The Miles Basketball Minute: 2014 Beko BBL Semi-Final Preview: Alba Berlin-Artland Dragons 3-1

It was unknown what ex s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg head coach Stefan Koch was doing on a recent Sunday night possibly taking part in one of the first barbeques of the summer of 2014 in Giessen, traveling somewhere and advancing his amazing and massive network of contacts or having some early contact to the Brose Baskets Bamberg for the head coaching job? If one had brought Artland Dragons head coach Tyrone Mccoy and seven time German title winner Guido Grunheid at the same table on early Sunday afternoon and asked them to predict what game Koch would be watching that night, the Artland-Bamberg game or the Euroleague final between big favorite Real Madrid and Maccabi Tel Aviv, it would have been interesting to have heard their comments. If someone had predicted eight months ago that one ex and current Artland Dragons point guards David Holston and Tyrese Rice would be playing at the same time on the same night and kick out the four time consecutive German champion Brose Baskets Bamberg and Real Madrid for the Euroleague win, one would have thought you had heard one too many quacks In Quackenbruck and been dubbed insane. However the seemingly impossible became reality as David Holston led Artland past the Brose Baskets Bamberg 3- 1and ex Artland Dragon Tyrese Rice led Maccabi Tel Aviv past top club Real Madrid for the Euroleague crown and on top of that was awarded the MVP award. Having these two major achievements happen to ex Artland Dragons was surely a big reason to go overtime into celebration mode Sunday night with risk of being a bit under the weather the next morning at work. Without a doubt Stefan Koch was able to fall asleep a happy ex coach of these two impressive American players. The win over Bamberg is without a doubt the biggest milestone in the history of the Artland Dragons since their magical 2008 cup win over Ludwigsburg in Hamburg. The question now do the Artland Dragons run end here or will Tobi the Dragon have continued success with whatever he does in his secret lab under the Artland arena against Alba Berlin?

Who had thought that the Artland Dragons would be able to get by the Brose Baskets Bamberg in the quarterfinals, but the class and competition of the Beko BBL once again proved that any one can beat anyone, no one is afraid of Artland anymore and their time seemingly and four year reign of Bamberg has come to a halting stop. Two seasons ago, no one in the basketball world ever would have had the audacity to predict any team going into Bamberg and winning two games in the hallow Stechert arena a place where no Beko BBL team could win in a two year span from 2010-2012. However the Artland Dragons were able to do that not once, but twice. Winning in Bamberg in game one already sent out a warning that no Bamberg supporter wanted to admit bothering them, but that first win already unrattled Bamberg and they were never able to recover. Bamberg did their homework and stole game two in Artland 80-72 a place that is never easy to win in Quackenbruck. Bamberg had a huge 23 point effort from Gavel, controlled the boards and limited the Dragons to only four three pointers. For most people that predicted a 3-1 Bamberg win in the series now were back on course to keeping their prediction right and only few would have thought that the usually so well oiled Bamberg ship would sink in a two game series. The Artland Dragons continued their inspiring play and won in Bamberg for a second time and did a role reversal from Bamberg winning a  crunch time game 77-75 something that Bamberg never dared to lose at their height of their four peat, but did. Even an inspiring Casey Jacobsen warning before game four promising to be back in Bamberg for a game five didn´t help motivate his teammates as their season came to an abrupt end on the road as Artland controlled the game winning 83-75 never letting Bamberg come back and making them crawl back onto the bus like a battered and beaten team that had witnessed one too many flames being sprouted by Tobi the Dragon. Bamberg didn´t play their best basketball in the first two games while the Artland Dragons were able to heighten their game more in game three and four and Bamberg didn´t. David Holston saved his best for last combining for 40 points in the last two games leading his team past Bamberg. Basketball is a simple game and Artland shot the ball extremely well in game three and four from the parking lot making 28/54 shots while Bamberg struggled at 13/41. Anton Gavel was inconsistent and Jared Jordan was unable to get that offense into a rhythm that would have kept Artland on edge from the start. Team chemistry and inconsistency hurt Bamberg so much that they wont play in June since the year 2009. That usual devoted killer instinct was missing with Bamberg. It was the first series win for the Artland Dragons over the Brose Baskets Bamberg.

A great aspect about Alba Berlin this season has been that they have not felt the league pressure of teams like FC Bayern Munich and the Brose Baskets Bamberg. Ever since their cup win in 2013, that pressure of winning a title again has been washed away. Winning the cup for a second year in a row sparked their team confidence and this is a team that should march into the final and be a well deserved dark horse favorite. Alba Berlin came into the Ulm series as the favorite and played like one. They won the first game easily 86-66 as they controlled the game had a super offensive flow and played their ever so present annoying defense holding ratiopharm Ulm to four three pointers and won the rebounding duel. David Logan and Reggie Redding had solid games while Jan Jagla had a super 20 point effort. Per Guenther had a solid game, but his supporting cast didn´t which was the difference as Alba Berlin had consistency from the role players. Game two was the back breaker a game ratiopharm Ulm could have won, but lost 90-89 as the nerves of Alba Berlin were a bit more stable. Levon Kendall and David Logan led the charge. Ratiopharm didn´t let Alba Berlin sweep them as they won a huge game three in Berlin71-64 getting a top defensive effort halting Alba Berlin to four three pointers winning the rebound battle and getting big games from Daniel Theiss with 20 points and Edgar Sosa with 19 points. The series returned back to Ulm and instead of ratiopharm Ulm forcing a game five, Alba Berlin played like champions slamming the door shut winning 95-89 as David Logan and Clifford Hammonds combined for 43 points. Alba Berlin let their offense do the talking hitting 14 three pointers, won the boards again and despite it being a high scoring game used their experience and cleverer play to win on the road. Daniel Theiss finished his Ulm season with 46 points combined in the last two games and could be anywhere from the NBA or in Berlin, Bamberg or Munich in the next months as his stock rose dramatically this season.

Instead of having the battle of the B´s and big rivalry Berlin-Bamberg, you have the feisty Artland Dragons who are hungry and seemingly want more than just having the distinction of kicking out the defending champion Brose Baskets Bamberg meeting eight time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin. The clubs split the season series1-1 as Artland sneaked away with a 67-66 nail bitter at home in the first game of the season while Alba Berlin used the home court advantage winning 89-75 at home. The Artland Dragons have very talented players, but Alba Berlin has even more class and individuality when pinning the players head to head. A David Holston can decide a game, but he won´t take apart Alba Berlin by himself, while Alba have the Logan/Hammonds combo that might not play consistent for 40 minutes, but will do enough each game too really hurt you. Alba Berlin has the overall advantage inside as their rotation belongs to the best in the league with Kendall, Radosevic, Jagla and Bottermann-Wohlfarth throwing a big man cycle at you that is hard to overcome. Artland has one of the top five centers in the league with Anthony King, but even consistent big games won´t promise wins. A Kenny Frease will really have to step up. The most interesting match up in the series may be the swing men of Brandon Thomas-Reggie Redding. Thomas can shoot out the lights with anyone in the league even a David Logan, but he doesn´t have the versatility of a Redding. There aren´t many guys in the league like a Redding who can look at the stat sheet after 40 minutes and lead his team in points, rebounds,assists and steals. Artland may have the momentum going into the series with their slapping Bamberg home for the summer, but Alba Berlin has that cool, business like and mission demeanor that will allow them to keep marching. Alba has the better offense, defense, players, experience and home court. Much respect to Tyrone Mccoy for doing an incredible job as a rookie coach, but he is still like a little boy in the candy store happy to enjoy the immense success over Bamberg while Sasa Obradovic is like a man in a cigar shop testing out the best ones for that special moment at the end of June. Alba Berlin will reach the final 3-1 and even if Toby the dragon finds a way to sprout his fire, the Albatross bird will be too quick to get hit and avoid it in Quackenbruck or in Berlin.


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