Artland Dragons-New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig Playoff Preview 3-2

It is a never wise to walk down Times square in New York City flaunting a New York Yankees jersey with symbolic skull painted across the name of star short stop Derek Jeter, underestimating the love that fans still can give a lindsay Lohan after getting a standing ovation from Jay Leno fans during her interview or A Chris Paul who is trying to lead his New Orleans Hornets to an upset of the Los Angeles Lakers or Kobe Bryant dunking despite having a sprained ankle. It also wouldn´t have been wise not giving The Artland Dragons or The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig a chance at the 2011 Top 4 in Bamberg even though the big favorites to reach the final were Frankfurt and Bamberg.. Both Braunschweig and Artland rolled into the Top 4 with a regenerated mystical self confidence playing magnificent basketball and there really wasn´t much missing for both teams to have landed in the final. Braunschweig got past Frankfurt and Artland might have been in the final if they hadn´t lost Tyrese Rice earlier than expected to foul trouble as well as a few other players. Both teams are in the playoffs and for anyone to doubt them this time of possibly reaching the final should have their head examined. “This will be a good series as both teams are playing well. Either could reach the final”, stressed Walter Tigers Tuebingen forward Chris Oliver. Both teams will as motivated as any players in Europe heading back home to be with their loved ones who didn´t reach the post season, crazy William and Kate fans getting the perfect spot along the parade route or NHL hockey fans finding their perfect spot in sports bars for the next playoff round as four series has made the action exciting with seven game series. The Artland Dragons have been going through a tough drought not having reached the beko BBL playoffs since 2008 while The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig want to build on their semi final berth last season and just get that title after they came so close in the Top 4 final bowing out to Bamberg in the last minute. This series also could be the last chance for two veterans to get a title.

For Mr Euroleague man Marcus Goree who has 105 under his belt and won the 2008 Euroleague with CSKA Moscow has won enough in his career, but just looking at his expression during games in the Top 4, he wants to as badly Boston bruins fans want to see a game 7 upset against the hated Montreal Canadians and for The Artland Dragons there is 33 year old bench cheerleader Florian Hartenstein who came to life during an exhibition game in 2008 against FC Barcelona making life for NBA players David Anderson and Fran Vazquez very difficult as he played a strong game scoring with as much ease and making the zone uncomfortable like Kevin Love did this season in the NBA as the German is playing his 10th beko BBL season and still looking for his first title as a professional. This season The New Yorker Phantoms finished in fifth place with a record of 20-14 and proved that last seasons semi final appearance wasn´t a fluke. After a slow start where they went 3-5 including a four game losing streak, the club rebounded nicely in December/January winning 8/9 games registering big wins against Alba Berlin and Oldenburg. After sneaking into the beko BBL playoffs last season, the team has showed that they are stronger this season and built on the success of last season where they knocked out Oldenburg 3-1 in the first round of playoffs. “I do think that Braunschweig is stronger this season. They have a lot of weapons at the offensive end and are playing really good basketball right now, they are a contender and one of the top teams in the BBL. I think they are a team that could scare people in the playoffs and be capable of beating top teams as well. They are getting better and better each week and will do damage in the playoffs”, warned John Bynum. Their three biggest wins this season all came at home and show that they arent scared of any top teams as they defeated Alba Berlin, The Telekom Baskets Bonn and The EWE Baskets Oldenburg. After this big streak in December, the team finished the season 8-8. “I think their strength is that they have a lot of guys that can score the ball and they play really good team basketball. They have great guard play and guys on the perimeter that can play multiple positions. Weaknesses that is a tough one, but if I would say anything it would be depth down low”, warned John Bynum. TBB Trier did beat Braunschweig 74-65, but Bynum remembers the game well. “They really have good guard play and that stood out the most. The guards are always attacking and making plays and Visser and Cain as well as Goree play solid underneath the basket”, stressed John Bynum. Their biggest wins in the last months were against Bremerhaven and BG Goettingen and they arrive in the playoffs with a two game winning streak. Here and there, Braunschweig lose concentration on defense, but they seem to be in good shape as of late as they have allowed 70 or fewer points in the last seven games. The question will be how good they come to terms against the high scoring Dragons? The Artland Dragons had a lot of pressure to reach the beko BBL playoffs again after missing them on the last game day twice, but new coach Stefan Koch had his team ready from the start and led the team to a fourth place finish with a record of 23-11. They have had three winning streaks of three games and there only rap could be that they have problems winning against top teams. They lost both times to the Brose Baskets Bamberg, but only with a total combined score of 8 points. Their biggest win of the season was a 78-74 win in Berlin. Despite not being able to beat top teams, the club is one that cant be underestimated. “Artland has been a great team this season and continued to get better each week. They are a team that will go deep into the playoffs”, warned John Bynum. One thing that The Artland Dragons have improved is not getting lost on defense. “Now we don’t lose our defensive focus when we aren’t scoring on the offensive end. Earlier in the year, when we would miss shots, our defensive intensity would go down. Now we are able to move on to the next play, without thinking about our past mistakes”, stressed Artland Dragon guard Bryan Bailey. The team finished the season strong winning nine of their last 11 games including posting a five game winning streak. After getting smoked by Alba Berlin and MBC giving up 178 total points, The Dragons move into the playoffs breathing their hated fire on defense giving up 70 or less points in two of the last three games. Despite The Artland Dragons having Tyrese Rice(16,6ppg, 2,7rpg, 5,1apg) who would of won MVP if Skyliner Dashaun Wood hadn´t, the guard position is even. Rice was as important to his team as Wood was for the Skyliners as he was Dragon top scorer in 16 of the 34 games. Some players say that there isn´t musch difference in the speed of Rice to Wood, as the American is as deadly on the penetration as Wood. Rice also can shift gears and do super playmaking. Bryan Bailey(10,6ppg, 2,3rpg, 3,4apg. 1,4spg) is playing his fourth season with Artland and still seeking that first title. Bailey is the team leader both on and off the court and helps as a combo guard. He Possesses a diverse game, with an ability to stroke the long-range jumper, penetrate to the rim or distribute the ball and is solid on the defensive end of the floor as well. He is a fierce competitive drive rubs off on his teammates. Johannes Strasser(6,0ppg, 1,4rpg, 1,6apg) brings a lot of experience He had a very successful time with Rhein Energy Colone from 2001-2007 winning the 2006 BBL league title and three cup titles in 2004,2005 and 2007. He played with the Telekom Baskets Bonn from 2007-2010 reaching the BEKO BBL title twice. His job is too come from the bench bring energy on defense and hit open three pointers. He is an adequate back up point guard. the team recently got American Cecil Brown for some added stability at the guard position. he is an excellent leader, can run a team and hit from outside with consistency. He also brings experience having played in the D-league, France and Israel. Andrej Mangold is a young German who gets little playing time, but showed during the TOP 4 games that he could perform under pressure. The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig also boast a top core of guards led by Kevin Hamilton(8,9ppg, 4,1rpg, 4,2apg). Hamilton is the best defender in the beko BBL and is so dangerous because he can beat you with his shooting or his playmaking. He was a shooting guard for most of his career until Braunschwieg coach Sebastian Machowski converted the New York native to point guard two years ago in Poland. Hamilton has been playing very well in the last weeks and almost led his team to the cup win as he destroyed Bamberg with 20 points. Tony Skinn(11,3ppg, 3,0rpg, 3,4apg) has been a very important part of the team at the point guard position. Having the ability to have Hamilton and Skinn on the court at the same time is so dangerous, because when Skinn penetrates and finds an open Hamilton on the wing, can give teams a long night. Skinn missed the last 10 games, but surprisingly it didn´t faze the team too much as they posted a 6-4 record. Skinn should be back in the playoffs. Lamarr Greer(11,2ppg, 1,7rpg, 1,9apg) is the elder statesman on the team with his 34 years and has been a professional since 1998, and has has played in countries like Italy(3 years with teams like Record Napoli (Italy-A2, Media Broker Messina (Italy-Lega2), and Pompea Napoli (Italy-LegaA). He also played in Russia for Uniks Kazan and three years for BC Kyiv (Ukraine-Superleague) from 2004-2007. In the last three years, he played in Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and Israel. Greer biggest strength is to score in bunches. Brandon Thomas(13,8ppg, 4,6rpg, 1,9apg) is playing his second season in Braunschweig and it is no surprise that he is leading the team in scoring as In Norway, he led the league in scoring with Fog Naestved averaging 24,5ppg, 4,6rpg, 3,2apf, 2,0spg and 1,0bpg. He was the Danish player of the year in 2008 and was MVP of the 2008 Allstar game. In 2008-2009, in Austria, he played for Kraftwerk Wels averaging 20,2ppg, 3,2rpg, 2,5apg. He has a great basketball IQ, can defend anyone and likes to finish around the rim. Uros Dvunjak(4,1ppg, 1,7rpg, 1,0apg) is a solid back up guard who played very strong at the Top 4 in Bamberg. If Artland didn´t have Rice, then the edge would go to Braunschweig, but Rice does so much for Artland. The forward position is the most interesting match up and Artland would of recieved edge had Robert Kurz not been injured. With his injury, this position is even. At the forward position, Braunschweig is led by veteran Marcus Goree(11,6ppg, 5,5rpg, 1,2apg). He is a typical European league PF, a little undersized to play the four, but very effective in low post game, thanks to strength and good fundamentals; runs very well the court, can defend well and even press on the perimeter; has great instincts for the game, and is also a good rebounder and shot blocker. He played for teams like Macabbi Tel Aviv(2003 cup winner), Benetton Trviso(Italy cup winner 2005 & 2007) or CSKA Moscow where he helped win the Euroleague in 2008. Goree is a very experienced player and knows exactly how the game is played. I think with the numbers that he is putting up that he plays younger than his age is”, stated Quentin Pryor. The main guy to shut down will be Marcus Goree. “The guy to stop is Goree. He is a strong post presence and they use him in many different ways to set up other players as well. He still plays very strong and does not play like he is 34”, expressed Brose Baskets Bamberg American Kyle Hines. “Goree is very strong and just knows how to get great position and score in low post”, said ex Braunschweig guard Steven Wright. The experience of Goree will be bolstered by basketball globe trotter Lamaar Greer. “They give the team added leadership and will keep the team level headed. I think that they will be big for the team having success”, warned Quentin Pryor. Jason Cain(10,0ppg, 4,3rpg, 1,6apg, 52% field/ 42,7% outside). Cain could be a big factor in this series especially if his three pointer is on the way it was at the Top 4 in Bamberg. “Jason has played extremely well. He played great in college and now he is in his fourth season in Braunschweig and he always plays hard on each play. He can rebound and play defense and just does his role”, commented Gloria Giants Duesseldorf guard Steven Wright. Nils Mittman(3,0ppg, 1,8rpg) is playing his sixth season in Braunschweig after having played there from 1998-2001. He is the ultimate team player that will do anything to win. He can also make the three pointer in important moments of the game. Phillip Noch(2,5ppg, 1,0rpg is a young German who started some games earlier in the season. He should see action in the series. At the forward position, The Artland Dragons are led by Adam Hess(9,2ppg, 4,2rpg, 45% field/43% outside). The trend the last years has always shown that Hess can´t stay away for more than two years as He played the first time with the Dragons in 2006 and the second time in 2008. Hess is a 29 year old 201cm forward from Michigan. He is a quick forward with not so great athletic skills, but very effective at the scoring department. He’s a tough player, however, and knows how to battle inside for a rebound and he defends well and has a great attitude. He has never won a title with the Dragons and will be as focused as ever. Nathan Peavy(11,1ppg, 4,8rpg, 49% field/43% outside) is playing his second season for Artland and was injured this season missing 10 games, but came back solid. He is a great forward that has nice post moves, rebounds strong and will step out and hurt you with his three pointer. Alexander Seggelke(5,4ppg, 2,4rpg) is playing his 13th season in Germany and a very capable forward from the bench that is an all rounder with great scoring-skills, shows no fear, can point in the paint and from outside as well, and is a very good FT-shooter. Leo Niehbur sees little action, but saw action at the TOP 4 in the Frankfurt game and will probably only see action in garbage time. Braunschweig will have to find a way to control the forwards and their shooting and rebounding which will be key to winning. The center position edge goes to The Artland Dragons with Darren Fenn(13,1ppg, 6,3rpg, 1,6apg, 52% field/46% outside) and Ruben Boumtje Boumtje(7,3ppg, 5,5rpg), Florian Hartenstein(1,7ppg, 12 games, 4,28 min per game) vs Kyle Visser(9,0ppg, 4,6rpg, 1,0apg, 61,4% field) and Nick Schneiders(2,2ppg, 2,2rpg). Darren Fenn is playing his sixth season in Germany after having also played in Bremerhaven and Bamberg. “He is also very versatile. He can score from outside, but also can post up and he is very strong”, stressed Jannik Freese. Fenn was one of the most dominating players in the German BEKO BBL over the last five seasons. He was the 7th most efficient player in German BBL for the 2009/10 season. He finished the 2008/09 EUROCUP season as the 6th best scorer with 15,8 ppg. He is an unstoppable inside player with a lot of skills and post up moves and is a high percentage 3-pt. shooter with range. His two seasons playing in Bamberg under Coach Bauermann, he improved his defensive and rebounding skills. He is a all-rounder who can post up, hit the jump hook, take the midrange jump shot, fill the lane on the fast break, score on a put back after the offensive rebound, or hit the 3-point shot. He can defend both inside positions, plays always with great intensity and has great quickness for his size and a strong lower body. Ruben Boumtje Boumtje is a 32 year old 212 cm center who ranks fourth all-time in Georgetown history in blocks with 255 behind Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo grew more into a scoring threat in Oldenburg and can give some added scoring stability for coach Stefan Koch. Even though he played 35 NBA games, his playing qualities often determined if he had the right coach. Last season for Oldenburg he played Euroleague: 10 games: 4.6ppg, 3.7rpg; German League: 37 games: 6.9ppg, 5.8rpg, Blocks-3(1.2bpg), FGP: 58.9%, FT: 76.6%. He will bolstered the Dragons with his rebounding and shot blocking, but most important with his experience. Hartenstein is the all around nice guy where it is simply difficult to crack the strong Artland rotation. Hartenstein will come in if the Dragons have a big lead. The New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig have Kyle Visser who played at Wake Forest from 2003-2007 and was a teammate with NBA top point guard Chris Paul. He is a center who still hasn´t reached his fullest potential, but had a solid season with Braunschweig. Visser will have to have a very good series and be a horse under the boards. Nick Schneiders is the tallest player in the beko BBL at 221 cm who comes from the bench. He is a beko BBL rookie who has shown flashes of brilliance, but often gets untimely fouls. This could become the tightest series of the quarterfinals pairings. Artland is the favorite and are riding into the games having won both games this season. Artland won the first game on the road 76-53. They held Braunschweig to 37% shooting from the field and 21% from outside, won the rebound duel and forced them to 21 turnovers. Artland also won the second game at home in their Dragons den 91-75. Braunschweig controlled the boards again and braunschweig didn´t shoot badly at 50% and 45% from outside, but couldn´t withstand the 60% and 61% three point shooting from Artland. “Braunschweig showed during the Top 4 that they are capable to defend at a high level and will have to do it against Artland if they want to win this series. Artland has an up tempo offense. Their weakness is their half court game. If you make them play that then they will have problems. Braunsvhweig should also keep them from continuously moving the ball and containing their transition opportunities. Artland has to limit the touches of Goree and don´t give him a lot of space to make moves and set up his teammates. They should also keep them in the half court and slow down the game. Artland should run a good offense and take good shots. They are really strong at spreading the floor and it is difficult to guard them. Every guy can shoot it from long range”, warned Kyle Hines. The forwards of Artland shoot very well from outside, the team rebounds well, but they are very turnover prone. The new Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig were the second best shooting team in the league and should take advantage of that in this series. How much of a factor Tony Skinn will be if he returns is unknown, but he will be needed. Artland has the experience and coaching edge and should win this series. If Braunschweig can bring back that incredible winning mentality, fight and effort as they did in the TOP 4 then an upset could be possible.

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