark plug on defesne, but can score if he has to do and will always help out on assists and rebounds.
“He has been our best passer in the last weeks”, stressed Skyliner coach Murat Didin.
American Jimmy Mckinney is always capable of having a big shooting game as well as center American Greg Jenkins can always surprise with a good game. Germans Marius Nolte and Dominik Bahiense De Mello are good role players that will be highly motivated playing at on their home court.
When rating certain categories on the court, one would have to give the advantage to the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven on offense. Bremerhaven has the depth up front. They have a lot of big bodies that they rotate in and out with success. They have been explosive all season long and have at least six guys that cans core 20 points or more each night The Eisbaeren also have the edge shooting as they shoot better from the field and from outside. Two dangerous guys they will have to keep in check will be Andrew Drevo (56,9fgp, 53,9,3pt) and Torell Martin(49,8fgp, 41.9, 3pg). Drevo could be a big factor, because he can space the floor well and the big guys can play one on one or if the defense helps kick the ball out to the shooter.
The Eisaberen Bremerhaven have as much ease with scoring as society girl Paris Hilton has with flashing her credit cards, but their defense doesn´t always show up to play. The team has given up 80 points or more 10 times and 70 points or more 23 times. If a team finds a way to keep the Bremerhaven offense in check, then they have pretty good chances of winning. When looking at the roster of Bremerhaven, it is not always easy to understand why the defense can´t shine more often?
“The weakness of Bremerhaven is their defense. They don´t always tune in on defense, but they should be a good defensive team with their athletic ability”, commented Quentin Pryor.
Giordan Watson caught one of those rare games where the defense was sparkling.
“I don´t know why they don´t play good defense more often. I recently saw them come back from a huge deficit at halftime and win and played amazing defense”, added Giordan Watson.
Radenko Pilcevic and MBC lost to Bremerhaven twice this season, but he noticed the problems of the Bremerhaven defense.
“They are lazy on defense and love to play offense. Lou Campbell and Jeff Gibbs have to play a lot and save energy for offense”, stressed Radenko Pilcevic.
Eisbaeren coach Doug Spradley has not had an easy time preaching defense in Bremerhaven.
“We have a lot of guys that are able to show their offensive skills every night, but don´t understand what it means to play defense every night. Until all the players are on the same page, we will not be able to develop the way I want to into a potential playoff team. We showed a fine defensive effort against MBC, but then showed nothing against Phoenix Hagen. Our success will be based upon how quickly the team understands how to play defense. It is a question of willingness. I think that effort is there, but it just depends how you use it. I understand that it is more fun to play offense, but if we want to be really successful, then we will have to be willing to play defense each night”, stressed ex Paderborn coach Doug Spradley.
Despite this, the Bremerhaven defense has improved the last months.
“We have improved the most on fighting over screens. We get over the screens now and not get stuck on it and we are picking up guys further down at full court”, stressed Torrell Martin.
“I think that playing good defense only has to do with a healthy mind set. We go into games thinking that we wont allow the opponent to score”, added Andrew Drevo.
The edge on defense goes to Frankfurt despite the improved defense by Bremerhaven in the last months, because Frankfurt is used to playing controlled defense with success and can mix it up better than their opponent. Skyliner coach Murat Didin will have to mix up the defense formations much more then what was seen a week ago in Bremerhaven. The full court press that led to two Super Tez steals at the end should be practiced more throughout the game on Saturday.
With the experience factor, there is no edge to a team as it is pretty much even. Both teams have solid leaders with Pascal Roller and Derrick Allen in Frankfurt and with Lou Campbell and Jeff Gibbs in Bremerhaven. The X factor for the Deutsche Bank Skyliners will be Aubrey Reese. Frankfurt will have to pray that the American is as fit as possible for the game as the team is a totally different team when he is healthy. Bremerhaven has many weapons, but my surprise X-factor for this game could be American rookie Brandon Brooks. He has made big strides this season improving his points totals from 4 to 8 points in the last months and poured in 21 points against The Brose Baskets Bamberg a few weeks ago. Brooks played only 12 minutes and scored two points in the Frankfurt loss last weekend in Bremerhaven, but didn´t seem fazed after the game. The rookie is sprouting with a lot of self confidence and when Campbell is on the bench for a rest, he is able to keep up that Campbell type of aggressive play on offense being able to break down guys and get in the lane and create for others. But the X-factor will be Torrell Martin, because he gives the club very much energy and score in bunches. He is just at the start of a career that could take him too places that not many players reach.
The key match up in this game will be Derrick Allen-Jeff Gibbs. Both are key players playing the same position. In their two face to face matchups this season Derrick Allen played 66 minutes scoring 30 points and 13 rebounds and Jeff Gibbs played 74 minutes and scored 22 points and hauled down 18 rebounds. Allen has the perimeter skills, but likes to do his ballerina moves inside, while Gibbs is great around the rim and possibly the most talented rebounder for his size ever to play the game on this planet. Whoever wins this duel and rebounds most likely will also leave the court going to the final on Sunday. Frankfurt has the coaching edge. Murat Didin has been in Frankfurt for many years and scouts very well and has the home court advantage over Bremerhaven coach Doug Spradley.
The Deutsche Bank Skyliners have the home court advantage and despite the good shooters of Bremerhaven might want to give them as many contested shots from outside as possible.
“Frankfurt has to make them shoot from outside and keep them out of the post and they have to attack inside while Bremerhaven has to try to play their game of inside/out and play active defense”, stressed Giordan Watson.
Frankfurt can play hard nosed defense when they want to and will have to get into the zone on defense when they step on to the court in Bremerhaven.
“Frankfurt has to be dialled in on defense, because Bremerhaven can score with ease on anyone. They have to control the tempo and not run with them”, warned Quentin Pryor.
“Frankfurt needs to stop Campbell and Gibbs. I feel that Bremerhaven is the better team. Frankfurt has to play perfect like in Berlin a few weeks ago and play better defense. They have to attack Campbell to make him tired”, warned MBC guard Radenko Pilcevic.
The Deutsche Bank Skyliners host The Eisbaeren Bremerhaven in the BEKO BBL Top 4 semi final on Saturday April 10th at 19:15.