BAXI Manresa defeated MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg 63-55 Friday night to advance to their first ever Basketball Champions League Final. In a battle of two well-coached defensive minded teams, the Spanish side prevailed.
The most interesting story of this particular matchup, though, is the difference in composition of the two teams. BAXI Manresa played with more traditional lineups including a stretch 4 and a center, whereas MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg fought to the end with a mixture of four guard lineups. Witnessing Manresa punish Ludwigsburg on the glass 55-42 raises the question, is having size still an advantage in this “small ball” era?
There are plenty of examples to take this argument in multiple directions. In short, the answer in its simplest form is rebounding. Ludwigsburg and Manresa were both top 5 rebounding teams in Basketball Champions League this season. Surprisingly, Ludwigsburg had a slight edge in rebounds per game stats – averaging 39.6 to Manresa’s 38.9 rebounds per game. John Patrick, head coach of MHP Ludwigsburg, is known for having tough, defensive-minded teams that rebound the basketball – which makes the stat even more impressive when you consider doing so with four guards on the floor.
In the end, it wasn’t enough in the BCL semi finals as BAXI Manresa’s forwards and bigs were able to seal possession after possession with defensive rebounds. Aside from winning the battle on the glass, the Spanish team forced MHP into a flurry of missed shots in the paint which we could also attribute to the size advantage. John Patrick is known for getting the most out of a small budget – and in this case a small team – however the gamble of not keeping a disruptive big on the roster may have cost him a shot at his first championship.
Looking ahead, Manresa will face off with a familiar face on Sunday in the BCL Finals against Spanish rival, Lenovo Tenerife – defeating Hapoel Holon (Israel) in semifinal Game 1. This will be a matchup of two similarly sized teams which will likely be another low scoring war between defensive titans.