By Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
The column takes you to three arenas where great games took place once again this week.
He took over
Bobby Dixon was a team of his own in offense for Zeljko Obradovic’s group. He had a strong start with 12 points and a buzzer beater in the first quarter and had something to say at every crucial moment when Bamberg tried to get back in the game. He took many shots from behind the screens, while he didn’t hesitate to shoot even on defenses. He was certainly vindicated by the result. His tally was 26 points in 8-for-13 shots.
The most important cog!
What can we say about Ekpe Udoh? The way he plays in defense essentially makes him Fener’s most important player. Against Bamberg he played almost 39 minutes, forced to chase after the switches everywhere, nevertheless hiding the basket, while he significantly limited the creation of Bamberg’s backcourt. He contributed enormously to his team’s victory with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks, but above all, very hard work on the switching defenses.
With Bamberg closing out the half with a 4-point deficit and Bogdanovic out of the game, everything pointed to a battle in the second half. But Fener, armed with their defense – which kept the home team scoreless for five minutes – produced a 14-0 run and increased the lead to 18 (38-56). From that point on, essentially they held on and defended every counterattack the German team attempted.
No Strelnieks, no party!
His team really missed the Latvian because, from the way the game was played and with the kind of defense that Fenerbahce used, he could’ve done some damage with his shooting from the perimeter. Zisis and Causeur didn’t fare badly, but Strelnieks’s direct shooting on the screens would have given something extra.
James Gist returned after four months and as soon as he set his foot on the court he showed how much his absence affected his team’s game. The main thing he gave his team was pick-and-roll game, something we had stressed was missing from Panathinaikos’s game many times. Very good dives and excellent collaborations with the guards. Other than that, he was an important cog in Panathinaikos’s pressing defense.
Panathinaikos’s defense handcuffed Sergio Llull. Real’s leader faced a defense that was fully adjusted on him and couldn’t find a way to get in the game. A lot of pressure on the ball from Calathes and James, overplay defenses and dynamic hedge outs on every screen he was involved in. Panathinaikos’s defense forced Llull to take half the attempts, but also to commit double the turnovers, compared to what he averages so far in the competition.
Perfect fourth quarter
Offensively, Panathinaikos had the perfect quarter and, in fact, at the most crucial point of the game. They scored 30 points in this time by striking on every mismatch but also on all of Real’s defensive weaknesses, which weren’t a few, especially along the perimeter. James was quicker than Carroll, while he took advantage of Ayon’s passive defenses on the screens. Singleton also did a great job as he took advantage of every mismatch and scored through his inside-out game on every defensive weakness.
Images from the future
Real’s defense along the perimeter has problems and it’s not a coincidence that they are very low in terms of defenses per possession, compared with their position in the standings. Coach Laso is trying to come up with solutions as he’s going to come up against some high quality offenses in the playoffs. He’s tried on many occasions to put Jeff Taylor on the best rival guard, while against Panathinaikos he tried zone pressing and zones in which they had big men in the high post mark in such a way so that screens wouldn’t result in mismatches. It didn’t work against Panathinaikos, but it’s interesting to see what else the Spanish coach is going to think of in the future.
An amazing game on every level in Vitoria. Breathtaking spectacle, incredible plays, lots of tactics and overflowing passion at all levels. If we also add the dramatic finale, then we talk with certainty about one of the best games of the season.
The team’s glue!
It’s not a coincidence that from the moment he returned his team has 2 out of 2 wins, defeating Fenerbahce in Istanbul and CSKA in Vitoria. Shengelia’s absence cost the Basques dearly and his return is providing solutions. Game in the post, creation, strength and energy in rebounding, good screens and a very powerful body in defense. Above all, he looks like Baskonia’s prototypical player. The Georgian had 9 points but without missing any shots, while he contributed in every other area with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block.
We knew that Adam Hanga is an insanely good defender, but what he did in the first half against CSKA borders on the impossible. In defense he sees plays before they happen. The result: 4 amazing blocks, 3 of which came as he helped defend opponents’ drives. He saved 4 baskets and, if we judge from how the game turned out, he was decisive. Furthermore, he was his team’s top scorer and he scored big baskets by putting the ball on the floor and attacking in the paint.
From fatal to beautiful
With the ball being hot, Chase Budinger nearly became fatal for his team. Sito Alonso wanted a big body on Teodosic in order to make it hard for him to shoot, but in two plays in a row, the American couldn’t follow the Serbian star behind the screens along the sides and as a result, Milos scored two three-pointers in a row that turned the game around. In the last play though, he played a tremendous defense on De Colo, hiding the basket from him. In this way, he gave his team a huge win.