In beating Tofas Bursa on Tuesday night, Italian champion Umana Reyer Venice did two things particularly well that made the difference. Reyer had its best three-point shooting night of the season so far and played its best defense. The players seemed much more satisfied with the latter achievement after the game.
"I thought we played really good defense," veteran swingman Mike Bramos said after the game. "They have really good shooters and we were able to shut them down for the most part. I thought we played with a lot better toughness and energy today."
The irony in Bramos's words was the fact that he made 4 of 6 three-pointers and finished with 14, which were also important in leading Reyer to victory. Thanks to Bramos, Reyer shot 9 for 20 from behind the arc (45%) after combining to make just 11 of 46 threes (23.9%) in the team's first two games this season. What made those threes stand up, even more, was the fact that Reyer held Tofas to 3-of-16 shooting (18.8%) from behind the arc.
The timing of Reyer's threes also helped deflate the visitors. Bramos's first triple gapped a 9-0 first-quarter run that gave the home team the lead for good, 16-11. After Tofas closed the gap to 1 late in the opening quarter, Bramos drilled his second three and Ariel Filloy added another early in the second quarter as the lead swelled to 29-20. Bramos's third three came after Devin Williams dragged Tofas within 46-42 in the third quarter. Stefano Tonut added another to restore a double-digit advantage, 54-44. Austin Daye and Filloy connected from downtown early in the fourth quarter to help put the game away.
Despite the great shooting showing, Reyer is focused on the defense. "We were consistent in defense for 40 minutes and this is the key for us," Coach Walter De Raffaele said. Guard Andrea De Nicolao added: "The key to the game was the solid defense we played for 40 minutes. We limited their shooters and experienced players. We had a really good defensive game."
Three-pointers and strong defense are a lethal mix for the opposition and if Reyer can duplicate this cocktail in games to come, it will become a truly dangerous foe.