It was clear very early in Game 1 that the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals would juxtapose Valencia Basket's bulk and fierceness against ALBA Berlin's fleetness of foot and shooting skills.
A very aggressive Valencia muscled its way to 7 offensive rebounds while going ahead 26-15 early in the second quarter. That offensive rebounding dried up, however, letting ALBA's quick-hit offense to flourish and tie the game at 38-38 just before halftime. By then the visitors had made 7 three-point shots, and despite slipping behind again shortly after the break Peyton Siva buried a pair from deep early in the third quarter to even the score again, 49-49.
But ALBA could only shoot its way out of rebounding woes for so long. That's when a 14-0 run by Valencia blew the lid off the game, but the eventual difference in the final score, 89-75, was all about an even bigger difference on the boards, 42-24.
You would never have guessed that ALBA came into the game ranked seventh in rebounding while Valencia was 16th. Four big men for the hosts – Bojan Dubljevic, Mike Tobey, Louis Labeyrie and Will Thomas – matched ALBA's total output on the boards. The Valencia players seemed a head taller and a step ahead of ALBA every time a ball was up for grabs.
Down 0-1 as they go home to try to save the series on Friday night, ALBA's top men were in unanimous agreement on what their main fix needs to be.
"They dominated on the glass and got a lot of offensive rebounds, which was the key to winning this game," forward Rokas Giedraitis said.
"We have to improve on rebounds, that's the first thing," agreed ALBA boss Aito Garcia Reneses. "They started to dominate the rebounds since the start of the game. None of our players had 6 rebounds, and five or six of their players have at least 6 of them. That is the first thing we need. It is not just a question of height and physicality, but also being in the right place."
For ALBA, what hurt most was Valencia's 16 offensive rebounds, the second-highest total of the season for the winners. That's not only because Valencia scored on many second possessions, but also because ALBA's go-go offense needs those rebounds in order to run.
"I think that the main thing tonight was the rebounding because it just kind of hurt our offense," Luke Sikma, this season's 7DAYS EuroCup MVP, said. "We were not able to get on the break like we wanted to and have to do a better job at that in the next game to kind of find our game again."