By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
We have entered the final stretch of the EuroCup Top 16 and already three teams have claimed bragging rights for gaining early entrance to the quarterfinals stage.
These are Lokomotiv Kuban, Valencia and Bayern Munich. They all remained spotless in the current stage of the competition making a statement that they aim to the sky through stylish victories. At the same time, this Week meant the end of the road for Ratiopharm Ulm, the only winless team in the Top 16.
Meanwhile in Israel, there’s a certain power rising with wild intentions. Amare Stoudemire, the absolute superstar of the competition is showing emphatically that he didn’t come to Europe just to casually spend his pre-retiremenet days, but to elevate Hapoel Jerusalem at a new level. The former NBA-er was highly impressive for a second match in a row and becomes someone that his opponents should fear of. From now on, not just because of the fame he carries but for the game he brings on the court.
MVP of the Week: Alexey Shved (Khimki Moscow)
Without the wondrous things he did against Ratiopharm Ulm, Khimki Moscow could’ve been quite possibly a victim of a huge upset which may had repercussions along the Top 16 path. Shved made sure that his team would be safe and sound, posting a 32 points season-high while dishing out 8 assists and grabbing 4 rebounds! He dropped daggers from behind the arc in a timely fashion as well, since he had 5/5 in a moment of the third quarter as an answer to Ulm’s 25 points and hit a crucial bucket for the 81 – 77 with 1:50 to go. Simply invaluable.
Best Five of the Week:
Alexey Shved (Khimki Moscow)
Provided leadership portrayed in numbers and not only, in a tricky match for his team.
Mardy Collins (Lokomotiv Kuban)
He’s a tough guy so it’s no wonder that he shined in a pretty intense fight for Lokomotiv Kuban on the road vs Fuenlabrada. The team from Krasnodar made the 4/4 in the Top 16 to secure a spot in the quarterfinals with Collins flirting with the double-double after scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. A main factor for his squad winning the battle of the boards 39 – 17 and, subsequently, the game.
Fernando San Emeterio (Valencia)
Valencia clinched a ticket for the playoffs by beating Unicaja Malaga and Fernando San Emeterio was the top performer of the “Bats”: 19 points by missing only one shot (8/9 from the field) plus 4 assists. He also gave helps everywhere it was required on defense, helping his team keep its opponents at a production of 62.
Laimonas Kisielius (Lietuvos Rytas)
A career night for the Lithuanian forward, given the fact that he has never played at such a high level of basketball, despite being 32 years old. His 24 points (6/7 two-pointers, 4/5 three-pointers) performance arrived when Lietuvos Rytas was craving for it since it had only one win in the Top 16. A defeat by Nizhny Novgorod might have put them into trouble, but Kisielius paced the way towards victory.
Amare Stoudemire (Hapoel Jerusalem)
Last week we talked about how he emerges as a leader of Hapoel Jerusalem in a crucial timing of the season. Yesterday (24/1) he confirmed that this wasn’t a one-off situation, by posting a 26 points season-high while also grabbing 9 rebounds, leading the Israelis to a home victory over Zenit St. Petersburg.
Coach of the Week: Sasa Obradovic (Lokomotiv Kuban)
Lokomotiv Kuban is among the teams that jumped to the quarterfinals but what distinguishes them among the rest is that they achieved that with a road win against a scrappy opponent such as Fuenlabrada. Coach Obradovic put his signature on this result with a well-balanced offense since five of his players scored in double figures and by helping his team maintain control of the situation, never allowing Fuenlabrada to grab a possible game-winning momentum.
Last word: Going down fighting
Ratiopharm Ulm said farewell to Eurocup since it suffered its fourth defeat in the Top 16 thus losing all mathematical chances of qualifying to the next stage. They reacted big time after a horrid 20 – 9 beginning instead of succumbing to their opponents’ quality despite the fact that they played away from home. Then they remained extremely competitive and could’ve escaped Khimki Moscow with a victory if not for some minor details in the last minutes plus the raving action of Alexey Shved for which there wasn’t any cure to be found.