EasyCredit BBL Playoff Preview 2018: Alba Berlin-MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg 3-2

Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are. The American experienced coach who has no difficulty having a sound conversation in German at anytime has shown it over and over in his career no matter where he has coached that he is capable of not only building a talented team, but also be able to mesh each player´s qualities together so they function properly on the court at a consistent rate. Not too mention not always having a sufficient budget to operate from, he consistently gets the most out of what he has to work with. The ex Stanford(NCAA) player displayed his coaching expertise bringing BG Goettingen to the BBL and reaching the playoffs at a consistent rate while topping his run off with the Eurochallnege title in 2010 and also discovering guys like John Little, Chris Oliver, Kyle Bailey and Taylor Rochestie and putting them on the basketball map. With s.Oliver Wurzburg he led the team into the playoffs and upset Alba Berlin in the 2012 playoffs. He came and saved the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in 2013 being a fireman and since then has led the organization into the playoffs five consecutive times. So when the 2018 Basketball Champions League Final 4 were completed and nobody witnessed the big smile of Thomas Walkup on the winner´s podium, but instead a dejected team escaping Athens with a disappointing fourth place finish, many might of thought that the club would return home and have difficulty erasing the weekend blues from Greece. Ok so my 3-0 FC Bayern Munich prediction over the Fraport Skyliners made me eat my words and now I´m officially going to eat my words again after my medi Bayreuth-MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg prediction of 3-2. I have to be honest, I always believed that John Patrick and co would beat the Bavarian squad 3-0, because I have always believed and respected Patrick´s work  but wanted to be right had a medi Bayreuth upset occurred. Shame on me! How could that ever have happened. John Patrick is a coaching master and once again showed how quickly he could transform a dejected squad to a focused team. With the amazing 3-0 sweep of medi Bayreuth, Patrick was able to reach the semi-finals for only the second time in his career. The question now is can he keep the team momentum going and upset the mighty Alba Berlin that has a core of snipers that could possibly outgun the Golden State Warriors with them having a semi cold night. Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are, because if you do then you will get bit in the butt quicker than a David Mccray  reflex can lead to a steal and transition bucket.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and John Patrick in the Fraport arena in 2018

The road to the easyCredit BBL semi-finals wasn´t as easy for Alba Berlin and in no means a cake walk as they had to tough out an exciting 5 game series against the Ewe Baskets Oldenburg where each team won their home games. Alba Berlin went into the series with the EWE Baskets as the heavy favorite not only with their incredible regular season, but also because how the underdog had presented itself in the last weeks. But as one had seen last season, when you have a Rickey Paulding you always have a chance a she showed last season against Bayreuth and Ulm. The 2009 BBL champion didn´t hide their faces in the sand, but really came to play. In the first two games, Alba Berlin were far away from being a fourth best defensive team in the league as the EWE Baskets Oldenburg averaged 96 points per game 20 more than what Alba Berlin allowed all season. It was no secret that both teams can put up points quickly and both did. However Alba Berlin was able to make good adjustments after every loss and let up less points each home game while never really losing consistency on offense as they averaged 92 points in the high scoring series.

Alba Berlin was strengthened  in the first four games through their two stars Luke Sikma who averaged 14 points and 8 boards and Peyton Siva who averaged 14 points and 7 assists. However in the deciding 5th game, they were limited combined to only 9 points, but it didn´t matter in the 85-68 win as Alba was fortified by their deep bench. Marius Grigonis and Joshiko Saibou combined for 31 points. The EWE Baskets really stayed at the heels of Alba Berlin even if the game 5 final score doesn´t seem to prove it. They were almost equal with shooting and turnovers, but the difference was from the foul line where Alba Berlin hit 21 free throws while Oldenburg only 8. Overall this series was decided by the Alba Berlin huge advantage under the boards and their deeper bench as they won the bench points in each game  and had 60 points in game one. The best news for all EWE Baskets fans is that their identity figure Rickey Paulding will be back next season and there will be enough time to dream about future fairytale runs in the playoffs this summer.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Luke Sikma in the Fraport arena in 2017

The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg didn´t feel sorry for themselves after the fiasco in Athens at the Basketball Champions League or hide their faces in beer mugs, but returned back to good old Germany quickly forgetting about that and rapidly shifting their thoughts to the playoff task. Of course head coach John Patrick played a big role in getting his team ready again, but history was on his side as they had met medi Bayreuth 5 times this season and had a positive 4-1 record. Despite having played their aggressive press style almost the whole season, there was no sign of fatigue in the sweep as the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg literally overpowered medi Bayreuth. In their two home games the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg crushed medi Bayreuth averaging 99 points per game. In game one their rebounding effort and efficiency of taking care of the ball was too much for medi Bayreuth who had 6 more turnovers and were key to the win. Ludwigsburg was carried by their two Americans Thomas Walkup and Elgin Cook who combined for 45 points. Medi Bayreuth had their best chance to win in game two losing 79-74 where they rebounded better, had 8 less turnovers, but just couldn´t do the little things taking better care of the crucial possessions. Ludwigsburg was carried again by Walkup and Cook as they combined for 34 points. Medi Bayreuth fans were hoping for a miracle in Ludwigsburg and an extra game 4 home game, but the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg slammed the door shut on medi Bayreuth in fine fashion winning 95-70. Walkup and Cook were slowed down a bit more combining for only 19 points, but the club just had more options and weapons as Dwayne Evans had 23 points and Adam Waleskowski scored in double figures in his second game of the sweep. The medi Bayreut bread and butter three point shooting let them down as they only hit 4 trey´s and 16 turnovers hurt as Ludwigsburg only had 7 coughed up balls. Three point shooting hasn´t been a big strength of Ludwigsbur this easong, but they shot consistently each game nailing 36 three´s through out the series. Ludwigsburg were the better team in the paint, from outside and had the better contribution from the bench. Medi Bayreuth just didn´t have the consistency that they more than needed against Ludwigsburg. Medi Bayreuth go into summer vacation with a second successful playoff season appearnace and one can be sure that head coach Raoul Korner will have a very competitive team ready to attack next season.

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Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Thomas Walkup at Frankfurt airport 2018

It would be a logical step for John Patrick to reach his first BBL final or is he still a year or two away? He has a solid track record, but this is a different type of Alba Berlin than what he met 6 years ago were he surprisingly upset them 3-1. Alba Berlin swept the season series 3-0 and came out of Ludwigsburg this season with a more than convincing 86-67 victory. The key in this game was the bread and butter Alba Berlin three point show as they dropped 14 while the MHP Riesen were held to 4/28 shooting. Alba Berlin won the rebound duel 36-26 and the bench points 27-16 while Sikma and Siva combined for 27 points. The second game in Berlin was a lot closer as Alba Berlin prevailed 96-86. The stats with shooting and turnovers were near to equal, but Alba Berlin did win the rebound battle and had more fortune getting to the free throw line as they hit 13 more free throws which was key for the victory. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg also met them in cup action losing 78-73. This will be a very tight battle and the MHP Riesen have a good chance in this series if they can defend well and not get physically drained before game 5. With Johannes Thiemann supposedly coming back will greatly enrich their rebound work. American Jeremy Senglin had a good series against medi Bayreuth averaging 11 points and four rebounds. Both team´s goal has to be to play their games with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg annoying Alba Berlin with their physical press while Alba Berlin find that feared shooting rhythm. Key will be which team can slow down the other´s team big weapon. The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg match up pretty well in the depth department and with Thiemann returning will strengthen thetetam´s self confidence a bit more. The key players are Sikma and Siva for Alba Berlin and Walkup and Cook for Ludwigsburg so which ever´s team´s other role players step up more will be a huge factor in this series. All in all, Alba Berlin have the more dangerous offensive abilities, depth and home court advantage which will do in John Patrick and co in a tough 5 game series. However it must be stated again.  Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are. John Patrick will have his guys ready and he knows very well that it ain´t over until the fat lady sings.


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