Saturday, October 8, 2022

Partizan Belgrad 84 at Alba Berlin 100 (EuroLeague, Round 1) - October 7, 2022

After a night in Magdeburg, I returned to Berlin on Friday afternoon, making my way to my hotel next to the Mercedes-Benz Arena. When I first planned the trip, I expected to be taking a train to Prague to watch some NHL, but when I checked ticket prices ($240!), I decided to stay in Germany. Fortunately, the scheduling gods had smiled on me, with a EuroLeague basketball match featuring Alba Berlin set for Friday evening. Alba plays at the same venue at which I would be watching a Germany hockey game on Sunday, so staying in the area was an obvious choice.

The arena is on the east side of the Spree River and near the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that has been painted over by artists. The venue is the main tenant on Mercedes Platz, a plaza area that is surrounded by restaurants, including Five Guys. The picture above is taken from the front of the plaza.

MBA was opened in 2008 and was named O2 World Berlin until the automaker purchased the naming rights in 2015. Capacity is 14,500 for hoops and 300 less for hockey, though concerts are its biggest draw, with many famous names playing here over the years. The box office is located just to the right of the main entrance, and there were people with extra tickets here before the game. I got a lower deck seat for just 10 euros, and was happy with that.

Gates opened an hour before tip and there were lines well before that, so I went to a local establishment and enjoyed a pregame beverage or two while the lines cleared up. Except that when I came out 40 minutes before tip, the lines hadn't moved much. Turns out security here was tighter than a typical New York venue and it was slow going, possibly because the visiting team was from Serbia and had brought along plenty of their supporters. It took about 15 minutes to get in, so I didn't have much time to tour. Upon entering, you are in an atrium (above), from where escalators or stairs take you to the main concourse.

I went to my seat (view above) and dropped my jacket before embarking upon a quick circuit of the main concourse, which was rather odd. Along one side, it was very crowded, but on the other side, it was mostly empty (below). This is because there are suites here; as well, the upper deck along this side was blocked off. Furthermore, visiting fans from Serbia were being restricted to just two sections next to here, so there was no reason for the typical fan to be on the concourse. In fact, you could not complete the entire concourse because the area behind the visiting fans section was blocked off.

I did managed to sneak in at midcourt to take a picture; the upper deck across the court is blocked by a curtain. The green on the seats are signs that are to be folded to create noisemakers. Note the octagonal scoreboard that was a bit smaller than I expected given the opulence on display elsewhere.

As mentioned, the arena has hosted a lot of events, and there are photos of some of the main ones along the concourse. Most notable for me was the NHL game between Buffalo and Los Angeles, held 11 years ago. The Sabres won the game, but the Kings won the Stanley Cup that season.

Alba Berlin has had much success since they were founded in 1991 and there are banners commemorating these achievements, which include 11 German league titles, though they have never advanced past the Top 16 in the EuroLeague. The German phrase translates to "With Heart and Soul" if you are curious.

With a few minutes to go before tip I decided to get some food. The arena has an app that allows you to order online and pickup at a designated spot. With concession lines long and moving slowly, I decided to try the app, ordering a currywurst, fries, and beer combo for 11 euros. I then went to the pickup lane, only to be told that it wasn't the pickup lane and I had to line up one lane over. What happened to German efficiency? To make matters worse, that pickup lane was also an ordering lane, and there were very slow people in front of me. I wasn't the only angry fan; several others were berating the hapless clerk about the incorrect signage while he just shrugged his shoulders. By the time I got my food, the game had started and I rushed to my seat. I hadn't missed much, and settled in to watch what turned out to be a rather pedestrian affair.

The Game

This was the first round of the EuroLeague (the equivalent of Champions League for basketball). There are 18 teams participating in a complete home and away round robin (34 games in other words). Three names stood out for me: Dante Exum, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft had signed with Partizan after a year in Barcelona, while Berlin boasted both Luke Sikma (son of Hall-of-Famer Jack) and Maodo Lô (#0 shooting from the line below), who I had seen several times during his college career at Columbia.

It was 16-16 midway through the first quarter when Berlin took control, ending the frame on a 17-2 run. And that 15-point difference was more or less maintained the rest of the way. Partizan got within 10 at one point but could not make it closer, although their fans did not lose their enthusiasm, as you can see below.

As time ticked down, the only question was whether Berlin could reach the century mark, and Lô answered with a last-second trey that made the final 100-84. Exum led all scorers with 22 points while Lô finished with 11 on 4/13 shooting. All in all, not a particularly memorable game but still interesting to see some players making their way in Europe.

Notes

This was my second EuroLeague match after I saw Barcelona nearly ten years ago in a game in which they also finished with exactly 100 points.

Best,

Sean


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