Every basketball expert was talking about the same subject before Game 2; will ALBA be able to control the boards and get its transition game going? Coach Aito Garcia Reneses did not have much time to work on it, but he did an excellent job. He was crystal clear about what his team needed to do and expressed that to media the day before the game - boxing out further away from the basket. "We went under the rim too often and they outrebounded us going over us. We have to box out a little further from the basket this time," Aito said.
His team definitely delivered, playing an intense, physical game to tie the best-of-three series. In Game 1, Valencia had 16 offensive boards and ALBA was limited to 15 defensive rebounds. This time, ALBA grabbed 18 defensive rebounds and Valencia got 10 at the offensive end. The hosts also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds after taking 9 in Game 1. ALBA was outrebounded, 33-35, but had the feeling it was controlling the boards. It also forced Valencia into 19 turnovers, its most in the EuroCup all season. Valencia did not collect any steals in any of the first three quarters and finished the game with just 2; ALBA had 7 and made just 8 turnovers in 45 minutes.
ALBA's hustle was shown in the number of fouls both teams made. ALBA drew more fouls (29), took more free throws (32) and made more (27) than in any other game this season. The hosts had an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5) and Valencia was limited to 16 assists and 19 turnovers. By leading in turnovers, blocks, assists, steals and offensive rebounds, ALBA made it clear about who wanted it more at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Hitting a sensational 14 of 30 shots from downtown did not save Valencia.
"We had problems, especially with turnovers and sometimes with rebounds. I think we improved during the game, controlled the boards and changed the situation. Turnovers, especially in some key moments, allowed ALBA to control the rhythm," Valencia head coach Ponsarnau said after the game.
Aito's team was limited to just 69 field goal attempts, but the price to pay for Valencia was sending ALBA to the foul line more than any other time in the entire season.
It all may change in Game 3, in which there will be no favorites. Both teams have dominated one game and it is time to find out who will be the next 7DAYS EuroCup champion.