By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
Barcelona hasn’t been the most successful team in EuroLeague chronicles but can certainly be labelled as the most consistent one. Sure, it’s an unofficial title that might not come with any trophies or grand amounts of prestige. Still, for such an organization it’s important to maintain a continuous presence at a certain top level of competitiveness.
We are talking about the only club with a permanent presence in the playoffs every single year since 2005-2006. While many other, highly decorated franchises (even CSKA Moscow, that didn’t go further than the regular season in 2010/2011) have sometimes lost the train to the quarterfinals, Barcelona made sure to always reach that destination.
Alas, this most likely won’t be the case this year. That is unless something earth-shattering happens.
With four games remaining for the regular season to be concluded, Barcelona is currently ranked 11th in the standings with a 10 – 16 record. Meanwhile, eighth Anadolu Efes is 14 – 12, ninth Darussafaka Dogus 13 – 13 and 10th Zalgiris Kaunas 12 – 14. The “Blaugrana” need something close to a miracle in order to advance, as one can easily understand.
No need to sugarcoat this. Considering its budget, roster quality (although this can be disputed) Barcelona has royally failed in EuroLeague this season. Agreed, there was a never-ending streak of injuries that hindered coach Giorgos Bartzokas’ job of creating an efficient squad, building chemistry and ultimately presenting an outfit capable of game-winning basketball . But while this injury plague can definitely be considered as a serious cause for the team not reaching its potential, it’s doesn’t provide an excuse for some utterly horrid performances, previously unheard of in the recent history of the club.
The fans’ usually infallible instinct has recognized the absence of an alibi for repeated “crimes against basketball” Barcelona has committed on the court. And they have vividly expressed their frustration to both the management and the coach/players in numerous occasions.
It’s not only the victories drought, but mainly the often grotesque spectacle they are watching, that probably makes them want to stick needles on their eyes. Small wonder, since they are witnessing their favorite team having its worst offensive season ever in EuroLeague (post 2001) history.
Barcelona has hit rock-bottom in its scoring output by averaging 71.7 points in 16 games. Never before in the last 17 years did it produce less than 74.3 points, which was the average number in 2007-2008.
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Even Crvena Zvezda, the team with the smallest budget in EuroLeague, manages more (74.8 p.p.g.) than the disappointing Barcelona, being second to last in the related list.
It’s not coincidental that the Spanish team reached a historical low in points scored during a single game this season. In the loss by Olympiacos in Piraeus for the teams’ first leg match, Barcelona suffered its least productive match in EuroLeague history, putting together only 52 (!) points. It was during a period when the injury problems ran rampant, but this number remains unjustifiable.
“We mutilated basketball tonight,” Barcelona forward Stratos Perperoglou had told me after that match.
Last week, Barcelona also failed to reach the 60-point mark, losing 67 – 56 to David Blatt’s Darussafaka Dogus in Istanbul. That’s the fourth lowest scoring output in the post-2001 European history of the franchise. And this time, the team played at almost full strength.
One of the of the reasons behind the bucket-making woes of the Blaugrana can be traced to the many turnovers they commit in every game. Yes, you’ve probably guessed right, no team makes more TOs than them in EuroLeague.
Despite rarely operating in a fast-paced, and possibly turnover prone, rhythm, but preferring to attack in half-court, 5 vs 5 situations, Barcelona players average 14.7 TOs per game. Second in the list is Maccabi Tel Aviv with 14.3. But the Israelis utilize much more up tempo offense and they execute their plans quickly, borderline hastily perhaps.
“Defense wins titles”, many say and history has shown that it’s true. At least to an extent that allows this quote to be constantly reminded by coaches, players or journalists. Barcelona succeeds in allowing 75.5 points per game in EuroLeague, being the fourth best defensive team in the competition. Still, their insufficient offense is particularly striking, especially at a time when squads are becoming more and more prolific in scoring, the game gets faster, and strategies that produce many 3-pointers are greatly popularized among coaches.
Defense alone doesn’t cut it, as Barcelona’s upcoming elimination from the playoffs shows.EuroLeague Weekly: Focus on Paulius Jankunas, Zalgiris Kaunas