The Miles Basketball Minute: BBL Playoff Preview: Ratiopharm Ulm-MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg 3-1

It must have been Déjà vu for Chris Babb last Sunday when he possibly caught the first quarter of his ex team Boston Celtics with whom he played 14 NBA games for in the 2013-2014 season as they somehow allowed the Washington Wizards to lead 16-0 in the first quarter in game one. It has been almost been four months since the bitter Ratiopharm Ulm cup loss to current playoff opponent the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg that dashed their hopes of the Cup Top 4 final and technically was their first loss of the season, but didn´t interfere with their 25 game BBL regular season winning streak that ended against FC Bayern Munich on April 8. Just like in Boston, ratiopharm Ulm had a horrible first quarter in the cup affair against Ludwigsburg being scoreless for seven minutes and mustering only 7 points and allowing 21 points. In Boston the mighty Isaiah Thomas who has had his real break out season this year and easily belongs to the top 5 point guards in the NBA had a painful experience losing his tooth, but that was exactly what he needed as well as his team to get out of this woeful period and he sucked up the strain with adrenaline and dropped 33 points to help his team to the victory. In game two, he didn´t need another lost tooth as he exploded for 53 points the most points in a playoff game since Allen Iverson´s 55 in 2003. Babb who learned his basketball trade at iowa(NCAA) never played a NBA minute with Isaiah Thomas, but joined the Boston Celtics on April 12 2015 again after spending the season in the D-league with Maine  and witnessed the last 6 Celtic games of the season from the bench including five against the Cleveland Cavaliars which included the 4 game sweep against Boston. Thomas was a known player in the NBA and already showed signs of becoming a superstar dropping 34 points against the Detroit Pistons. Babb probably already knew in his mind two years ago that Thomas had the potential to get to where he is now. If ratiopharm Ulm ever have a slow start in a playoff game or are suffering a very down period, Chris Babb will surely remember the Isaiah Thomas tooth caper in Boston. He also will recall how Thomas rebounded from a 3-26 shooting span against Chicago in the last three games and rebound against Washington to shoot almost 50% from outside and with or without a painful experience  use that as fuel to his advantage when he is on the court to get his team out of a jam especially with his three pointer as he is shooting 42,9% from the parking lot.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex Boston Celtic and current ratiopharm Ulm guard Chris Babb

The season of ratiopharm Ulm so far has been like a Cinderella story even if the club has belonged to the top 5 teams in the BBL for years, but the fewest people would have ever believed that they could flirt with an undefeated season except for maybe head coach Thorsten Leibenath and manager Thomas Stoll.

As April came along and ratiopharm was still undefeated, you just had to root for that undefeated season, but that came to an end after 25 straight wins as they lost in Munich 83-68 where they got destroyed inside on the boards as well as giving up easy buckets inside. Ratiopharm Ulm closed out the season after the Munich loss finishing winning four of five, but losing to the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg for the second time 79-61. Could this be a bad omen for this playoff series for ratiopharm Ulm? The club has many strengths, but their biggest surely is their togetherness and team chemistry that has developed well from last season where they reached the final. The club kept six players and the new players that came on board like Braydon Hobbs and Karsten Tadda who are true professionals and great character guys bought into the system from day one and the other new guy wasn´t so new since Tim Ohlbrecht had played with Ulm in the 2014-2015 season. With Chris Babb and Raymar Morgan, the club easily have the best guard and center in the league. Da Sean Butler and Augustine Rubit are also top players in the BBL at their positions and can burn you for 25 plus points on any night. When a guy like ratiopharm Ulm fan favorite and crucial BBL identity figure Per Guenther isn´t the main man on this teams roster, but accepts his role 100% and works hard every day despite coming from the bench more than starting, then you know something special is occurring this season where simply everything works. Another strengths is their offense where they are a lethal scoring machine averaging 88 points per game and are sharp on the defensive end as well allowing only 75 points per game which is fourth best. They like to play quick and thrive on transition and their small ball game simply works and their smaller inside guys like Morgan and Rubit continue to burn bigger players with their quickness time after time after time.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex NBA player Jack Cooley in Frankfurt

Even if the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg reached the playoffs this season, the BBL season was surely not the most satisfactory for head coach John Patrick as the team was unable to equal or better their fifth place from last season . Patrick has continued to show consistency leading the team into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive time and eighth place for the third time. The team did have success this season reaching the BBL Cup top 4 and were a few seconds away from reaching the Champions League Final 4, but ex Fraport Skyliner Jordan Theodore went coast to coast making an off balance shot in the lane against the lax Ludwigsburg defense. The club had some good phases registering two four game winning streaks, but also suffered two three game losing streaks and just never really had that true consistency that they needed to have a better record in the standings. For many years, the club seemed to always play very well against Alba Berlin and have beat FC Bayern Munich in the past, but this season up to the late season win against ratiopharm Ulm had had little luck beating playoff teams and did it only twice beating Oldenburg and Bonn. A big problem was forming a heathy team chemistry as the club retained only three players with David Mccray, Tekele Cotton and Brad Loesing from last season. Patrick did a good job bringing in a good mix of talent at each position, but it just didn´t mesh. Point guards like Wes Washpun and Bazou Kone had to pack their bags while bringing in Clifford Hammond has panned out as a good pick up. Top player Alex Ruoff also had to depart going back to BG Goettingen and Jason Boone retreated to Poland. All in all many players coming and going not necessarily positive for team chemistry development. They have a very strong inside presence with ex NBA player Jack Cooley and up and coming German Johannes Thiemann and a good guard rotation with Rocky Trice, Tekele Cotton, Drew Crawford and Chad Toppert as well as athletic beast Kelvin Martin who can hurt you from all over the court.  They may only average 76 points per game which is 13th in the BBL, but can light up the scoreboard on any night as they have scored 80 points or more 15 times. They are the sixth best rebounding team in the league and haul down 11 offensive rebounds a game best in the league. The pick up of ex NBA player DJ Kennedy was crucial as he knows the organization and BBL and his all-around game and leadership skills will prove vital for the team.

This season the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have had the number of ratiopharm Ulm winning two of three, but will they be able to withstand a five game series against ratiopharm Ulm. In their first BBL meeting at home, ratiopharm Ulm destroyed Ludwigsburg 97-80 as they shot at a very high percentage inside, took care of the ball well allowing six more possessions and spread the ball around well as five guys scored in double figures. In the return game in Ludwigsburg, ratiopharm Ulm suffered a tough 79-61 defeat. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg defended very well showing what they are capable of when 100% effort is there as the guests had a horrible shooting night going only 18-41 in the paint area and Raymar Morgan played only 13 minutes scoring three points on 1/9 shooting. This could be the toughest series for ratiopharm Ulm and one of those where if they move on could be that experience that pushes them to greater heights. Both teams come into this series playing good basketball in the last weeks. The deeper the series goes the more dangerous the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg will become which could affect ratiopharm Ulm mentally.  Ratiopharm Ulm have to start well and play their basketball. Ratiopharm will win this series if they can consistently play defense as the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg aren´t the best shooting team and ratiopharm Ulm twice had very bad offensive games which doesn´t happen too often. Ludwigsburg have the edge from the bench as there is more experience as ratiopharm Ulm´s majority of the bench is their young German Pro B players. If Ludwigsburg can use their physicality and get the Ulm big men in foul trouble on a consistent basis then this series could go five games. However ratiopharm Ulm is on a mission and have revenge from their two losses to Ludwigsburg and will present the successful take no prisoners ratiopharm Ulm basketball that the world witnessed this season

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