After the satisfying and crushing sweep of 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin, it seemed like everyone in Skyliner country had fast forwarded to the final and already put in their votes of finals MVP for Jordan Theodore over current MVP Brad Wanamaker and dreaming of a second celebration at the famous Frankfurt landmark Romer. However for some reason everybody seemed to forget about the pesky ratiopharm Ulm who have not only made basketball life extremely difficult for the little darlings of the Beko BBL Frankfurt, but drove the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup champion to the brink of elimination as they have been the huge surprise of the playoffs upsetting the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and now is one game away of reaching the final. Everybody was awaiting a response from the Fraport Skyliners in game two in Ulm after their bitter 90-86 loss in game one at home, but instead lost the game in crunch time for a second time in a row which is as unusual this season for the team as it is for Mike Morrison not to be the recipient of an alley-oop pass and finish with a crushing dunk each game. Following the game at the press conference, Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert gave his two cents to the loss and kept it short stating it was difficult to win when the opponent shoots 80 free throws in two games. The facial expression of Herbert during his brief direct words was the kind you would get when your best friend had fooled around with your woman or when the family dog in barren North Dakota where the nearest town is 30 miles away without a sports bar mixes up the remote for some ground beef on the eve of the Super Bowl. One could of painted Gordon Herbert all red and added some feathers and a black beak and he could of fit in well as a replacement for Red in the new flick Angry Birds. Herbert can be as angry as he wants to be, but come Saturday, he will have to funnel that anger into positive energy and help his team break out of this quick sand, because the team is sinking quickly. Frankfurt seems to have the long season talking with their bodies while ratiopharm Ulm seem to be very fresh at the moment. They need to break out their typical Skyliner basketball which is letting their league best defense spark their offense which has that Bamberg junior like tantalizing ball movement to get back on track in this series.
Some teams find their peak early as ratiopharm Ulm did in November 2015 with the acquisition of ex NBA player Chris Babb as he was instrumental in helping lead the team to 13 wins in 14 games and then find it again. Ulm came into the playoffs losing two of their last three against Oldenburg and Ludwigsburg, but then found that special energy again beating Oldenburg in four games and now have a 2-0 lead against the Fraport Skyliners. Ulm has been rewarded with the two game lead nailing 11 three pointers in game one while losing the rebound battle and having four turnovers more and in game two, the game was an emotional tightrope for three quarters as both teams were going head to head with no one falling down. The stats were very similar as no team really did anything much more better than the other, but like in game one, there were two distinct factors that decided the game. Frankfurt let the game get away both times as they couldn´t execute the way they know how in crunch-time an area where Frankfurt seemed to always have an answer this season. The usual lethal Jordan Theodore was unable to produce in the last minutes of both games as the Ulm defense buckled down on the Englewood, New Jersey native keeping him in check. Frankfurt gave up a 10-0 run in the last minutes in game two to lose which is something you can´t do in the playoffs and expect to win. The other reason was the overwhelming command of ratiopharm Ulm had in drawing fouls as they got to the free throw line 78 times while Frankfurt only did 42 times. One can complain as much as you want and cite a list of excuses longer than the shopping list of Paris Hilton during a routine stroll down Rodeo Drive, but in the end, ratiopharm has just played more clever, had more intensity and just been more physical. Plus each game had it´s central figure as in game one it was German national player Per Guenther who nailed two bombs in the OT to secure the game one win while in game two where Frankfurt still focused too much on ex Michigan State forward Raymar Morgan didn´t keep ex Tuebingen center Augustine Rubit under wraps as he exploded for a career best 33 points which was key in Ulm winning game two. Herbert can moan all he wants about how he saw Rubit putting a special patent on the traveling violation, but that won´t get him game two back. Frankfurt has to play better team defense and not allow a Morgan or Rubit too be roaming around as if they are in an Iowa cornfield. Frankfurt just don´t seem to come to terms with the athletcism of ratiopharm Ulm as the speed and agility of a Morgan and Rubit has been a huge handicap for them.The Fraport Skyliners have averaged giving up 86 points in the two games which is 21 points above their season average. A game has 40 minutes and Frankfurt has to get back to playing consistent over longer stretches in the game.
In game three, the Fraport Skyliners need to find back to their special style of Skyliner basketball. A big strength of Gordon Herbert is his very detailed scouting that he performs with the aid of assistant coach Klaus Perwass. How many times did opponents say after another blow out by Frankfurt that they always knew what they were going to do. So far in this series, Thorsten Leibenath has won the scouting duel as he seems to have beat Herbert at his own game. Ratipharm Ulm has finally found a way to not only compete with Frankfurt, but beat them twice in a row to potent scouting. In the last months, no team was able to really find a way to beat Frankfurt, but Ulm has been able to pretty much be able to run their offense and they have seen an abundance of open shots something that hasn´t been typical of Frankfurt teams in the past. Gordon Herbert has to get back to his brilliant scouting methods and add a few more tricks up his sleeve to the game three game plan and just simply throw everything possible at Ulm to keep them off balance. Ratiopharm Ulm won´t be overconfident, because they know what the Fraport Skyliners are capable of and will be shooting for the sweep on Saturday. Frankfurt knows that they have been underachieving and have enough character to come out with new energy and that 100% effort from each player as many have been on the court, but only around 60 or 70%. Fraport Skyliner point guard Jordan Theodore has witnessed many battles on and off the court in his life and despite this being a do or die game, he will have enough experience to come back with a stellar performance. It may be the first playoffs for Theodore, but his enormous self-confidence has brought him to the top many times this season even when it looked bleak during the game. Theodore should check out the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup final again on You Tube to get some new added inspiration to his crunch-time heroics. Theodore and his teammates won´t allow the season to end yet on a negative note and let Gordon Herbert find that extra level of angriness and challenge Red of Angry Birds for the crown of being the most severely irritated.