The last time Mike Taylor coached an official game in Germany, a young Per Guenther had to withstand the on court tricks of ex NBA player Eddie Gill, future NBA player Aron Baynes was already getting his brute mode timing in synth and two time NCAA champion with Florida Lee Humphrey was learning how to transform that shy semi smile into that huge Teddy Bear smile of Mike Taylor who could always light up a room in an instance. 40 months have passed since his last game as Ulm coach losing to Oldenburg, but some things never change. Taylor still has that winner smile and one knows 30 feet away that he is approaching. He may have added a few pounds since 2011, but with a German wife, he is allowed the full service treatment of roast and spatzle around the globe. Since the separation of ratiopharm Ulm and Taylor in April of 2011, the Pennslyvania native has continued to go his way as a head coach having coached the Czech national team as an assistant, was an assistant for D-league team Rio Grande in Texas and as of recently was head coach of Boston Celtics affliate Maine Red Claws in the D-league the last two years. When he was approached by the Polish basketball federation for the head coaching job he didn´t refuse, but won´t be returning back to Maine this fall. If somebody had told him a few weeks ago that he would beat Germany twice, he may have tried to explain how difficult a task it would be, but the American was able leave Bonn with a perfect 2-0 record against Germany as Poland controlled Germany 88-76. Taylor was happy about returning back to Germany and sporting his so well known winner smile that he displayed back in the day in the old Kuhberg gym in Ulm after the bitter loss to Austria. „It was my dream to play this game in Ulm, but it was nice coming back to Bonn. I have good memories of the Bonn teams and Michael Koch, but not losing against them in the playoffs. I am so proud of my players. The way we came back after the loss against Austria deserves a lot of respect. It was a great team win for us“, stressed Mike Taylor. Especially the way Poland has played under the leadership of Taylor has been amazing, because when he was in Germany as head coach with ratiopharm Ulm, it wouldn´t be a surprise if Ulm won 105-98 or lost 110-103 as his ability to score points was impressive, but his teams had difficulty to defend. That has changed now as in the first four games of qualifying the team has given up only 71 points as well as 71 points in two games against Germany. „When I was coach in Germany, I had the reputation of being an offenive minded coach. However in the last two years in the Boston Celtics organization, I worked hard at getting back to defense. The results have been great and we have had good defensive game plans so far. I have to give credit to the coaching staff and the players for executing our defensive game plan“, stressed Mike Taylor. His predecessor behind the Polish bench ex German national coach Dirk Bauermann watched the game and also had seen the good work of Taylor. „It isn´t always easy to rate the work of a coach when you are so far away, but despite the bitter loss to Austria, Taylor has done a good job with Poland and I think the Polish federation is happy with his work“, added ex FC Bayern Munich head coach Dirk Bauermann.
Both countries Germany and Poland entered the game with identical 2-1 records as Germany came off a huge 40 point win in Trier against Hapless Luxemburg while Poland was coming off a cruel 83-81 loss against Austria. Germany also wanted revenge for their bitter 68-67 loss in Poland where they had the game in their hands, but let it slip away at the end and even could of won it, but a last second shot by Dennis Schroeder didn´t want to fall. Poland was the better team for 40 minutes as Germany had to play catch up basketball all evening long in Bonn as consistency, a lack of motivation and silly mistakes cost them the loss. After the loss, Telekom Baskets Bonn guard Ryan Brooks who watched the game was questioning the lack of effort by Germany and lauding the team basketball of Poland. „Poland played with more energy. Germany played to laid back and when they did make a run at the end it was too late. Poalnd was rerally very disciplined, were patient when running their offensive sets and there was so much trust in their offense bye each player on their team. When your finding your teammates and hitting open and tough shots, that makes it hard on Germany to get back into the game especially when Poland is defending so aggressive“, stated ex Fraport Skyliner Ryan Brooks. Poland had a great shooting day and didn´t cough up the ball much, it doesn´t matter if you lost the battle on the boards. After the game, French/Polish forward Aaron Cel was delighted with the performance of his team. „We played a good game and listened to our coach as he told us to get less turnovers as we had so many in the last game against Austria. We only had one turnover at halftime. The scouting against Germany was excellent as we knew everything about each player and executed on defense. We don´t have any stars on the team, but we knew that if we wanted to win that we had to play together on offense and defense and we did that“, added Aaron Cel.
Before the game started one could of took out a notebook to pencil down which known basketball figures were in the Telekom Dome in Bonn as there was Dirk Bauermann who seemed browner than usual. Either he has been living on an island or really been living under the solarium. Other notable people in attendance were Ingo Weiss from the German basketball federation, Beko BBL boss Jan Pommer, German basketball legend and Dennis Schroeder agent Ademola Okulaja, and agent Patrick King. After the national anthems of both countries were played, it was time to play basketball. Poland got off to the better start as Aaron Cel nailed a pull up jumper and Stelmet teammates Aaron Cel who knew each other inside out on the court fed big man Adam Hrycaniuk for the easy lay in. Germany couldn´t get any rhythm on offense as Poland kept executing their sets even if some shots were more difficult than others as Cel connected on a step back jumper and Hrycaniuk scored inside again as Poland led 9-4. The big man Hrycaniuk kept giving Germany problems inside as nobody could match his physicality as Poland led 13-6 as German head coach Emir Mutapcic took a time out. Poland wasn´t letting Germany get into a rhythm as they continued to defend aggressive even at times they got an extra foul becuase of their more risky play. After the timeout, Germans Dennis Schroeder and Elias Harris were inserted. Schroeder responed with a three pointer to cut the Poland lead to 13-11. However the fresh breath of NBA air didn´t faze Poland as they closed out the first quarter on a 13-4 run to lead 26-15. Taylor did a fine job using his big man rotation as 205cm Damian Kulig scored inside twice and made a nifty fade way jumper. 20 year old Mateusz Ponitka who Taylor thinks highly of dropped a big three pointer. „Ponitka is a big talent from the year 1993. He is a big difference maker and just makes big plays“, warned Mike Taylor. „You didn´t have to be an expert to see that Germany had a very bad start. It really only matters how a team can deal with being back 11 points“, stressed Dirk Bauermann. After one quarter Poland was shooting 58% from the field and 40% from outside while Germany was shooting 25% from the field and 14% from outside. Germany had the 10-6 rebound edge, but five turnovers while Poland had zero turnovers.
Germany had a great start in the second quarter, but were effected by a huge Poland defensive play which sparked Poland to go on a run and retain an 11 point lead only to witness Germany cut their lead to two points at halftime. Germany started the second quarter with a 9-2 run to cut the Poland lead to 28-24. Schroeder started off the run with a deadly three pointer from the wing and Robin Benzing then snuck inside for an easy bucket. Schroeder then glided through the Poland defense with so much grace that a confident swan couldn´t have done it better on the Rhine river. After a Damian Kulig lay in, Germany had some fortune as Poland were careless losing an easy defensive rebound that Daniel Theis scooped up forthe easy put back. Then came that timely big play by Poland as beast Kulig of PGE Turow came from the weak side and stuffed Theis on the lay in attempt. This fueled his offensive game as he converted on back to back three pointers. Robert Skibniewski then hit a pull up jumper as Germany trailed 36-24. Germany once again couldn´t keep consistency as Poland was able to build another comfortable lead. However Germany then displayed possibly their strongest spurt of the game finishing the second quarter on a 16-7 run to trail only 43-41. Ex Wurzburg forward Maxi Kleber hit two three pointers in a row cutting the Poland lead to 38-30 and keeping Germany from sinking in the Rhine river. Germany slowly continued to come back as Benzing hit a three pointer and Daniel Theis had two big dunks as his ex teammate shovled him the ball on the first monster dunk. Germany was able to go into half time with a chance to come back in the second half and try for the win. „Germany played a lot better in the last 6-7 minutes. Germany has the better bench and showed it. Germany took advantage of the weaker Polish gaurd position and went inside more. Germany also put Benzing into better scoring position“, stated Dirk Bauermann. Poland was shooting 54% from the field and 40% from the three point land while Germany was shooting 51% from the field and 45% from the three point line. Germany still had a firm grip on the glass 19-9, but had eight turnovers while Poland had one turnover.
Just when one thought Germany was back in the game, they returnned back and really stunk up the Telekom Dome arena in the third quarter. They let Poland walk all over them letting the opponent go on a 17-2 run to lead 60-43. German Maxi Kleber got a first hand look at what future teammate Adam Wacaczynski can do as he finally got on the scoreboard hitting a pull up jumper and getting a lay in after being scoreless in 12 minutes in the first half. Hrycaniuk continued to be in beast mode scoring inside while Skibniewski hit a three pointer as Poland led 55-41. After almost six minutes elapsed, Robin Benzing got Germany on the scoreboard with free throws. Ponitka then took a chapter out of the Dennis Schroeder text book scoring on a finger tip role in and Waczyniski hit another three pointer. Germany had some costly turnovers in this huge run, but also had some misfortune as they missed a few easy lay ups that they should of had. „“I think that this run just showed that we had the same level throughout the game. We were like a machine, worked hard and believed in ourselves“, added Aaron Cel. All this damage surprisingly was done with Schroeder on the court. Sometimes one has to ask where that leader is that can get its team out of a jam at any time as a Dirk Nowtzki can. „There are many guys that can do this. I think a Schroeder can do it as can a Schaffartzik who can be a real fox and lead with words. Germany is capable to lead as a team. They have to be a well functioning team where each player knows ist role and important is that each guy has the ability to always be able to help their team“, warned Dirk Bauermann. Despite Poland having a 17 point lead, Germany was able to cut it down to 13 points as Poland led 66-53 after 30 minutes. In the last few minutes Ponitka and Schroeder exchanged three pointers and Benzing nailed a jumper and then fed a cutting Theis for another big dunk. After three quarters Poland had a shooting percentage of 53% from the field and 44% from the parking lot while Germany was shooting 45% from the field and 37% from the parking lot. Germany still had the rebounding advantage 26-17, but 13 turnovers while Poland had only three turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, Poland kept a nice lead until Germany made a run late to cut the Poland lead to six points, but that is as close as Germany got as Poland shut the door on them in their own living room. Theis started off the fourth quarter with a classic work horse play muscling to the hoop and finishing and feeling the pain on his shoulder as he scrambled back on defense. However then it was time for Ponitka of Belgium team Ostende who made the big shots hitting consecutive three pointers to give Poland the 72-58 lead and some German fans asking who is that kid. Cel then scored inside and Poland led by 16 points, but Germany still had some energy left going on a 6-0 run to get back to 74-64. Schroeder made a pull up jumper and Theis scored a three pointer after Schaffartzik had saved a loose ball. After Waczyniski hit a in your face three pointer for the 77-64 Poland lead, Germany made their last run oft he game going on a 7-0 run to cut the Poland lead to 77-71. Theis hit a fade away jumper and then one could sense that Schroeder was trying lead a Nowitzki like come back as he hit a three pointer and then scored inside as the ball trickled into the net. Waczynski then made free throws as Poland led 79-71. With under two minutes to play, Germany made a low percentage ally op try to Theis that missed and was punished with an Aaron Cel three pointer which got the Mike Taylor fist and the game was decided. Poland hit some free throws more and at the end left Bonn with a 88-76 win and 3-1 record in play. „We were cold blood at the end. Germany came back, but we stayed calm and didn´t force anything. We knew that they wouldn´t hit 10 three pointers at the end. We knew that if we just played defense, we would win“, stressed Aaron Cel. Poland shot 51% from the field and 50% from outside while Germany shot 49% from the field and 41% from outside. Germany won the rebound battle 33-23, but had a miserable 17 turnovers while Poland had seven only. „We have to play better against Austria and can´t play like we did in the first and third quarters“, warned Deniis Schroeder. Germany hosts Austria August 24th in Hagen.