Before the start of the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals, everyone talked about the same topic: the game rhythm. Valencia Basket had allowed 73 points or fewer in each of its four playoffs games, and ALBA had reached at least 100 points a record six times during the 2018-19 EuroCup, including in playoffs wins against Unicaja Malaga and MoraBanc Andorra. Basketball experts wondered about what Valencia could do to stop ALBA's run-and-gun game, and the answer was very basic: power the offensive boards. Extra possessions allowed Valencia to dominate the game rhythm. More offensive rebounds by Valencia meant fewer defensive boards for ALBA, and in turn fewer opportunities for Coach Aito Garcia Reneses's team to its transition game going.
ALBA had outrebounded opponents in four of five playoffs games before the EuroCup Finals. Indeed, ALBA's record is 3-4 this season when being outrebounded, 13-2 when it dominates the boards. In Game 1, Valencia heavily outrebounded ALBA by 42-24, pulling down 16 offensive boards to ALBA's 15 defensive ones under the same basket. Things were very different on the other side of the floor, where Valencia had 26 defensive rebounds, ALBA 9 offensive boards.
Valencia's offensive rebounds not only limited ALBA to 61 field goal attempts, its low since early January, but also raised Valencia's shooting percentages. Valencia hit 23 of 36 two-point shots (63.9%) and ALBA just 16 of 37 (43.2%). ALBA took more shots inside the arc, but Valencia hit 7 more. And, as always, Valencia took excellent care of the ball, dishing 20 assists and committing just 12 turnovers. That allowed the hosts to finish with a team PIR of 114, which was a new EuroCup Finals record.
Everyone agreed that rebounds made the difference, however, in Game 1. "One of the main things was to compete on the boards, which was very important," Valencia head coach Jaume Ponsarnau said. "Reaching a good level on that gave us a lot of chances to win the game."
ALBA will have to make the most adjustments going into Game 2, with rebounds at the top of its chore list. The answers will come when the ball goes up at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Friday at 20:00 CET.