With the third championship in a row, Alba Berlin has crowned an extraordinary season in the basketball Bundesliga.
The last course by Jaleen Smith marked the start of the Berlin festivities. 69 seconds were still to be played late Sunday afternoon in the crowded and hot Munich Audi Dome as Alba Berlin’s winger left the floor. The Berlin basketball player stepped out of the field with a sweaty jersey and a laugh that could not have been wider.
The receptionist on the bench: a euphoric Louis Olinde, an equally wide laugh at Maodo Lo and Johannes Thiemann ready to be hugged. Barely a minute and a half later, the last siren sounded in Munich, and Alba Berlin finally secured its third German championship in a row.
Alba Berlin wins third title in a row
Alba Berlin is German basketball champion for the third time in a row. After the surprisingly clear home defeat in match three, coach Israel Gonzalez’s team showed a completely different face in match four.more
The perfect reaction
Things had looked very different less than 48 hours earlier. With perhaps the worst performance of the season, the Berliners missed the first championship match ball in the final against FC Bayern on Friday night in their own sold-out hall. With cold sparkling wine and laden confetti cannons, 60:90 against the Bavarian rivals had no chance.
Not so Sunday: In Munich, where Alba had already won the championship in the last two seasons, the Berliners played as if they had been changed. With a 96:81 victory against FC Bayern, who now had no chance for their part, the Berliners made the double of championship and cup victory perfect – in a match that in many ways symbolized Alba’s exceptionally good season.
It was said Jaleen Smith, who gave the first image with symbolic character. On Friday, Smith had fought just as hard as in his first Alba months. After moving from Ludwigsburg, it took him a long time to adjust to the Berlin system, which was new to him. But at some point, it succeeded.
Over the course of the season, Smith became the key player Alba hoped for and delivered in Sunday’s game four. After 90 seconds, the guard on his own had stopped Alba’s dividend from game three with two threes. Smith followed up with four more long-range goals, sometimes from adventurous distances and despite good defense.
But another Berliner contributed greatly to the good Alba start on Sunday: Johannes Thiemann. Quite surprisingly, Alba’s coach Israel Gonzalez had sent him to the floor instead of Alba’s leader Luke Sikma at the start of the match. There, Thiemann did what he has been doing for several months: The striker scored with his back to the basket, beamed like a pass, defended passionately and worked back.
When Bayern coach Andrea Trinchieri rubbed his forehead at 13-2 to Alba, as if suffering from a persistent migraine, Thiemann had scored seven points and put Smiths up six points. “Thiemann has scored ten points. We have to stop him,” Trinchieri shouted shortly after during a time-out. Another certificate for the most part, which Thiemann, who was later awarded the most valuable player in the final series (MVP), had in Alba’s success.
Johannes Thiemann receives the trophy as MVP in the final series by his coach Israel Gonzalez.
The variability factor
But even apart from individual personal details, Alba’s performance in Munich showed why they deservedly been crowned champions for the third year in a row. The Berliners followed the credo preached by their new coach Israel Gonzalez during the season, which does not focus on victories, but on improving from match to match. And Alba responded almost perfectly to Friday’s shame. Defensively, they gave FC Bayern some room to maneuver.
Fast rotations, physical rebound work and the tall Christ Koumadje as a tower in the zone were the recipe for success. Up front, Alba combined a brutal pace with a lot of fun in the game and a flow that was not even imaginable on Friday. Everything the Berliners had done wrong in the third final match, they did better in the fourth. With a score of 44:24 after just over 15 minutes, Alba hardly seemed to take the title away.
One factor for this: the variation that the team around Captain Sikma had already identified before the final series and had led to 19 wins in a row. Sikma himself shifted and ruled on Sunday with ingenious allusions, where he sometimes did not even look at his teammates. Maodo Lo, who played his way into the European guard elite in the best season of his career, packed the pace out for the last time this season.
Oscar da Silva proved why he is currently being courted by FC Barcelona. Malte Delow, Alba’s next homemade, who has become a professional by this season, shone with more than just his alley-oop allusion to Koumadje. Israeli Tamir Blatt, who was often criticized at the start of the season, also showed the best form he has gradually found in the last few weeks and months with wonderful passes and cheeky three-pointers. “Everyone who played contributed incredibly much,” commented Johannes Thiemann on the MagentaSport microphone after the game. A phrase that could easily be the title of Berlin’s season history at the same time.
Everyone who played contributed incredibly much.
And yet the injured Bavarians, who, including Vladimir Lucic, lacked four top players, managed to see one last spark of doubt about Alba’s sovereignty. A 9-0 run brought them back to 15 points in the final quarter and could have made Alba nervous in previous years. But not on Sunday. Jaleen Smith responded with presentations and three-pointers and proved together with her teammates that Alba, by this season, has learned to handle difficult situations even more confidently.
Roughly the same way that departures from the summer of 2021 were handled. Once again, Alba’s leaders around sporting director Himar Ojeda have managed to compensate for the departure of top performers à la Niels Giffey, Simone Fontecchio and Jayson Granger – not without problems, but with success. The fact that coach Aito Garcia Reneses, who had been so influential for years, resigned was no longer serious was due to his successor and former assistant.
The Senate supports Alba Berlin in the search for a new meeting place
On Friday night, Alba Berlin starts the final of the German championship in the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Shortly before, the sports senator said: If the Senate had not mediated, Alba would not have been able to play in the arena after April.
Carried on hands
So the last scene with symbolic character on Sunday was reserved for Israel Gonzalez. At the end of a season with 54 wins from 81 matches in all tournaments, it was the Spaniard who first gave his players their medals and then was carried in the hands of manager Marco Baldi and captain Sikma when the trophy was handed over.
A gesture that seems quite appropriate, considering that the 47-year-old established the Berliners in his first season as head coach of the Euroleague, leading them to 19 wins in a row, the cup title and the eleventh championship in the club’s history. “It’s incredible,” said Gonzalez, who was usually so composed after the trophy was handed over, adding: “My squad is amazing and such a thing can only happen if you work just as hard every day as we did in year.”
At least on the national stage, Alba remains the benchmark for all things German basketball. The Berliners have won three championships and two cup titles in the last three seasons. “It’s incredible how we’ve been playing for the last three years,” Johannes Thiemann commented on Sunday. Bayern’s record, whose philosophy is more towards Europe, in the same period: a cup victory. It’s a trophy award that not only puts a big laugh on Jaleen Smith’s face at Alba and in Berlin.
Broadcast: evening show, June 20, 2022, at. 19.30