|13 March 2013|
EWE Baskets Oldenburg head coach Sebastian Machowski called a time-out with 1:40 left to the half-time interval in Game 1 of his team's quarter-final play-off series with Khimik Yuzhne.
Oldenburg were holding a very fragile 33-32 lead at that point on Tuesday night and there was obviously still no guarantee that they would secure the eventual 82-74 victory.
Yet Machowski was so calm as his troops sat on the bench to catch their breath, it almost seemed he stopped just short of congratulating them for winning the game.
"We are doing everything right," he told them.
"We are taking the right shots, lay-ups, you just need to be a bit more careful while finishing and we will be fine," were more or less his next words.
His players duly obliged and pulled away shortly afterwards, to build a 13-point lead by the end of the third quarter which Khimik only managed to reduce but never overturn, despite a resilient charge in the final frame.
Then a few minutes after the final buzzer, Khimik assistant coach Vitaly Stepanovski, offered the opposing view of Tuesday night events at EWE Arena.
"We tried a lot of different defensive set-ups and have learned what works against them and what doesn't," he said.
"We are looking forward to playing them again in two days."
The words of Machowski and Stepanovski are very indicative of how the two opponents are approaching the second game in Ukraine on Thursday.
The hosts, Khimik, are confident they will prevail in Game 2 at home and prolong the series, take it back to Germany and be afforded a shot at winning it next Tuesday.
On the other hand, Oldenburg believe they will go two-for-two on Thursday and punch their ticket to the EuroChallenge Final Four.
Surprisingly, both teams are right to feel optimistic.
The two opponents had - some short, some long - spells on Tuesday where they imposed their rhythm on their rivals and played in exactly the way they feel more comfortable with.
Neither Machowski nor Khimik head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic need to reinvent the wheel on Thursday - it could be enough if their respective teams made these good spells last a little longer.
There were times on Tuesday that Oldenburg point guard Julius Jenkins seemed almost unstoppable, especially when he was afforded space to run the floor and take advantage of his speed and explosiveness.
|Willie Deane was big in game 1 for Khimik, but will require a little more support in game 2|
Jenkins had a good shooting night and finished with 23 points while his opposite number, Willie Deane, collected a more than respectable 19 points, on 43% shooting from the floor.
But Khimik's leading scorer seemed horribly alone at times in the backcourt, as his two main collaborators took the night off.
Shooting guard Devoe Joseph only managed six points and small forward Suad Sehovic only contributed two, when normally the two of them combine for 22 points-per-EuroChallenge-game.
When Khimik had the luxury of sharing the offensive load around and the ball went inside though, their big men looked the part.
Miroslav Todic, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, and young center Artem Pustovyi who added 14 points, held their own against the Oldenburg frontcourt, and they have given the German side something unexpected to worry about in the second game.
Oldenburg could have the edge on Thursday if they manage to limit the contribution of Khimik's backcourt once again, but they need to modify slightly their own offensive plans.
Unless Jenkins can replicate the output he had on Tuesday, the Germans need to turn to what they know best and has worked wonders for them so far this season.
Namely, pass the ball around and involve everyone on the offensive end, both in the paint and on the perimeter, as they have been the only team in the competition to have seven players scoring eight points or more on average.