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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Alba Berlin keeps her nerves against a great backdrop

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Luke Sikma looked directly in the direction of the guest block. The Red Star Belgrade fans yelled and whistled, waving their arms. The Alba Berlin captain is a good free-kick taker, if not an excellent one, but he held his nerve in that crucial scene. With just seconds left in the thrilling EuroLeague game at home against the Serbs, Sikma hit both times and increased Alba’s lead to four points. That was enough for an important victory against a table neighbor: in the end it was 74:70 (24:15, 13:20, 21:22, 16:13) for Alba on Friday night in front of 5135 spectators in the arena . at the Ostbahnhof. The Berliners keep their slim play-off chances alive.

As in previous weeks, Alba was without injured full-backs Marcus Eriksson and Louis Olinde. Also, point guard Tamir Blatt was absent due to illness. Christ Koumadje and Jaleen Smith dominated the opening minutes. The Chadian centre-back dominated the area impressively at first. Two blocks, two rebounds, two alley-oop dunks were in the stats halfway through the first quarter. Smith not only excelled as a passer for Koumadje, but also scored very effectively. Alba was even able to afford some simple turnovers, which Belgrade used for quick points. With a 7-0 run, the Berliners went ahead and after a triple by Maodo Lo, they reached double figures for the first time.

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But the Serbs, who have been in great form for weeks, did not come off so easily. His fans didn’t think much of the masks, but they were very loud. That was obviously good for former Bayern manager Dejan Radonjic’s team. Red Star counterattacked and took advantage of the fact that the long shot finally came. Alba was diverted by the greater intensity of the rival and some questionable whistles, not much was happening offensively in this phase. But after Belgrade took the lead on a huge run, the Berliners found an answer. The Alba fans were now getting louder, successfully. The hosts entered the locker room with a slim lead.

After the break it was tight and heated. Neither team was able to break away and the game became more and more competitive by the minute. It’s not really Alba’s style, but the Berliners adapted and didn’t back down one millimeter. They also knew how to compensate for Koumadje’s departure in the third quarter after a technical and unsportsmanlike foul. In the last quarter there were hardly any constructive attacks, the game lived solely on tension. Led once again by an outstanding duo of Lo/Smith shooting guards and with good nerves, Alba took home the win.

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