Louis Olinde is surprisingly close. “You’ve been waiting for it all season. We’ve now played 70 games and are really looking forward to the playoffs,” said the Alba Berlin winger. Strictly speaking, there have been 71 games since the start of the season at the end of September, but who needs to keep track this rhythm?
But the exact number is the same now, because from now on the Berliners can not buy anything for the previous 45 victories – it is only here and now that counts. This Friday (19.00, Arena am Ostbahnhof and live on Magentasport) Alba starts the playoffs with the first quarterfinal against Bamberg, where the third championship in a row should be in about six weeks.
Berlin vs. Bamberg, that was just a few years ago to Duel in German basketball. The Franks are in the playoffs for the 21st time in a row, Alba even for the 32nd – fittingly enough, the match on Friday is the 100th duel between the two league champions. But the performance differences are now quite large. The Berliners won the two matches in the main round with a total lead of 44 points, and as the first in the main round, they are clearly favored against the Franks in eighth place.
Bamberg’s good form with eight wins from the last ten games does not change that. “They are on a good run, but we are the better team and if we play with confidence, we should not have too much trouble,” said Olinde.
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This approach is one of the keys to Berlin’s success over the past five years. Alba wants to exploit his own strengths instead of slowing down the opponent’s. “We want to play fast, play aggressively, like we’ve been doing all season,” Olinde says. It has worked really well in the last few weeks.
Alba conceded the final defeat on the national stage at the end of March against Chemnitz, since then there have been eleven wins in a row. “Of course you take momentum with you when you have a good phase like we had,” says Olinde. Along with the entire team’s clear recovery, the 24-year-old Hamburger has recently gotten in better shape. In February, Olinde injured his thumb and was out for weeks. “It was a difficult phase, then it didn’t go so well in five, six, seven games,” says Olinde. “But now I’ve found my rhythm again and I’m ready for the playoffs.”
It is a special situation for Olinde that the quarterfinals are against the team as he took his first steps in professional basketball from 2016 and spent a total of four years. “Apart from Chris Sengfelder and Patrick Heckmann, there are not many left on the team, but it is special – especially in the hall, where I played my first matches as a professional,” says Olinde.
Alba won the two main round matches with a total lead of 44 points
After the two home games on Friday and Sunday (18.00, Max-Schmeling-Halle), the series continues four days later in Franconia. It would not be a big surprise if the Berliners put the quarter-finals behind them with their first away game. At the moment, however, there is only a focus on the start in Berlin, which not only Olinde places special emphasis on. “Whoever wins the first match has a small tactical advantage,” said Alba’s coach Israel Gonzalez.
While many players on the team are clearly talking about defending the title as their goal, the coach from Spain, in the tradition of his predecessor and teacher Aito Garcia Reneses, is much more reserved. “We want to continue our development, improve ourselves,” Gonzalez says when asked about his expectations for the playoffs, but adds shortly after, “Now is the time to measure yourself.” He must continue on the triple injured for several months. specialist Marcus Eriksson. Tim Schneider is out of the first two games after a meniscus operation, but is likely to return as the playoffs progress.
For Sports Director Himar Ojeda, priorities are shifting at this stage of the year. Alba wants to stay true to his basketball style in the playoffs, but the focus is now shifting from a medium- or long-term perspective to the present. “So far we have been busy with development, now it is only with competition,” says Ojeda. After almost ten months of work, Alba will now bring in the harvest.
The Spaniard is very happy with the way the season has gone so far and like so many managers in Alba he has a hard time basing his satisfaction on rankings. “If we were to reach the final, it would be good,” Ojeda says, but he doesn’t really want to think that far ahead. He mentions last season as a warning. At that time, Alba lost the first semifinal against Ulm in their own hall, key player Luke Sikma was injured. “We could have been eliminated,” the sporting director said. “We’re beneficiaries, but it’s basketball.”