Brose Bamberg has mastered the general rehearsal for the cup semi-final magnificently: Missing four regular players, the German champions put the tenacious MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in its place to capture a 84:75 victory and 35th home win in a row.
There was a raft of surprises before the game started: Old hand Nikos Zisis extended his contract, which was due to expire in the summer, by two more years, meaning the playmaker – nicknamed “Lord of the Rings” on account of the many titles he has won – will remain with Brose Bamberg until the end of the 2018/2019 season. However, Zisis was rested for the game; moreover, Nicolo Melli also did not play for the first time this season and Leon Radosevic and Lucca Staiger only sat next to the bench. Ali Nikolic, Louis Olinde and Elias Harris, who had been out for injury for a long spell, replaced them in the squad. Playmaker Ali Nikolic in particular stamped his mark on the game in the first period: Ludwigsburg threw down the gauntlet to Bamberg by draining a number of buckets from beyond the arc to move 14:11 in front, but Bamberg’s strong youngster Ali Nikolic struck back with three threes and a fast lay-up to give Bamberg a 21:16 lead. By the end of the evenly poised period (24:24), top scorer Nikolic has already scored 13 out of his 17 points. The German champs kept the visitors away from their basket in the second quarter with very strong defending. And a run of 11 points without reply helped the home side surge 38:27 ahead, after which Fabien Causeur (17 points) made the half-time score 41:32 with his second bucket from downtown.
Bamberg was not able to match its performance in the second period after the break. The referees did not stick to a consistent line, especially against Ludwigsburg’s hard play. Whereas Jerel McNeal was also penalized for a technical foul after the referees had called two dubious fouls in the space of 34 seconds and then fouled out in just the 26th minute, a blow in the face against Daniel Theis, for example, went unpunished. And suddenly the visitors were back in touch at 56:54. Six points by Janis Strelnieks (12 points) and a three by Fabien Causeur restored calm both on court and among the crowd. The home side stepped up a gear in defense at the start of the final period, with Daniel Theis blocking four shots. However, Ludwigsburg fought doggedly to the death to avert defeat and reduced a 75:62 deficit to just 77:71, before Darius Miller (11 points) made it 84:75 and sealed victory.
Brose Bamberg’s Head Coach Andrea Trinchieri commented: “Our substitutes did a really good job and we were able to control the entire game. However, we need to rebound better, allowed the other side to snap up too many offensive rebounds and didn’t defend well against Crawford. Nikolic and Lo were great in building moves, a department where Ludwigsburg always puts the other side under very strong pressure. We weren’t brilliant today, but with so many games in the season it’s more important to show consistency – and we did that.”
Brose Bamberg now face MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg again in the cup semi-final at the Top Four in Berlin in four days’ time on Saturday, February 18, 2017 (tip-off: 8 p.m.). Trinchieri’s team aims to win and qualify for the final on Sunday (tip-off: 3 p.m.) against the winner of the other semi-final between Alba Berlin and FC Bayern Munich.