Brose Baskets strolled to a 101:81 victory in the final of the German championship against Ratiopharm Ulm to take a 1:0 lead in the series. Head Coach Andrea Trinchieri’s team needs three wins in all to capture its eighth championship and could become the third team – after Bayern Leverkusen and Alba Berlin – to win the title with a 9:0 clean sweep in the playoffs.
Ulm had qualified for the playoffs by finishing seventh in the table and the underdogs had ejected the second-placed Oldenburg and third-placed Frankfurt on their way to the final – and stolen the first game in both series with a win on the road. The team of Thorsten Leibenath was also brimming with confidence in the first nine minutes in the Brose Arena. The club from Swabia was the first opponent in the playoffs that managed to muzzle the home side’s strength, at least in the first period. And thanks to strong defense, Ulm also forced Bamberg to depart from its fast offensive play and resort more to man-to-man attacks. The upshot: after leading 10:6, the visitors went 22:17 ahead. However, the response came within 40 seconds through the outstanding Darius Miller: the American drained two successive buckets from beyond the arc to give Bamberg a narrow 23:22 lead at the end of the quarter. That released energy among the home side: Trinchieri’s players finally managed to move the ball fast in offense – eleven assists are clear testimony to their unselfish play. Open shots from outside also started dropping: Darius Miller buried two more threes, while Janis Strelnieks, Brad Wanamaker and Lucca Staiger added one apiece. Bamberg took the second period by 31:17 to move 54:39 in front at the break – a clear lead for the title favorites and the turning point in the encounter.
Brose Baskets controlled the game in the second half, without playing brilliant basketball. The defending champions were particularly accurate from beyond the arc and finished up making two-thirds of all attempted threes (14/21). In particular top scorer Darius Miller (26 points) had a field day, draining eight threes to tie the previous record for a final in the history of the German league. Yet unlike the former Ulm player Isaiah Swann, who likewise bagged eight threes in the final at the same venue almost exactly four years ago to the day, Miller needed just nine shots compared with Swann’s 12. Outstanding players for Bamberg apart from Miller were Brad Wanamaker (17 points and four assists) and old-hand Nikos Zisis, who scored 12 points and chalked up a season record of 8 assists. After Miller gave his side its highest lead with his final bucket from outside (97:73), Zisis brought up the hundred points.
Although they ultimately coasted to victory, the title holders still have room for improvement: Despite a meager 3-point field goal percentage (4 out of 16), Ulm managed to put 82 points on the board, many of them after one of the 16 offensive rebounds.
Andrea Trinchieri commented: “Our first half wasn’t good, indeed it wasn’t a good game by us at all. We made mistakes and weren’t focused. It’s very rare to see really good games in the final, since a lot is at stake for the teams. There are often big battles, but not good games. Today we saw a battle and are now leading one to zero. Ulm fought hard and will fight and want even more in the next game on its home turf. We’ll have to cut out some things by then. The series is still open and Ulm’s in great form and has a lot of confidence. We have to control Morgan and Rubit better; 16 offensive rebounds are an issue we need to address.”
Brose Baskets face the second game in the final of the German championship on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 (tip-off: 8:30 p.m.). Trinchieri’s players will be tested to their limits against Ulm in the ratiopharm Arena, where the home side will want to prevent Bamberg taking what could be a decisive 2:0 lead.