Βy Panos Katsiroubas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The best Top16 in the history of the competition came to an end last night. After 14 weeks of great basketball the best 8 teams will continue their battle for the trophy. Most of them were already qualified from the previous week, but there was one open spot remaining and the final positions of the qualified teams in the classification of both groups which decide the playoff couples. So let’s have a last look at the Top16 and on what we found interesting in this last week.
The battle of Piraeus
This Greek derby was only a prestige battle and the only thing being offered by a win, it’s a psychological boost for the playoffs. After a very close game Olympiakos managed to get the win with a huge three point shot by his captain Vasilis Spanoulis in the last possession.
In total Panathinaikos was in control during most of the game which was played in the rhythm the Greens like, but in the end they manage to lose their own game. If we consider that Olympiakos played without Printezis, Perperoglou played only 10 minutes because he is not ready after his injury and Spanoulis had a bad night for 39 minutes, it is almost a miracle that the Reds won this game. They also had 7/19 free throws and their game plan was ruined by Panathinaikos defense. After a long time the Reds shot a bigger number of threes than two pointers. However, there were some other aspects of the game that ed Olympiakos to this win and these are the following:
Scoring runs: For most of the game Panathinaikos controlled the rhythm and tempo, but there were three periods in the game that Olympiakos had little explosions and took very huge advantages. In the beginning of the game the Reds started with a 10-3 run, in the final part of the third quarter between minutes 25 to 28 Olympiakos had a 16-1 run and turned the game from a 29-41 to a 45-42 after a Mantzaris’ three and finally there were the last three minutes that Olympiakos made another 12-3 scoring run and converted the 56-62 advantage of Panathinaikos into a 68-65 win. This three scoring runs took part in a total of 9 minutes but gave the Reds a partial score of 38-7. This was the first time in this season’s games against Panathinaikos that Olympiakos had such explosions.
Turnovers of Panathinaikos: Panathinaikos had just one extra turnover compared to Olympiakos but through the game the situation was quite different. In the beginning of the fourth quarter Olympiakos had 13 turnovers, while Panathinaikos had only 6. In the last period this number changed dramatically to a 2-10 turnover run in favor of Olympiakos while the Greens made eight turnovers in the last six minutes. It’s a huge number in such a close game
Supporting cast: With players injured and Spanoulis blocked by Panathinaikos defense, the supporting cast of Olympiakos made the huge difference in the game. Sloukas and Mantzaris had an unbelievable game on both ends and they were the driving force of Olympiakos in their comeback. They also received huge help from Dunston, Petway and Papapetrou who played a crucial role mostly in the defensive end and also made some really important baskets in the offensive end.
The terrible night of Diamantidis: After his best performance in the Top16 in the previous game against Malaga the leader of Panathinaikos played his worst game against Olympiakos and that was the main reason which didn’t let the Greens escape with the victory from Piraeus. In total 0/6 field goals and 5 turnovers, 3 of them in the crucial final three minutes were the numbers of Panathinaikos’ captain. Another important and really unusual stat was that with Diamantidis on the bench Panathinaikos had a +9 points differential in the game.
Everything changed in the last week for the 1st place in Group F. Real Madrid lost in Kaunas from Zalgiris in a game during which the Spanish side showed no real passion for winning, while CSKA got the “W” in Tel Aviv and grabbed the 1st place of the group. Nobody can be sure if Real Madrid chose to lose, but the cold hard fact is that now they have to face the back to back European Champions, Olympiakos in the playoffs and if they go through, they will probably meet Barcelona in the semifinal at Milan.
The game was a one man show of Top16 14th week MVP Justin Dentmon who scored 36 points, be breaking the record of Terrell McIntyre for most three points shots made in a single Euroleague season and achieved a ranking of 40. On the other side Real Madrid had its normal rotation with Rudy playing less than 20 minutes, but they didn’t show the same focus and strength especially in perimeter defense, where Zalgiris found too many open looks and too many lanes open for drives and penetrations to the Spanish basket. The strange thing is that Zalgiris didn’t have any motivation for winning this game while Real Madrid played for the 1st place in the group. In addition to that we have to mention that in the three previous meetings between these two teams Madrid won all three games with an average 28 points differential (63-83 in Kaunas, 95-67 and 108-72 in Madrid). If we use as a reference these three games, we can understand that Real Madrid didn’t care a lot for the win.
CSKA managed to escape with a big win from Tel Aviv in a very entertaining game for the fans with many lead changes and a dramatic end. The game was very close in all stages and decided by the big threepoint shots of Aaron Jackson and Sonny Weems that transformed the 68-68 score to 68-74 two minutes before the end of the game. Maccabi tried to come back but had one of their leaders and best players, Ricky Hickman, in a very bad offensive day with just one point, 0/4 field goals and 4 turnovers. CSKA had Aaron Jackson in great offensive and defensive night scoring 18 points and playing very good defense against the quick guards of Maccabi pressing the ball in an excellent way. He took some help also from Weems, Kaun and Hines who played well on both ends of the floor. In total it was an entertaining and open game which both teams could have won it.
The normal result
Galatasaray just needed a win in order to go through to the playoffs in their last game against Partizan in Istanbul. They manage to achieve their goal with their Galatasaray way of great defense that allowed Partizan to score only 55 points. The Turkish side won four of the last five games, losing only at Moscow against CSKA in a game that they lost in overtime by one point and after choosing to do so. They won even with their leader, Juan Carlos Arroyo, in a terrible offensive day, as he had 0/10 field goals and zero points in total.
Despite his execution problems Arroyo dished seven assists and put his teammates in the position to score instead of him. Furkan Aldemir was great being a real beast inside the paint on both ends and he got extra help from Erceg and Markoishvili in the win that put Galatasaray in the playoffs. Facing Barcelona will be a very difficult task for the Turks, but they don’t have any pressure, they achieved the best they could and every team which plays under these conditions can be dangerous.
In this format of Top16 road wins are very important and most of the times the team that gets them advances to the playoffs. This year we have the exception and the paradox of Laboral Kutxa. Baskonia won four times away from Vitoria, in Istanbul against Efes, in Athens against Panathinaikos, in Malaga and in Barcelona. Despite these four road wins Baskonia only managed to finish seventh in the group with only one win at home in Vitoria against Fenerbahce, something truly uncommon. The away wins of Baskonia were more than the away wins of Milano, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos which will continue their season in the playoffs. A real basketball paradox in this year’s Top16.