Here they are. The last two teams standing. ALBA Berlin and Valencia Basket will square off in the 7DAYS EuroCup Final starting from tonight on Spanish soil.
They are – all though Unics Kazan might have something to say on this – the two best teams in the competition who will play against each other to conquer the cup. When you have an 18-2 record overall while riding on an open 14 games winning streak (and a record of 10-0 at home), there is nothing more to say about a team like Valencia. The Spaniards are where they deserve to be, hands down. ALBA’s game has grown during the season as its players individually did exactly the same. To peak at the right moment: come playoff time. Aito’s offensive design perfectly suits its players who are fully embracing their coach philosophy, and it’s paying off. ALBA’s offensive talent on display is probably second only to Real Madrid around Europe.
It will be fascinating to watch these two different playing styles going against each other.
Here is a quickfire statistical comparison in the wake of the tip-off, tonight.
- The difference in playing style between ALBA and Valencia is mostly highlighted by the pace that the two finalists had during playoffs and regular season. The Germans are way over the EuroCup average of 73.98, faring at almost 77 possession per game (76.91). While Valencia likes to keep the tempo of the game under lots of control: 66.85 per game. Which is, by its own definition, the most startling difference between the two teams.
- What is appalling is how much offense ALBA produces in terms of quality and quantity. They are definitely a “different” team in the way they like to play basketball at European level: 1.20 points per possession is something almost unparalleled, taking into account that Valencia is excellent in its own right, in maximizing its offensive possessions, with 1.10 points per possessions.
- … And if you cross the data above with the efficiency metrics in shooting (TS, eFG and Offensive Efficiency), you can really sense how qualitative ALBA’s offense is. 65% in TS percentage is unreal, and, once again Valencia Basket holds its own with a respectable 56%; while in terms of quality of offense – OffEff – the rift is significant with the Germans at 0.61 against a 0.51.
- …But Valencia didn’t keep its winning streak alive just for a twist of fate. The team is solid, plays slow but picks its spots accurately. The pAR indicator is good (0.46 against 0.41) as well as the Assist/Field Goals Made ratio, to testify that, when the “oranges” move the ball, they tend to go for the “prize” with a lot of consistency.
- Where the Spaniards have a substantial advantage is under its basket. Defensively, Valencia grabs 72% of the available rebounds, while Berlin is 0.8% below. This element could help Valencia to keep the tempo of the game under control. Berlin, though, is dangerous under the offensive board with 34% of offensive rebounds grabbed of the total available (Valencia is at 25%).
- ALBA’s offensive balance is testified by how they equally split their shots between the ones taken into the paint and the ones outside during the playoffs: 160 over 320 total shots taken (50% in frequency, 57% in accuracy). While Valencia Basket is a hair below in terms of accuracy (55%), but “only” 47% in terms of frequency. The difference is in quantitative terms: ALBA took 160 shots in the paint during the EuroCup playoffs, while Valencia just 109 (playing one playoff match less than Berlin, truth to be told).
In the end: if basketball was only a game of stats, we should already declare a winner. But, thankfully, it doesn’t work like that. Context is key, and, as we said at the beginning, Valencia just lost two games during its entire European campaign. This matters and gives an edge to the Spanish team. ALBA, with coach Aito preaching its simple and effective offensive basketball, has a chance if it will be able to push the game above the 70 possessions per game. Then, ALBA will play in familiar waters, and its offensive firepower could make a difference. Same situation, but with different premises for Valencia. Van Rossom and pals ought to disrupt ALBA’s offense, keep the number of possessions at bay and maximize every offensive opportunity by taking balanced shots to boost its defensive transition. This looks like a tight, wonderful, clash of different basketball styles.
These EuroCup Finals are totally worthy of being carefully watched by all the “aficionados” of European basketball at its best.