Friday, December 2, 2022

Unicaja: The defense, passport to the Cup

The new Unicaja 2022/2023 is on the right track. In the Basketball Champions League (BCL) his career is immaculate, with three victories in as many days. And in the Endesa League, he added his fifth win of the season this past weekend at the Obradoiro court, after 8 games. The Greens are the sole leaders of their continental group and have already reached fifth place in the ACB classification. Not too bad.

After several years looking down rather than up, with very little joy and continuous trouble, the Los Guindos team and its “green tide” are smiling again. But why this radical change? What are the keys to this new project? What has changed compared to the recent past?…

A clearly differential factor is the defending. Unicaja this season has become a team that “bites” behind. Ibon Navarro has built his new project based on a brutal intensity in defense of all his players during the 40 minutes. A collective work of pressure, with continuous changes in the blocks and a lot of hand activity, which has placed Unicaja, at this stage of the season, as the third best defense in the entire League, with 589 points received, an average of 73.6 per game.

Only the two Canarian teams have received fewer points than Unicaja at the start of the season. The new leader, Lenovo Tenerife, is the best in this gaming department. The chicharreros have conceded 555 points so far in the Regular League, 69.3 on average per game. Its neighbors from Gran Canaria have received 569, or 71.1 per game. Oddly enough, behind Unicaja in that classification of best defenses come all the other teams at this point in the League, including the all-powerful barca (592 points) and the real Madrid (625).

Osetkowski and Perry are two of the players who steal the most balls. Emilio Fernandez

A fact that endorses this defensive zeal of Unicaja 22/23 is that Ibon Navarro’s team is the outstanding leader in ball recoveries in the League. The greens steal a whopping 13 balls per game. A brutal figure in which they stand out Dylan Osetkowski (12 recoveries), Alberto Diaz (10), Melvin Ejim (9) and kendrick perry (9).

If we compare the numbers of this Unicaja with that of other seasons, the change is radical. Since the 2014/2015 League, the green team had no better defense. In that season, still with Joan Plaza on the bench and, by the way, with Will Thomas also on the squad, Unicaja started the League like a shot, with a record of seven wins and only one loss in the first 8 installments of the Regular phase. The greens conceded only 553 points then.

Since then, until this campaign, the Costa del Sol team has always received more points at the end of matchday 8, except for the 2015/2016 League, in which it calculated the numbers for this course: 589 points received, although on that occasion with worst balance (4 wins and 4 losses) and also worst position in the table (eighth).

It is evident that this Unicaja builds its game from behind. In fact, it is not an excessively scoring team, specifically the eighth in the League, with 655 points scored. In his basketball, the defensive effort prevails to grow from there and seek the objectives. A radical change in the type of game compared to recent years that for the moment is working and has once again excited its fans.

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