By Antonis Stroggylakis / firstname.lastname@example.org
Milan Tomic, a former EuroLeague champion as player (1997) and assistant coach (2012, 2013) with Olympiacos Piraeus, sat down with Eurohoops to analyze certain decisive aspects of the 2021 championship game between Anadolu Efes and Barcelona. What pushed Efes to the win, what Barcelona did wrong and the connection between a “Vasilije” and a “Vassilis.”
Tomic, who also won the 2019 ABA and Serbian League as head coach of Crvena Zvezda, broke down the following:
Barcelona’s initial plan:
“This is the first part of the game when Barcelona looked to be in control and a key for this was putting Victor Claver on Vasilije Micic. This part of the defensive plan proved to be effective. We have seen from other teams that putting a smaller or faster guard on Micic backfires at them. Saras put a big body like Claver and stopped Micic’s scoring and creation in the first quarter. The guard just hit a crazy shot and that was it.
This is a common practice, to put a forward on the guard and prevent him from creating.
The other part that helped Barca was implementing a switching defense with Brandon Davies. Claver was also essential in that with his defense on the ball. In general, the defensive pressure on all of Efes‘ ball handlers like Micic, Shane Larkin and Krunoslav Simon was enormous. Barca played strong, energetic defense with huge enthusiasm.”
The sustainability of Barcelona’s defense and how Efes read it:
“It is difficult. Barcelona could have had sustained this kind of defense for 40 minutes. Because they have a large, packed roster that can support this kind of game and defense. On the other hand, no matter how powerful and effective your defense is, if you can’t score you can’t be certain. You can’t be sure that you can win the game only thanks to your defense. And I always say that basketball is played on both ends of the court.
Indeed, Barcelona started with some great defense in the first quarter but the more the game progressed the better Efes became in adjusting to this defense.
Especially Larkin and Micic. They didn’t start well, Micic in particular – but once they adapted they “punished” Barca’s defense. It’s difficult to retain this level of defense for 40 minutes. The level will drop, eventually, and you won’t be so effective.”
The problems of Barcelona’s offense:
“I believe Barcelona had several problems also on the offensive end. For example, they could’ve played a type of basketball that would create more open shots for players like Cory Higgins, Kyle Kyric, Alex Abrines via off-screen situations. They can all shoot the ball and create off the screen.
Instead, Barcelona played a lot of pick n’ roll and tried to post up Nikola Mirotic and Brandon Davies. Mirotic is a great player, he just had a bad night. It wasn’t like Efes did something really different with their defense on him.
Barcelona didn’t take advantage of their great beginning and, in the end, it was obvious that they lacked something extra to win the game. You need that in a Final Four. Efes had that extra. They have players that Barcelona doesn’t have. And I’m talking about Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin and their versions in the second half.”
Vassilis Spanoulis in 2013 – Vasilije Micic in 2021
“Micic actually reminded me of Vassilis Spanoulis of 2013 when we won the EuroLeague with Olympiacos against Real Madrid. Spanoulis struggled a lot in the first half in a similar way with Micic’s problems in the first half vs. Barcelona. Spanoulis scored 22 points in the second half of 2013 and Micic scored 21 in the second half of this Final. They both won the title and were crowned Final Four MVPs after winning season MVP.
I remember that during halftime in 2013, we were discussing with Giorgos Bartzokas (editor’s note: the head coach of Olympiacos) about Spanoulis’ performance. And I told him that Spanoulis will definitely be much better in the second half. You have to support your players, especially your big players, no matter what.
Ataman did the same. Larkin had a poor game for his standards in the semifinal against CSKA and Ataman kept him on court for 34 minutes straight vs. Barcelona. Ataman supported his player and this player was pivotal in the team winning the EuroLeague.
You have to take a risk with your talented players. And, in the end, they will reward you.”
“Barcelona’s mistake is that they were too busy with the officiating from early on. When you get nervous with the officiating you lose your concentration. There was an unrest on the bench. Yes, mistakes may happen. But, in my opinion, your sole focus should be on the game.”
Efes’ good numbers of turnovers (10) and why having few assists (12) didn’t matter:
“Considering that: A) Efes faced the top defensive team in Europe and B) This was a championship game with enormous pressure and a match where you think that a team will make some additional mistakes, this is a very good number.
Neither teams had a lot of assists and this is because they didn’t move around the ball around. But Efes didn’t have a lot of assists because their main ball handlers like Micic and Larkin penetrated inside a lot and drove to the basket by taking advantage of their opponents’ switching defense. There wasn’t a defense on the pick n’ roll that was giving them something else, a hedge out for example. And they didn’t need to have a lot of assists to win.”
Barcelona’s need for more creation:
“That wasn’t the case for Barcelona. Throughout the whole season, Barca was dependent on moving the ball around to create shots and opportunities. In the Final, they didn’t create and played a lot of one-on-one. They finished with just 10 assists. This suited Efes.
Of course, one of the reason Barcelona didn’t have a lot of assists was Nick Calathes’ condition and the fact that he was hurt.”
Adam Hanga playing only seven seconds:
“Adam Hanga is a player who can contribute everywhere on the floor, not only on defense. But defense is his forte, he can guard from “1” to “4”. It was surprising to me that Hanga didn’t really play, especially considering Calathes’ injury. But it’s not right to be judgmental, especially now after the game, when all is said and done.
I feel there was a huge pressure on Barcelona to win the EuroLeague. At least that’s what I saw. For me, 70 percent of the Final is about how the team is prepared psychologically. The Barca players looked too stressed and they shoudn’t have been.”