The Miles Basketball Minute: 2016 Beko BBL Quarterfinal Playoff Preview Fraport Skyliners-Alba Berlin 3-0

It isn´t always easy to shift gears going from one extreme to the other, but some teams have that ability to go from being at the top to having to refocus and get mentally ready for the next task at hand. A team like the Brose Baskets Bamberg for a time a few years ago were able to win cup and league titles in the same season with ease the way Fraport Skyliner MIke Morrison can erupt in the paint area with dunks like a lost Lion from the Tampa, Florida Zoo does when his evening meal is a few minutes late. From a span from 2009-2012 the Brose Baskets Bamberg were able to accomplish this feat with bravery winning the double league and cup and always being able to hold that unbelievable hungriness that you only see with top teams. The Fraport Skyliners don´t have that club history like Bamberg has as it took them 12 years to win that next title after their last one in 2004, whereas Bamberg has won 10 titles in that span which could make even the most calm Freak city fan a bit full. However with the Fraport Skyliners just having won the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup title in Chalon, France over Italian team Varese, they didn´t have a few months to recover and then have to play the playoffs, but actually had only 6 days to get off their momentary peak and be ready to be plucking mode as next on the menu are the Albatross bird or otherwise known as top team Alba Berlin. Of course when a team like the Fraport Skyliners have fought and played a superb season in the Fiba cup Europe Cup where they went 18-1, it is only normal that they celebrate with style. Celebrating the high class way started with the normal post game clowning around with the trophy and medals and Frankfurt might have even started a new trend with posing the selfie´s not only with the hardware, but also being caught in the netting of the rim the way a flounder is in a fiserman´s net off the coast of Cape Cod. The partying went on in the the night until morning where it continued with the train ride home where the last thing that was on anybody´s mind at that juncture was how to control Jordan Taylor the following weekend. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, the team had a gathering at a local TV station in the evening where they could tell for the 100th time what it felt like to have won an international title. The next day followed further team appointments and an official party at night with the fans where they all met and marched to city hall together. After two days of doing the title rounds, Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert had the first scheduled practice on tap for Wednesday giving the team three days to prepare for the very hungry Alba Berlin team that had scheduled a short training camp during the time where Frankfurt was telling stories how they wrote history while a Jordan Taylor might have been studying film on how to control a Jordan Theodore when he makes his almost unstoppable speeding to the rim. The question is now can the Fraport Skyliners be able to get back to the basketball office again on the ground instead of being in basketball heaven sipping champagne from the Fiba Europe Cup trophy? If Gordon Herbert needed advice, he probably could have dialed up Chris Fleming in Denver or Jordan Theodore who seems to know every living basketball player or at least someone who knows a guy that could give him the number of ex Bamberg guard Casey Jacobsen in Phoenix. At least these two Bamberg legends should be able to give the guiding words for them How to refocus successfully again.

The Fraport Skyliners have had one of their best season´s in their 17 year existence, but it´s not over yet as they could still win the Beko BBL title as for some have a realistic chance of doing if many things go right. It took Frankfurt 12 years to finally win a title again as they won only the fourth ever international club title after Alba Berlin, Mitteldeutscher BC and BG Goettingen. With John Little Frankfurt has the only player in the history of German basketball to win two international club titles. A goal this season of the Fraport Skyliners was winning the Fiba Europe Cup and they did boasting an amazing 18-1 record, but in their minds they aren´t done yet. They played a superb regular season finishing in third place with a record of 26-8 and had winning streaks of six, seven and nine games to cap of the regular season. Their biggest strength is their defense as they had the best in the Fiba Europe Cup giving up 65 points per game and in the Beko BBL giving up 68 points per game. Their offense isn´t too shabby either as they averaged 78 points per game 12th best in the Beko BBL. They also had a respectable 9-7 record against potential palyoff teams. They also displayed an amazing ball movement that could be compared to the Brose Baskets Bamberg and there were some opponents from time to time that compared it to the NBA San Antonio Spurs. However their biggest strength is their team chemistry. By having the German big three on board with Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein for three years, Quantez Robertson on board since 2009 and Aaron Doornekamp and Mike Morrison since 2014, the club just know each other inside out like a 30 year married couple. Head coach Gordon Herbert also made the right choices bringing in the conductor Jordan Theodore who has moved into the top three point guards in the BBL, top defensive specialist John Little and rookie Phillip Scrubb who plays like he is a four year veteran and could be labelled as one of the better sixth men in the league. Frankfurt was able to beat every playoff team this season as they prove to be a team not to take lightly. Teams were watching the standings the last weeks hoping not to get Frankfurt as nobody wants to face them. However Alba Berlin was the only team that beat them twice. The Fraport Skyliners are on a mission and no matter who they face will be hard to beat in five games.

Alba Berlin finished the season in sixth place with a record of 22-12 which was their worst finish in a regular season dating back to before their record seven title run form 1997-2003. Alba Berlin is the most tradition rich club in the Beko BBL and despite winning the 2016 Beko BBL cup, for many that is only a side note as one is used to consistent success in the organization. The club reached the Eurocup quarterfinals losing to FC Bayern Munich and in the Beko BBL started off as if they were on another planet winning their first eight games including beating FC Bayern Munich, but then lost three of four games. After that their best winning streak was four games and their biggest problem was their poor 5-8 record against playoff teams in the hunt. They were able to beat lower ranked teams, but not teams of their worth which has to make you wonder why that killer instinct was missing. They even served up a rotten egg in Braunschweig losing 46-43. Losing to Ludwigsburg 4 times has to make one wonder what went wrong scouting as adjustments weren´t made. One of their biggest problems in the season was injury woes. Losing important role player Nils Giffey for many months hurt their team chemistry while Will Cherry and Jordan Taylor also missed a combined seven games which they couldn´t compensate from the guard position. The team belonged to the top half best scoring teams with 82 per game at #7 and third best defensive teams giving up 74 points per game. The club held a good core of Germans with Niels Giffey, Alex King, Akeem Vargas and Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann. The new signings with guards Jordan Taylor and Will Cherry belong to the best guard duo in the league and with Elmedin Kikanovic, Kresimir Loncar and Dragan Milosavljevic three very high level players. But the overall team consistency wasn´t there this season and that is something that isn´t tolerated with Sasa Obradovic, but his attempts to constructing something brilliant only produced the cup win this season.

A flaw this season of the Fraport Skyliners has been their road record as four of their six loses occurred away from their living room. Alba Berlin may have won two high energy games in Frankfurt and Munich, but Frankfurt showed in their last regular season game in Berlin that they are capable of winning on the road in a very hostle environment. Making a Frankfurt sweep is a very bold prediction, but the way the Fraport Skyliners have been playing as of late is the total opposite of how Alba Berlin has in the Beko BBL. Since the Alba Berlin cup win in February in Munich, they have just been up and down and won the games they were supposed to win, but were 0-6 against playoff teams not a record that will give them confidence going into the playoffs. Key in the series will be the inside game as Alba Berlin is the better rebounding team and whoever can´t reach the other team´s physicality will suffer in the paint area. Alba Berlin have many potent offensive players, but keeping one of the Taylor´s and Cherry´s will make the road to the winner circle a bit easier. Alba Berlin has to key in on Jordan Theodore who is the key man. He makes Frankfurt go and especially in crunch time is when he takes off. Teams have had massive problems slowing him down as he is a machine that just turns on the light switch when the Frankfurt offense is sputtering and makes their hopes brighter again. The Fraport Skyliners have the edge in offense/defense while Alba Berlin has the deeper bench. The Fraport Skyliners may have played two games below their level at the Fiba Europe Cup final 4, but the Molten ball was one they don´t usually play with which effected their game. In game one, Frankfurt will have the Spaulding ball back for them to get that ball moving going and dropping shots at ease. One could argue that Frankfurt might be mentally tired after last weekend, but Frankfurt is a team that is on a mission and prides it´s game on Skyliner basketball which is having an aggressive defense that bumps, forces turnovers and gets easy transition buckets and an offense that can zip the ball around the triangle like a soccer team does in a game of 5-1. Game one will be key as if Alba Berlin could steal a game, that might put them in the driver´s seat for the series win while if Frankfurt wins, they won´t hesitate to shut the door on Alba Berlin with a win in berlin and 2-0 lead going back to Frankfurt. Frankfurt has the home court advantage and even if Alba Berlin do make it exciting, Frankfurt doesn´t like to lose at home and haven´t since December 6th, 2015 and since then have won 18 games in a row in their living room. If that isn´t reason for Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic to call for some extra scouting sessions.

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