Undermanned ALBA takes 95-91 thriller
The first game of 2021 in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague was a thriller, going back and forth all night on Tuesday until undermanned ALBA Berlin claimed a 95-91 victory over visiting TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in a rescheduled game from Round 5. Maodo Lo broke a 91-91 tie with a three-point play with 34 seconds left that decided it, lifting ALBA's record to 7-10 while dropping Baskonia to 8-9. ALBA, who only dressed 10 players due to five being injured, got a season-high 21 points from former Baskonia guard Jayson Granger. Maodo Lo added 19 points, Simone Fontecchio 15, Johannes Thiemann 14 and Jonas Mattisseck 12 as ALBA made 16 of 29 three-pointers, one shy of tying its club record in EuroLeague play. Baskonia got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Achille Polonara. Zoran Dragic added 17 points and Alec Peters 15, while Pierria Henry combined 10 points with 9 assists. ALBA used a 14-0 first-quarter burst to build several double-digit leads but Baskonia rallied to finish the first half with a 3-14 run to get back in the game. The process repeated itself in the third quarter, when a 12-point ALBA lead dwindled until Baskonia led by 77-82 with 6 minutes left, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.
Henry fed Tadas Sedekerskis twice and Ilimane Diop once and Rokas Giedraitis hit the game's first triple for a quick 3-9 Baskonia lead. Thiemann and Ben Lammers steadied the hosts, however, and then Mattisseck drilled a go-ahead triple. Granger added a jumper and a fastbreak layup sandwiched around Fontecchio's three-pointer to complete a 14-0 ALBA run to a 17-9 lead. Giedraitis and Polonara stopped Baskonia's slide from deep, but Luis Olinde and Tim Schneider matched them and Lo banked in a floater for the first double-digit lead, 25-15. Giedraitis bailed out Baskonia again from long distance as the first quarter ended 25-19. Fontecchio and Lo blasted triples early in the second quarter for a new high lead of 31-19. Tonye Jekiri scored twice inside, Luca Vildoza hit from deep and Youssoupha Fall dropped a layup as Baskonia recovered to within 33-28. Thiemann answered from deep – twice – to keep a 39-30 ALBA lead that became double digits again as he spun on the baseline for a reverse. Zoran Dragic and Polonara rescued Baskonia from deep as Fall started dominating inside at both ends before Peters and Henry scored their first points to cut the difference to 45-44 at halftime.
After the break, Fontecchio reignited the hosts from deep before Mattissek turned 2 Baskonia turnovers into 5 points and a 53-45 ALBA lead. Mattissek, Granger and Granger kept it going from deep to make it 64-52. Henry's three-point play and Polonara's free throws gave way to Peters sinking a triple to cut the difference to 66-62. Lo's late three-pointer was answered by Baskonia's fourth three-point play of the quarter, from Peters, who then drilled from deep for a 74-72 score after 30 minutes. Polonara's put-back opened the fourth quarter and his triple gave Baskonia its first lead since the game's fourth minute. He also hit 2 free throws in a personal 7-0 run to a 74-79 Baskonia lead. Granger converted a three-point play to revive the hosts, but Polonara assisted Dragic for a triple and a 77-82 Baskonia lead. Lo soon matched him, however, to tie it up 82-82 with less than 5 minutes to play. Dragic's s go-ahead free throws were answered by Granger with a baseline jumper but Henry then stuck a triple to make it 84-87 for the visitors. Fontecchio kept the hosts close and Thiemman buried a triple to tie it 89-89 entering the next-to-last minute. Peters and Fontecchio traded two-pointers before Lo stole at one end and drove for an and-one layup at the other to reclaim a 94-91 lead for ALBA with 34 seconds left. Baskonia missed and Thiemann made 1 of 2 free throws with 6.8 seconds left to decide it for ALBA.
ALBA point guard Jayson Granger, who spent the last three seasons with Baskonia, came into the game averaging 7.3 points and 4.2 assists this season. He met the moment with 21 points and 6 assists against his old team for a PIR of 22. His scoring and PIR were his best yet in an ALBA uniform.
ALBA came into the game as the only EuroLeague team shooting below 35% from three-point range (34.5%) but proceeded to make 16 of 29 shots from downtown for 55.2%. Seven players helped that happen, making at least one triple each, with Lo's 4-for-6 from downtown leading the way.
ALBA played without five injured players – Luke Sikma, Marcus Eriksson, Peyton Siva, Niels Giffey - and Lorenz Brenneke, and was missing head coach Aito Garcia Reneses, who tested positive for COVID-19 and was being replaced by Israel Gonzales. Siva, Sikma, Giffey and Eriksson, were the leading scorers for ALBA by average, combining for 39.5 points per game in the games they played this season. Their absences left ALBA with a 10-man lineup whose average age was 24 years old.
Jonas and Johannes
Under the circumstances, ALBA needed to step up, and two players, in particular, did that with their best EuroLeague games in two seasons. Center Johannes Thiemann set career highs of 21 PIR and 3 three-pointers made, while guard Jonas Mattisseck shattered his previous highs with 12 points and 18 PIR.
Both teams are back in action later this week in Round 18. ALBA stays home to host Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on Thursday, while Baskonia returns home to play CSKA Moscow the same night.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021