ALBA BERLIN have put themselves in a great position to lock up their ninth domestic league crown as they raced past MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg 88-65 in Game 1 of the easyCredit BBL Final Tournament 2020.

Martin Hermannsson and Rokas Giedraitis both scored 14 points for Berlin, who would need a major breakdown in Game 2 on Sunday, June 28 and lose by 24 points to avoid ending their title drought dating back to 2008. Niels Giffey, Marcus Eriksson and Landry Nnoko all had 12 points while Luke Sikma and Peyton Siva both chipped in 10 points in the win.

Ludwigsburg, who are appearing in their first league Finals, were led by Nick Weiler-Babb and Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann with 11 points each. But Jaleen Smith scored just 5 points and Thomas Wimbush was held to 2 points. Ludwigsburg were playing without Marcos Knight, who was arguably the leading candidate for the tournament MVP and had collected double-doubles in the last four games for the team.

Smith opened the scoring in the Finals with a three-pointer for Ludwigsburg. Sikma got Berlin on the board and after a three-point play from Giedraitis, the eight-time champs took their first lead on Eriksson’s floater to make it 7-5. Teyvon Myers followed with three free throws to put Ludwigsburg back ahead 8-7 only to see Berlin reel off seven straight points including a triple from Eriksson to lead 14-8. Ludwigsburg’s 16-year-old Jacob Patrick drained a long three to cut the gap to 16-13 but Giffey answered from long range and Berlin were up 19-13 after 10 minutes.

Patrick knocked down another triple to start the second quarter and 18-year-old Lukas Herzog also hit from downtown to get Ludwigsburg within 22-20. Berlin used its defense, strong offensive execution and offensive rebounding for an 18-4 run and a 40-24 advantage. Herzog drained another long ball and Wimbush scored his only points of the game to get Ludwigsburg within 41-29. But Siva’s three just before the buzzer had Berlin up 46-29 at the break.

Giedraitis and Giffey both drained treys and had five points in a 12-2 start to the second half and 58-31 advantage. Nnoko dominated with five straight points in a 9-2 surge as the lead swelled to 30 points – 67-37 – and it was 69-42 after 30 minutes.

Ludwigsburg have been a team of comebacks all tournament and the key for the fourth quarter was to cut into the big deficit. Weiler-Babb had a three-point and big put-back dunk as Ludwigsburg put together a 9-0 run to trim the gap to 73-53. Berlin only let Ludwigsburg within 18 points and Hermannsson scored six straight points to make it 83-61 and regain control over the game.

QUOTES: Berlin’s Niels Giffey: “I think it went really well for us. We had a really good energy in the first three quarters. We were able to accept the challenge of the different format over 80 minutes and really played good for the first 30 minutes and build up a pretty good cushion for the second game.”

Ludwigsburg’s Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann: “It was not an easy game. Congrats to ALBA for being able to play so physically against us for 40 minutes. We tried to just fight until the end and give everything. But ALBA have a lot of quality. We tried to cut into the deficit as low as possible, but we couldn’t do it. It will be tough in Game 2.”
(About not playing with Marcos Knight): “Marcos more or less carried us to the Finals and his absence was last minute. Nobody really could get prepared for it. Still, it’s not an excuse. Like I said, we tried everything we could and ALBA were able to play physically better than us for 40 minutes.”
(About Game 2): “It’s not over. You will see.”

Ludwigsburg coach John Patrick: “We lost our concentration. I think some players were over-motivated and wanted to take it into their own hands, like Marcos (Knight) sometimes does. But that is not our game. We had poor ball movement. When we did move the ball well, our young German players got open three-pointers. But there was too much ball stopping on offense and rebounding was a disaster in the second and third quarters. We had a run in the fourth quarter to get back into it but then stopped it ourselves with an unsportsmanlike foul. But I am proud that we didn’t give up. But if we play like we did today, then we wouldn’t have made the Finals. We played better the whole season and I hope that we can get back to our basketball in the second game.”


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