EasyCredit BBL Playoff Preview 2018: MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg-medi Bayreuth 2-3

It was supposed to be the big weekend for the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Athens with the perfect story book ending with the club returning home with the 2018 Basketball Champions League title bringing some added special prestige to the 87,000 populated city of Ludwigsburg, giving the club only the 5th international German club title, bringing the versatile Thomas Walkup some added elevation in his stock as he is on the verge of the NBA and Euroleague and bringing head coach John Patrick another step up into the elite coaching corner in Germany as his development of the club in the last years has not only deserved unending praise, but the utmost respect as his work is exemplary, but instead the team returned home without a title and only a disappointing fourth place finish as they lost both games. The most satisfying aspect the club most likely could bring back to German soil was having had a free 48 hour vacation in the breathtaking city of Athens as a visit off the court to the famous Akropolis which is as much of a must see as it is visiting the Residenzschloss in Ludwigsburg and on the court having the pleasure and opportunity of witnessing the amazing Oaka Olympic Indoor Hall that seats 18,989 crazy and loud fans that make an arena visit so unforgettable that just being there for a game can supply exciting stories for a lifetime that could easily overshadow any incredible play, amazing shot, no look pass or crushing dunk seem like an absolute side note. Perhaps the unbelievable energy level and noise level of the OAKA arena could of doused the intense thoughts of head coach John Patrick at times after the loss in the arena, but then again his competitive nature most likely didn´t let him. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg lost their semi-final game to the French squad Monaco on Friday night 87-65 that boasted ex Alba Berlin center Elmedin Kikanovic and played a solid first half, but lost their rhythm in the second half getting outscored 51-27 and had problems taking care of the ball. One of the worst things about a final 4 tournament is losing in the semi-final and having to play that unwanted game for third place. Instead of hiding your head in the sand and then flying home quickly, one has to remain and battle the unending thoughts about what went wrong in the semi-final and what could have been done better to win as well as try to focus on winning the game for third place. The German club were unable to salvage at least one positive thing on the court and went home 0-2 losing to Spanish side Murcia 85-74 as they got killed on the boards as the injured Justin Sears really was missed. Instead of leaving Athens on a massive high, the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have to shift gears now and get ready fast for the easyCredit BBL playoffs as they meet tough opponent medi Bayreuth. Can the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg forget their disappointing Athens weekend on the court and be ready for medi Bayreuth, or will they suffer a second heartbreak in a row?  Anyone that knows John Patrick, knows that he is a fighter and will have his torn and battered club ready for medi Bayreuth and not fall over and wilt like a flower.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing medi Bayreuth PG James Robinson after scoring 9 points in a 72-68 loss against the Fraport Skyliners in Frankfurt

It was an incredible season for the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the easyCredit BBl as they finished in third place with a record of 26-8 which was their best record dating back to the surprise second place finish in the 2006-2007 season. It was also the most successful season for John Patrick with the MHP Riesen as coach as he had two eighth place finishes and one fifth place in 2015-2016. They started well winning 8 of their first 9 games, but then had a little drought losing 2 of three games getting beat by Munich and Wurzburg. Then they were back to their old consistent ways winning 11 of 13 games, but did get swept by FC Bayern Munich. They finished the season with a 5-3 record losing to teams like Bamberg and Alba Berlin. John Patrick did a great job being able to build a strong team that quickly found their chemistry and their roles as he almost completely added new players as the only guy from last season was veteran David Mccray.

He did bring back three guys with Kerron Johnson(9,2ppg,1,4rpg,4,1apg), Adam Waleskowski(7,8ppg,4,8rpg,1,4apg) and Rocky Trice(6,9ppg,2,1rpg,1,6apg) who he had worked with before in the past. Other than that he was able to bring in players where he knew would be able to play his aggressive press style and they bought in to his system. The biggest and most important signing was Thomas Walkup(11,7ppg,5,2rpg,4,5apg,1,9spg, 39%3pt) who proved to be one of big steals and pick ups in the league with Alba Berlin Mr everything Luke Sikma. But he also proved having the right feeling bringing in Elgin Cook(12,2ppg,3,6rpg,44% 3pt) who had no problems adjusting to the European style after a rookie season in the G-League. But generaly every signing was perfect. Signing guys like Justin Sears(10,8ppg,4,4rpg,1,3apg) and Dwayne Evans(11,9ppg,6,1rpg) proved to be extremely valuable because both came form the lower ranked Giessen and Patrick had the audacity of giving them the confidence and responsibility of being able to step up on a playoff team. Another surprising signing that totally panned out was Canadian Adika Peter Mcneilly(8,3ppg,2,6rpg,1,8apg) who is a rookie and needed no adjustment period and had some huge games this season. The club was struck with a huge shock when their German national player Johannes Thiemann(11,9ppg, 4,8rpg,1,10apg)  went out at the end of January, but the club was able to make adjustments despite having a big void down low and still had a 12-4 record without them. Their big strength is being able to practice a aggressive press that allows them to force opponents to many turnovers and generate easy buckets which has allowed them to average 86 points per game which is fourth best in the league. They allow 76 points per game which is fourth best in the league. They were able to sweep Frankfurt, Bonn and Oldenburg, but were suspect against the top 3 of Munich,Berlin and Bamberg having only a 1-5 record.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Thomas Walkup after the 88-81 MHP Riesen win where he dropped 27 points

After their amazing season last year, Medi Bayreuth had another noteworthy season, but couldn´t match their fourth place from last season as they finished in sixth place with a 21-13 record, but were able to play a solid Basketball Champions League season losing to the MHP Riesen in the quarterfinals. For a little more than the first four months of the regular season, they belonged to the top 4 teams in the league boasting a 16-6 record. Their record could have been a lot better had they not lost crunch-time games against Frankfurt and Bonn plus they lost twice to FC Bayern Munich playing them tough both times. The turn in their season came at the cup weekend where they lost to Alba Berlin and then their luck changed. They would go 8-7 the rest of the way and had their worst stretch in March where their defense took hard times as they lost four of five games and in all four game relinquished 100 points or more each game. The difficult weekly Basketball champions League grind and lack of depth contributed to their down slide. The club´s biggest strength is their team chemistry that continued to develop this season as the club held on to seven players. The teams most valuable player and best pick up since returning to the BBL in 2010 was Nate Linhart(9,8ppg,4,5rpg,3,5apg,35%3pt) who is the glue guy and keeps tee team together and is the most versatile player on the team. Captain Bastian Doreth(5,0ppg,1,7rpg,2,4apg,45%3pt) is the ultimate team player, Demon Brooks(9,4ppg,3,8rpg,1,2apg) brings valuable experience and offensive intelligence, Robin Amaize(7,1ppg,,2,5rpg,1,3apg) brings valuable support from the bench and veteran Steve Wachalski(6,1ppg,2,5rpg,48%3pt) nonstop firepower from outside. The big man duo of Assem Marei(12,2ppg,6,6rpg,1,2apg) and Andreas Seifert(10,2ppg,4,2rpg) continue to be a tough inside duo for opponents and especially Seifert has made a huge step in his offensive game. Everyone wondered if the two guards Trey Lewis and Kyan Anderson could be replaced by Gabe York and James Robinson and even if it hasn´t been an upgrade statistically their hasn´t been so much a difference other than Lewis was the better shooter from outside last season. 36 year old John Cox(4,5ppg,1,2rpg,44%3pt) has been a pleasant surprise considering the limited minutes he gets. They belong to the top offensive teams in the BBL averaging 84 points per game, but aren´t the deadly three point shooting team from last season. They are an average defensive team allowing 80 points per game ninth best and average rebounding team getting 29 per game ninth best in the league despite having the duo of Marei and Seiferth patrolling the paint area.

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Miles Schmidt-Schueber and Adam Waleskowski at Frankfurt airport

This series suddenly has become very exciting simply because everyone wonders if the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg can erase the Athens fiasco and perform at a high level in the BBL playoffs. When looking at the head to head results from this season, medi Bayreuth is starring at a negative 1-3 record. They were swept during the regular season and were destroyed on the road 78-47 and just thinking back to that loss should be enough fuel to help motivate them in this series. Bayreuth was outrebounded and shot a dismal 3/21 from outside. In the next to last regular season game in Bayreuth, Ludwigsburg won a 73-70 nail bitter where head coach John Patrick pulled a sneaky ace from his sleeve withdrawing from playing press and totally surprising Bayreuth. Both teams shot ok and Bayreuth did a good job on the boards, but didn´t take good care of the ball. In the Basketball Champions League the teams split. Medi Bayreuth won the first game in Ludwigsburg 86-81, but where it counted most in the return game, the Bavarian team faltered at home losing 89-77 dashing their Basketball Champions League Final 4 trip. Ludwigsburg rebounded the ball very well, and their defense led them to the win. This series will go 5 games and could go either way. It will come down to how well the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg recuperate from the Basketball Champions League Final 4 calamity  and can medi Bayreuth use the long rest period of 9 days and be the more motivated team and possibly steal game one in Ludwigsburg a place where they have won before. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have their press defense that is their bread and butter, but will medi Bayreuth have made new adjustments to confront it? A key figure in series could be Jacob Wiley who will have to step up downlow with the injury to Justin Sears. Medi Bayreuth has to make an impact in the paint while the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have to exploit the Bayreuth defense which has been up and down in the last two months. Medi Bayreuth has had a long week to think about their efforts against Ludwigsburg and will be ready. De´mon Brooks should return and help upgrade their depth. Playoff history doesn´t speak for John Patrick who has reached the playoffs nine times in the BBL, but only made the semi-finals once in 2012 with Wurzburg. But then again never underestimate John Patrick, he is liable to have new tricks up his sleeve to make his second semi-final appearance. Perhaps Gabe York can be medi Bayreuth´s version of last season´s Rickey Paulding who was a big factor in kicking them out of the playoffs. Only the basketball God knows which team will stand tall at the end.

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