With an 85-65 point win over FC Barcelona, Brose Bamberg moved right back into playoff contention. Emmet Ryan looks at how this side has learned to rebuild after an awful 2-8 start to the season
Ball movement is what defines Brose Bamberg’s game. Andrea Trinchieri has set his side a simple challenge, move it fast, assume it will go right, be ready for when it doesn’t. The German champions showed just how effective that approach can be in a win over Barcelona that was far more complex than the 20 point winning margin suggested.
By running a hot tempo throughout, Bamberg were able to force Barcelona outside their comfort zone. They are hardly the first time to show up Barca’s issues handling a hot pace this season but the ability to force turnovers with regularity, 18 in all on Thursday night, pointed to where Trinchieri sees depth to his high speed approach. It’s not just about making space for the offence, Bamberg wants to use its speed to make the other side less fluid when Trinchieri’s charges are on D. In the first half Bamberg didn’t stomp all over Barcelona as they moved into a double digit lead, instead it was more like they glided into control. Nowhere was this more obvious than with Nicolo Melli whose 17 points and 13 rebounds didn’t require the dominant heroics that won him the December MVP award. Just by doing his job and, often, deferring he was able to play an effective role.
That willingness to defer to aid movement wasn’t entirely positive. Jerel McNeal has a chance to make a big impact for the deep Bamberg backcourt but he was almost too unselfish in this game. It was his debut and having been through lots of short term gigs, this was his first opportunity to show his 2015-16 season with Aris wasn’t an aberration but rather a sign of what he can do when given a chance to stay around a while. McNeal’s hunger and willingness to operate was obvious but he could do with showing a touch more nastiness, to go out and show what he can do.
That aggressive streak can come, Darius Miller is proof of that. Just as it took him most of last season to show he could step up and be the guy at Bundesliga level, he’s taken his time to establish Miller-time in Euroleague. Thursday was a coming out part for the more explosive version of the former Kentucky Wildcat. Going 4 of 4 from deep in the first half and 6 of 8 overall, he is developing into the kind of weapon Bamberg needs him to be to stay in the playoff race.
Those last two from deep were part of a statement finish to the game for Bamberg. The Bavarian club’s inability to close out games cost them dearly during the first third of the season. Having seen a big lead whittled away to just 6 points with 8 minutes to play, Bamberg came out angry and stopped the Blaugrana’s comeback dead in its tracks. As soon as Barca cut it to 6, Miller responded with a three. When they did it again a couple of minutes later, it was another big three from Miller that stopped Barca’s run.
Then we got to see the best of Daniel Theis. In the space of three plays, separated by a timeout, he made a big stop on D, hit a three, then made a big dunk to bury the Blaugrana. Having been a young talent who was reliable but a touch naive on the inside, Theis is turning into a man Bamberg can rely on at the 5 to do the dirty work and be there with the odd flashy moment. He’s not a big time badass but he more than gets the job done now and Trinchieri doesn’t fear him wilting if another centre goes for him.
That’s the type of stand your ground mentality Bamberg needs to keep this resurgence going. At 7-9, they are right in the mix for the post-season now having looked dead and buried six games ago.
– For Barcelona, this was probably the healthiest and most active Juan Carlos Navarro has looked in a Euroleague game in years. We’re never going to get the JCN of old back, but if Barca can keep him at this level of health at 36 he should be able to contribute significantly for them.
– While his free throw shooting was awful, the quiet renaissance of Ante Tomic continued nicely here. His last two games saw far better displays from the floor but he looks to be shaking off whatever demons ruined his game for a year and a half.
– This isn’t Barztokas ball and that’s a bit of a concern for Barcelona. They have suffered their share of injury woes but the simplicity that the Greek coach normally brings to set players free isn’t happening right now. The return of Shane Lawal to give another option can’t come soon enough for Barcelona’s playoff push.