By Panos Katsiroubas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
It was another important week in Euroleague with big games, survival battles, surprises and a lot of drama. Still the situation in both groups is complicated and unpredicted. Everything can happen in the last four Top16 gamedays but let’s focus in this thrilling week.
Real Madrid in trouble!!
We can view this game for two angles. The one is from the German side and the other is from the side of Real Madrid. Bayern got a very big and unpredictable by many win that keeps their qualification hopes alive. The keys for the win were two.
Malcolm Delaney: He was unbelievable, he is the real leader of this team and he proved it one more time. He is great in creating 6 assists in this game and along with his scoring talent of 20 points, he produced almost the 2/5 from the points of the German team. What’s even more important, however, is that when he is on the court everybody trusts him. There were plays in the game that he had clear path to the basket but he was looking always for the best option, passing to his teammate for an open shot. We saw at least two passes like these in the last minutes that created open looks for Djedovic and Taylor.
Protection of the paint: In the last period the Germans closed all the lanes to their basket and protected the paint very well, not only from the frontcourt of Real Madrid but mostly from the penetrations of its guards who create a lot of plays and open shots for all the other players. They risked some open shots from Sergio Rodriguez and Darden, but the result vindicated them. They tried to stop the creation of the Spanish side and this was totally effective, if we see the number of 12 assists made by Real Madrid. This number is the 2nd lowest for Madrid in 22 games during this season’s Euroleague
From the other side it was a shocking defeat for Real Madrid that can cost not only the top spot in Group F, but even the home court advantage for the play offs. The biggest problem for Real Madrid is that due to injuries they totally changed the rotation in their backcourt and this costs them in rhythm and fatigue. When the Spanish side played with a complete roster, they divided the games in couple of periods. In the 1st and 3rd quarter it was Llull, Rudy and Darden that started the game and in 2nd and 4th period it was time for Sergio Rodriguez, Carroll and Draper with some substitutions depending on the game circumstances, but most of the times that was the plan.
With Draper and Carroll injured, 4 players played almost 118 minutes in the 3 positions of the backcourt, while in previews matches this time was divided to 6 players. This fact leaded to fatigue and not having fresh legs both in defense and also in offense. Real Madrid now has an arithmetical problem in their backcourt and not a problem of quality, but they have to try some other solutions. Maybe using Mirotic also in the small forward position for longer periods of the game and create some miss matches from this spot.
Turkish teams survived their “do or die” games!!
This was a week for critical games for the two Turkish cluvs that continue to have chances to advance in the quarterfinals. Both of them manage to win these crucial games and keep their hopes alive. Fenerbahce suffered against Malaga but in the end the hero was the only player who can play really good defense in this team, Omer Onan. He changed the psychological part of this game with his defense and passion and got very big help from Nemanja Bjelica and Bo Mc Calebb who scored crucial baskets in the offensive end.
From the other side Malaga played without their top scorer Caner Medley and also center Rafael Hettsheimer, but despite these absences and the bad game of Zoran Dragic they were leading till the closing stages of the game. But in the end their offense was very poor in the last five minutes their defense also allowed some easy penetrations and lay ups for Fene.
Despite all the technical aspects and all the plays there was a referee decision which played an important part in the final result. Twenty seconds before the end with Fenerbahce trying to put the ball inside the court from the baseline and being in danger of a five second violation, Luigi Lamonica called an unsportsmanlike foul to Jayson Granger in favor of Bo. In the replay it is not clear if there is even a contact between these two players. At the end of the day we can say that with this kind of basketball, it’s very difficult for Fenerbahce to go through. This team plays worse than the first round and has many key and talented players out of the game.
From the other side Galatasaray achieved a miracle in Krasnodar and everybody has to congratulate them for overcoming all the injury problems from the first round and all the changes in the roster. We have just to remind the injuries of Dudley, Jawai, Jamon Gordon and Manuchar Markoishvili who all of them missed the whole season in Euroleague, except the Georgian forward. He made a dream comeback with 19 points and he was the real MVP of his team despite the important baskets of Juan Carlos Arroyo.
Lokomotiv Kuban lost a very big chance to remain the favorite for the 4th place and now three team are fighting for this spot. The key to the win og Galatasaray was the great defense they played during the game. In both away wins against Bayern and Lokomotiv they managed to keep their opponents below 70 points and this is their basic weapon in the battle of 4th place.
Greens completed the obligation, Reds looking ahead!!
With five losses in the last 6 games and the most difficult schedule ahead, Panathinaikos was obliged to win in Istanbul. It was a difficult week for theGgreens with coach Pedoulakis leaving the team and former player Alvertis announced as the head coach till the end of the season. Even though the coach changed, Panathinaikos played in the same 60 point game tempo and survived after a 3 pointer of Maciulis that led the game in overtime. Panathinaikos was more focused in the extra five and won the game.
The Greens played without injured Curry and Gist but had a very tough and solid defense. They kept Efes to 60 points in 45 minutes of action. Fotsis scored some crucial shots from the perimeter and Panathinaikos won the battle of rebounds. It was an ugly game in total with both teams shooting with very low percentage and having the same numbers (23/68 field goals). Maybe it’s the worst field goal percentage among the winning teams in all Euroleague games this season.
Barcelona remained unbeaten playing against Olympiakos which travelled to Spain without injured Spanoulis and Printezis. The depth of the Spanish team appeared in this game with Oleson and Pullen playing important parts when Barca lost the lead. Both of them gave their team solutions in the offensive end. Olympiakos remained for the second time in Top16 below 60 points and this was a result of the great defense of the Catalans. They focused on how to stop Perperoglou, they gave help in all his attempts to go to the post and they made him pass the ball. Perperoglou had zero points with 0/8 field goals and 4 turnovers, a total win of the defensive plan of Barcelona, and if we add that the backcourt of Olympiakos had a very bad offensive night the 58 points were just a logical number for that performance.
A look to the future / the battle continues!!
Everyone starts to use calculations, counting wins, losses and point differences, so let’s have a look to which games in our opinion are going to be very critical in the next 4 weeks and will define which teams will go to the playoffs in both groups.
11th week Panathinaikos- Fenerbahce, Malaga- Barcelona
12th week Malaga- Olympiakos
13th week Panathinaikos- Malaga
14th week Olympiakos- Panathinaikos, Malaga- Milano
11th week Real- CSKA, Galatasaray- Bayern
12th week Maccabi– Real
13th week Bayern- Maccabi
14th week Maccabi- CSKA, Lokomotiv Kuban- Bayern.
For sure we will have 4 crazy basketball weeks, everything can happen and every basketball fan is looking forward for that spectacle.