Basketball fans around the world finally have live hoops with the tipoff of the German easyCredit BBL Final Tournament 2020 – and the quality after four games is really not that bad considering there haven’t been games for three months and players were confined to their homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sure, four games is not a large enough sample size but things can be read from the first two contests in Groups A and B.

Good for a surprise

Day 1 of the tournament saw two surprises as BG Göttingen took advantage of HAKRO Merlins Crailsheim dealing with some injuries and then ratiopharm ulm upseting FC Bayern Munich. There were almost two more upsets on Day 2 but ALBA BERLIN saw Peyton Siva take over just in time for a win over FRAPORT SKYLINERS and MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg were able to hold on after giving up much of a big lead to defeat RASTA Vechta.

The surprises shouldn’t be surprising since there was so much unknown coming into the tournament. Which players are truly in game shape? Which teams have their lineups mainly intact? Which of the new players will help their new teams the most? How will the teams deal with the hygiene regulations and not having fans in the stands?

Still a bit of rust

Looking at the shooting percentages from the teams shows that there is still a bit of rust in the players’ shots – which of course is totally understandable given the layoff and short amount of practice time not to mention many teams featuring new players in key positions. Here are the field goal percentages from the eight teams (including 3-point shooting): 45.2 Göttingen, 43.3 Crailsheim, 46.2 Bayern, 51.5 Ulm, 40.0 Frankfurt, 42.4 Berlin, 41.4 Vechta, 42.6 Ludwigsburg.

Bayern were the only team whose shooting percentage was propped up by outside three-point shooting (15-of-28 53.6 percent) while Ulm were the top two-point shooting team at 61.0 percent.

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Compare those numbers to the teams’ field goal percentage for the season shows that fans can expect those stats to go up over the course of the tournament. Eleven BBL teams averaged better than 46.2 percent – the second-best percentage from the first two days – for the season.

So fans, give the players a little bit of time to kick off some of the rust and those shots will start falling a lot more often.

Surprisingly clean play

All that being said, the teams did a pretty good job taking care of the ball as 15 turnovers was the most by a team during the first two days of action – by Bayern and Berlin. Otherwise here are the turnover totals from Days 1 and 2: Göttingen 9, Crailsheim 11, Ulm 8, Frankfurt 13, Vectha 14 and Ludwigsburg 11. Total those and the average is 12 turnovers per team and only Ludwigsburg (9.7) and Bayreuth (11.6) averaged fewer turnovers per game during the season.

So, why the lower turnover numbers despite a number of teams having different players in leading spots and little practice time? One possibility is the lack of fans. Teammates are able to able to communicate better with one another without the screaming of fans there to distract them.

New players standing out

The pandemic led to many teams adding new players – clubs were allowed to bring in two new players to help compensate for players not returning in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. And many of those players have really shined thus far for their new teams.

Thomas Klepeisz collected 17 points with 4 three-pointers, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals for Ulm – playing as if the Austrian had always played for Ulm. Jaka Lakovic also got a strong showing from new big man Dylan Osetkowski with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists in Ulm’s surprise win over FC Bayern Munich.

FRAPORT SKYLINERS brought in two new players and they were the top two performers in the team’s tight loss against ALBA BERLIN. Lithuanian Gytis Masiulis collected 14 points with 3 rebounds and 1 assists, and Yorman Polas Bartolo added 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

RASTA Vechta came to the tournament missing six players from the regular season team, but their two new players did a good job in their first minutes with their new team. Jaroslaw Zyskowski, who was the MVP of the Polish league, picked up 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal, and Matic Rebec had 6 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists against MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg.

Ludwigsburg added two players as well and Frederick Zamal Nixon had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists while Teyvon Myers chipped in 6 points and 4 rebounds.

And BG Göttingen saw Jito Kok total 8 points, 2 rebounds and 1 block in 19 minutes in the win over HAKRO Merlins Crailsheim.

Bayern need answers – and Lessort to step up

Bayern came into the tournament as the two-time reigning champions and the favorites for the title – not necessarily because of the home court advantage (given that there are no fans) but more because they were the most dominant team during the season. But Bayern saw Greg Monroe not return from the United States after the Covid-19 break and Nihad Djedovic is still not healthy.

Not only was Djedovic the MVP of the Finals last season but Monroe was a huge part of Bayern’s strength this season – both offensively and defensively. Offensively Monroe was critical for the team’s ball movement, ranking third in assists with 3.0 assists per game while shooting nearly 62 percent from the floor for the season.

Ulm held Bayern to just 37.5 percent on two-point shooting and Oliver Kostic’s team just could not get the ball inside. Starting center Mathias Lessort scored 7 points but attempted only two shots while Leon Radosevic did not take a shot in 7:33 minutes and four of Danilo Barthel’s six attempts were three-pointers. With a Greg Monroe heroic return not on the horizon, the two-time champs must find a way to hurt teams inside if they want to win a third straight league crown.

 
 
 

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