Tamir Blatt from Alba Berlin: son of a basketball legend
MAndrea Trinchieri didn’t want to concede any more to his opponent after Bayern’s defeat: “They were better than us for seven minutes,” he said. “Six, seven minutes.” Still, that was enough for 86:73 Alba Berlin in the first game of the final series for the German basketball championship on Friday evening against Bayern Munich.
The second game will follow on Tuesday (7 p.m. at MagentaSport), this time in Munich and probably with rested Bavarians, at least players whose legs are not so obviously heavy. 48 hours before their defeat in Berlin, the Munich team had to prevail in the fifth semi-final game in Bonn, while the Berliners had a good week to prepare after beating Ludwigsburg 3-0.
And yet, for 42 or 43 minutes, not everything went well for Alba, the champion of the past two years. Jaleen Smith, who moved to Berlin with the award for the best player in the league, only scored two of his eight long-range shots. Maodo Lo, the outstanding playmaker from Berlin, needed twelve throws for his 13 points. It was the second line to turn the game around this time, and that second line is led by a little Israeli with a big name.
When Lo, Smith and team captain Luke Sikma were on the bench five minutes from the end of the game, Tamir Blatt’s hour had come. In an unfocused attack by Bayern, Johannes Thiemann falls into a pass. He plays the ball to defender Blatt, who is already on his way across the halfway line. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Louis Olinde sprinting towards the opposing basket. Blatt passes the ball between two Munich players who were taken by surprise, his teammate takes three steps to the basket, climbs up and hits the ball through the ring with one hand.
The more than ten thousand spectators in the hall jump up and cheer. Viewed as a dubious signing early in the season, Blatt, a youngster who will be called upon when the team’s star Lo needs a break, proves to be the player of the first game in the finals. “Tamir played an incredible game,” says Lo after the game: “He turned the game around. He brought rhythm into the game, did important things offensively, scored himself, assisted well.”
The Berliners were four points behind when coach Israel Gonzales Blatt came on in the third quarter. It was the fifth meeting of the great rivals this season. Bayern had won three times, Berlin once. And now the only 1.80 meter tall sheet took control of the game. First he scored himself, then he passed the ball up to the 2.21 meter long center Christ Koumatje, whose goal made the spectators cheer.
Leaf stopped at the line and put in a clean three-pointer, then the pass came to Olinde. When he left a good four minutes before the last siren, after a run of 17:10 points for the Berliners, Blatt was far from over. Gonzalez came on again for the last 51 seconds and the young pro, 25 since May, finished with a three pointer. The fourth quarter ended at 25:11, a triumph. Blatt has 8 points and 8 assists.
Was this his best game for Alba? The most important game so far since he moved to Berlin? Blatt does not seem to think in such categories. He treated himself to a beer after the game, which he says he got used to in Germany. And whether it was his best game or not, it’s always important to focus on the next one.
The father speaks from within the young man. David Blatt, born in Boston, won the Euro League as a coach with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Euro Challenge with St. Petersburg, the Euro Cup with Darüşşafaka Istanbul, was national coach of Russia at the Olympic Games in London 2012 and coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA. “I grew up with my father’s notoriety. Obviously he’s a legend in basketball,” says the junior. His mother also played basketball. “I played for the first time when I was four or five. It was inevitable that I would become a basketball player.”
So how do he and Alba want to survive in Munich? “We have to be ready and build on this win,” said Blatt. “My father taught me that every game has its own life.” Life between Berlin and Munich starts all over again on Tuesday and Friday.