By Stefan Djordjevic / firstname.lastname@example.org
In every sports competition there comes a time when the draw of groups ends up creating that one group which is impossible to predict as all the teams are of high quality and contending for the title. Such is the case with Group L in the Basketball Champions League Round of 16.
Casademont Zaragoza, ERA Nymburk, Brose Bamberg, and Dinamo Sassari have been pinned against each other in the same group and only two will advance to the Final Eight Tournament.
“Now there are sixteen best teams in the competition. Each game will be tough. We will try to qualify for the next phase by playing the best basketball we can. We respect a lot the rest of the teams,” Zaragoza coach Sergio Hernandez said.
Every win counts big and the first Gameday belonged to Zaragoza and Nymburk as they beat Sassari and Brose respectively. The Spaniards were especially impressive in their winning effort.
Coach Hernandez’s squad played almost perfect team basketball and even set a new record in the BCL playoffs with a total of 27 assists. They also tied Hereda San Pablo Burgos‘ record of 17 three-pointers made which the reigning champs set in the Final.
☄️☄️☄️ @CasademontZGZ made it rain in Italy, scoring 1⃣7⃣ 3-pointers in Sassari! #BasketballCL #Road2Final8 pic.twitter.com/qK0tBLkGsf
— Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) March 3, 2021
It was a cherry on the top to continue their run of five straight games with 85 or more points scored. It was the first time Zaragoza did so since joining the Basketball Champions League.
“We are very happy because we played a great game, one of the best this season. Sassari is a great team and this was very important for us. We played team basketball, passed the ball really well. It was our record in assists with 27. Our tactics was good, we had the patience. We allowed a lot of points inside but we didn’t allow them to move the ball however they like and we put them in a real problem,” Hernandez added.
Far from it that Sassari had a bad game, quite the opposite, and that was all the more reason why coach Gianmarco Pozzecco took the loss hard with his head down, which has been a rare sight so far in his career. This time, however, he had to admit it. The opponent was just better.
“It wasn’t easy for us because they are strong inside, all of them are oversized, and every mismatch… in the Italian League we usually have the advantage but with them, it wasn’t the same. Even if Miro (Bilan) tried his best, it wasn’t easy. In my opinion, Zaragoza played really, really well. We gave our maximum and…nothing. Sometimes, you just have to shake the hands of your opponent,” the Italian expert said.
While the whole Zaragoza team played really great basketball, one player, in particular, stole the spotlight and gave Dinamo Sassari by far the biggest punches – Jonathan Barreiro.
Barreiro scored 26 points and he did it on 6-6 shooting from the three-point range while boasting a PIR of 25. All three of those are the 24-year-old Spaniards’ career-highs.
The young forward quite unexpectedly exploded. He made a total of five triples in his past 12 BCL matches and has never scored more than 13 points in a game in the competition. Perhaps playing for the Spanish national team in the EuroBasket Qualifiers in February and putting up some solid outings for the country increased his confidence.
? @JBarreiro10 igualó anoche el récord de triples sin fallo de la @BasketballCL
? 2⃣6⃣ puntos
✅ 2/3 tiros de dos
✅ 6/6 triples
✅ 4/5 tiros libres
?? 2⃣ robos
? 2⃣5⃣ de valoración#DSSCZA | #Road2Final8 #BasketballCL | #MásUnidosQueNunca? pic.twitter.com/8blYcQtRmX
— Casademont Zaragoza (@CasademontZGZ) March 3, 2021
Another player that deserved special mention is Rodrigo San Miguel who logged his 60th assist in the BCL playoffs. There is only one player with more than that in the postseason – J’Covan Brown (62).
As Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem’s Brown won’t be a part of these playoffs, it’s almost certain that Miguel will take over as the leading passer of the BCL playoffs, ever.
“For us, it was very important to have a great start to the playoffs in the Basketball Champions League, especially on the road against an opponent like Dinamo. We are very happy about our game. We played good basketball, made great offensive plays, and made our first record in assists. We had a great game, trying to find the open shooter, and are very happy for this win,” the hero of the night, Barreiro said.
Whatever the outcome of the most competitive group in this year’s BCL playoffs end ups being, if Zaragoza continues with such high quality of basketball, there will be no room for regrets and the future is, without a doubt, bright.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League