Bonn solves box-and-one defense on T.J. Shorts and is ready for more

2023-02-05T10:27:53+00:00 2023-02-05T10:40:20+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

05/Feb/23 10:27

Wins keep piling up for Telekom Baskets Bonn and it’s not all about T.J. Shorts II, but actually far from that in the latest display

By Johnny Askounis/

T. J. Shorts II paving the way in a brilliant run between both the Basketball Champions League and Germany’s easyCredit BBL might have painted the picture of a one-man show. But in blowing out Baxi Manresa on the road last Wednesday, the explosive point guard was limited to five points and 1/5 shots.

Shorts, 25, threw in five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Averaging 20.3 points per BCL game this season, he trails only red-hot Marcus Foster of Vilnius and the undisputed enforcer all season long. However, the team coached by Tuomas Iisalo not only survived the rare misstep but enjoyed a comfortable win in Gameday 2 of the Round of 16 to extend the streak in FIBA’s top-tier European club continental competition.

“The third key was finding solutions against their box-and-one defense against T.J. Shorts,” underlined the Finnish tactician after previously commenting on offensive rebounds and keeping Manresa scoreless in transition, “It was the first time we played against that defense this season. And it was a very interesting experience. I think we did a very good job getting everyone involved and creating very difficult situations for Manresa.”

Despite playing at home, the team guided by Pedro Martinez did not score any points in fast-break situations and on had 21 defensive rebounds while surrendering 20 offensive boards to the visitors. Focusing on containing Shorts maybe was the problem as Bonn was able to spread points across the remaining players.

“I think it also shows the respect that teams of Manresa’s quality have for us, to go with this very unusual tactic for this game in order to stop the best offensive player in the competition,” added Iisalo.

The box-and-one defense went viral with Mike James wondering whether insisting on the specific defensive combination for 40 minutes is ridiculous. The debate stretched beyond AS Monaco’s superstar but ultimately is a matter of opinion.

Providing a response of its own on the court, Bonn dominated at Manresa despite its own superstar being held well below his season average in points per game. Popping out of the boxscore, three-point shots amounting to 43 for the night shaped a new record for the most attempts of any team in a single game of the 2022-23 BCL season. Adjusting to the latest challenge presented, Iisalo’s players knocked in 15 of the long-range shots, the second-highest total through the team history in the Champions League, behind connecting 16 versus Opava early in the 2018-19 season.

So, handing the keys to Shorts does not necessarily mean the former UC Davis standout will be constantly carrying his team. Enter Collin Malcolm as an example of additional offense. The 25-year-old swingman poured 58 points over his last three outings, including four triples and a game-high 25 points versus Manresa, after tallying only 15 points over the first four appearances in the BCL. In addition, he emerged as the sixth player to put up more than 20 points coming off the bench.

Bonn readying for the next threats

Bonn has won its last seven games in the Champions League tying the Germany record held by Brose Bamberg riding a seven-game winning streak in the 2020-21 season. Coming up next if Rytas and Foster aiming to stop the current streak Wednesday.

Apart from going up to 2-0 in Group J of the BCL’s Round of 16, a solid start seeking a berth in the Quarterfinals and potentially home-court advantage in the following best-of-three series to determine the Final Four participants, the German outfit additionally carries a 15-2 W-L tally in the easyCredit BBL to tonight’s Regular Season Round 21 fixture opposite FC Bayern Munich at Audi Dome (5/2, 20:30 CET). It looks good on both continental and domestic levels, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.

“We are not looking back, how many wins we have. We always take it from game to game,” pointed out team captain Karsten Tadda after presenting a game-high +/- of 20 points in the win in Pavello Nou Congost. The experienced shooting guard chipped in eight points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal to the away win against Manresa.

“We are about systems, process, not so much about goals,” confirmed play-caller Iisalo, “We have our identity. If we play with this identity, we feel like we have the chance to beat any team in Europe.”

T.J. Shorts II in command

Close friend and former UC Davis teammate Chima Moneke recently joining AS Monaco can become a preview of what the future holds for Shorts. From breaking out as the previous MVP of the Champions League, he completed the jump to the NBA and Sacramento Kings before opting to return to Europe and France, midway through the 2022-23 season. In his Manresa stint, the Catalonia outfit reached the championship game of the 2022 Final Four but fell to Lenovo Tenerife.

The Bonn leader is not there yet, but producing more spectacular stat sheets will build up his bid for season MVP at the individual level and from there probably dictate how far Bonn can go this season. He was the top scorer in the 2021-22 edition of Germany’s top division playing for Hakro Merlins Crailsheim and has been on a roll since moving his talents to Bonn, a fan favorite earning praise from opponents as well, the BCL December MVP, the Eurohoops pick as Regular Season MVP, attracting the attention of potential suitors, and the list goes on.

Maybe the next big thing coming out of the BCL, following in the footsteps of Moneke, but surely the player holding the keys in Bonn.

Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

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