A Breakdown of Mathieu Kamba’s Semifinals Performance

Mathieu Kamba came into the 2020 Summer Series severely underrated. He had an absolute monster season for the Edmonton Stingers and in my opinion was the biggest snub for an All-CEBL Team. He was the 2nd leading scorer on the team, played an incredible game vs the Ottawa BlackJacks in the semifinal and was responsible for Edmonton’s first ever Elam game winner.

Here’s a bit of backstory before I jump into the clips. In 2019 Kamba unfortunately had to miss the Stingers semifinal. They lost by 2 to the eventual inaugural Canadian Elite Basketball League Champions the Saskatchewan Rattlers. Defensively or offensively, Kamba affects that game more than 2 points in either direction. There definitely would have been a different outcome.

Fast forward to 2020 and it feels like Kamba was looking for some retribution for his previous absence. Kamba was the player of the game vs Ottawa. Let’s break down his performance.

His first basket of the game came on an inbounds play. There’s a couple soft screens set by Daniels and Kamba. By the time Kamba gets the ball at the top of the arc, all four of his teammates are outside the 3-point line. There is no help defense at all. Kamba’s first step is quick, he gets right around Shaquille Keith and gets to the rim for an and-1 play. (He also made the free-throw!) 

All GIFs via CBC and the CEBL

Here we see Kamba’s first steal of the game. Kamba is watching Olivier Hanlan try and break down Jordan Baker on the wing. (Maybe a little too eagerly, Lloyd Pandi slips behind him) He sees Baker poke the ball away from Hanlan and Kamba is first to the loose ball. That earlier Pandi slip actually benefits the Stingers as Munis Tutu is the only defender in a 3-on-1. Kamba gives it to Moon who lobs it back to Kamba for an early double digit lead.

Kamba spends most of his time in the corner. On this play he’s on the weak side. His defender, Johnny Berhanemeskel, moves all the way inside the key as a help defender as Mambi Diawara drives the ball. (To help on Baker in case Scrubb had to help defend.) This puts Johnny way too far away from Kamba. Diawara identifies this and throws it across for an easy 3. Johnny “Buckets” had no chance to recover.

On this play, Kamba gets just enough body on Hanlan (and Baker help defends really well) to discourage a drive to the hoop. Hanlan pulls up and misses the shot and the Stingers quickly head the other way. Kamba runs to the corner where he usually sets up shop and the Stingers get a quick 3-point attempt from the other side. I’ll highlight this last part, sometimes the defenders forget about him and don’t box him out. Kamba loves to earn offensive rebounds this way. He slips by Hanlan for the board and gets mugged in the process.

Kamba is in the corner again. Travis Daniels has the ball on the opposite block. When he gets doubled by Moon’s man, Scrubb, Daniels kicks it out. The Blackjacks are forced to rotate men to prevent an open 3, but the Stingers swing the ball too quickly to Kamba on the other side. Scrubb has to recover all the way to Kamba, who just sidesteps the defender and shouts “TATUM!” as the ball falls through the hoop.

The Stingers kept switching defenses every few possessions. Here they were in a matchup zone. Hanlan tries to force a drive by Moon and through Kareem South but he loses the ball. Kamba recovers it and earns an assist as South finishes nicely with a couple defenders around him.

Once again, Kamba is in the corner ready to strike. A lot of action is happening on the strong side. Eventually Brody Clarke starts backing down his man on the opposite block. Kamba cuts from the corner up to the wing. This will either pull his man further away from helping or give a better angle for an outlet pass. I  this case Johnny follows but stays close to the key (Johnny always seems to help too far off of Kamba in this game.) Clarke kicks it out to Moon who chucks it over to Kamba for another 3 over the shorter defender.

A turnover by Ottawa in the backcourt causes some mismatches in this halfcourt set. Kamba is (salivating) in the corner. TJ Lall doubles Travis Daniels on the far side. When Daniels passes to Moon at the top, Lall doesn’t recover and both him and Hanlan stay with Daniels. This causes the defense to rotate. When the ball is swung over to Kamba, it’s Kyle Landry there to defend him. Kamba easily bursts by him on the baseline side and rises for the dunk. (Also notice the seal by Clarke in the key.)

The Stingers use Kamba as their defensive weapon. His main assignment most of the game was Tommy Scrubb, or when he was off the floor then it became Johnny Buckets. On this play he has perfect defensive positioning. He uses his chest to prevent any progress from Scrubb, and he doesn’t reach. Scrubb is forced to throw up a tough turnaround jumpshot that goes off the front of the rim. I absolutely love watching defensive execution like this, I jump out of my seat JUST HYPED as my family stare at me in confusion.

Clarke eventually gets the rebound here. Peter-McNeilly leads a bit of a slow break. There are defenders all around Moon and Daniels but nobody picks up Kamba. He buries the 3 from the wing while shouting “HIBACHI” probably.

Kamba doesn’t do anything exceptional on this play, I just want to talk about Peter-McNeilly for this one. Kamba creeps up from the corner to the wing. There is a lot of action on the strong side of the floor. Kamba gets the ball for a second before earning an assist. Peter-McNeilly comes around the top of a Clarke screen to bury a deep 3. Even though his shooting percentages were down a bit from the 2019 campaign, Adika Peter-McNeilly loves to chuck from downtown. He actually has the most 3 point makes out of anyone in a Stinger jersey all-time. I’m glad to have our 6th man back for 2021!

Here’s another fantastic defensive clip. Berhanemeskel runs from one corner and above the arc to the other corner anticipating a hand-off. Kamba shadows him the whole way and vehemently prevents that from happening, Johnny doesn’t touch the ball on the possession. Instead, Keith does an iso but Adika discourages any path to the rim, allowing him to instead throw up a difficult (and very poor) attempt from the top of the arc. Defensive stats can be overrated and misleading. Plays like this are what matters.

Tutu has the ball on a bit of a quick half court set for Ottawa. He drives into the key and puts up a shot around a few yellow jerseys. Kamba probably should have blocked out Keith from getting around him, but with rebounding machine Baker under the basket he decides to leak instead. It pays off because Baker gets the board and throws a long pass down the court. Kamba finishes the play with an athletic layup around the smaller Hanlan.

Just like all game Kamba is in the corner. (At the top of the GIF this time.) Once again his defender seems to forget about him. When Adika puts up the 3, Kamba runs right around Scrubb as he hunts for the offensive board. For the 2nd time this game he’s fouled on the rebound attempt.

The Elam Ending is approaching and the Stingers push their lead. Keith gets the rebound on the Stingers miss but Kamba decides to pick him up full court. Keith is caught focusing a little bit too much up court and Kamba swats the ball away. He earns his 3rd steal of the game and gets it to Moon before falling out of bounds. Moon gets it to Baker for another easy score!

Kamba’s teammates do most of the damage in Elam time. Edmonton is 5 points away from victory at this point. Off the rebound, Ottawa’s defensive focus is a bit poor. Hanlan allows Kamba to jog right by him. He just forgets he’s there. Baker just easily throws an alley-oop to Kamba who gently places the ball into the basket.

On the very next offensive possession Moon hits a 3 to end the game. The Edmonton Stingers defeated the Ottawa Blackjacks 88-75 and earned their first ever playoff victory!

Kamba finished with 26 points on 9-12 shooting (4-6 from 3, 4-5 from the line), 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers. Mathieu Kamba also.had the biggest jump in points per game put of all player that returned from year 1 (7.7 to 12.9) He’s a man of few words but he lets his play do the talking. He looks more than ready to cement his place as an elite defender AND scorer in this league. 

Watch for Kamba and the Stingers to defend their title. The season is only a couple weeks away!

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