By Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
We are still in the second week of Euroleague and the action starts to become intense. We had a rematch of the last year’s Final Four semifinal and other games between competitive teams that were very interesting. So let’s see all these contests with the eye on the magnifying glass.
CSKA faced Maccabi in Moscow in the rematch of the semifinal of the Final Four in Milan. Even if we are in the first phase of the competition CSKA played a complete game, destroying the European champions with ease despite playing without Markoishvili, Khryapa, De Colo and Nichols.
The fact that made the difference in this game was the TOTAL offensive game of the Russians. All players who were involved in this game had as priority the best team option in order to score easy baskets. Teodosic continues his great games dishing 11 assists, setting great plays for pick and roll and good passes in the wings after the picks. Weems and also Jackson had the same offensive attitude with Weems looking for isolation plays but always with the option of a good pass.
In this game a huge factor was also Vorontsevich. He was very good in defense and rebounding, while on the same time he had also a big impact in the offensive plays. He was used to set many screens for pick and pop plays or penetrations because of his quickness. He also opened spaces for high-low plays with Kaun, plays that were difficult to defend individually. Moreover the transition game of CSKA was impressive, taking advantage of almost all opportunities given on the open court. Maccabi couldn’t overcome the absence of Devin Smith. He is very important in the way Maccabi plays and the Israeli team was unable to substitute what he offers on both ends of the floor. Tyus was also absent, Pargo in a bad offensive day and in the defensive end, Maccabi was unable to stop the great game of CSKA. The Russians are for sure the most impressive team in the start of the competition.
Winning shot after winning shot!
In a crazy game at Kazan, Real Madrid escaped with the victory in the last second with a mid-range jumper of Sergio Llull. The Spanish side made the come back in the last 90 seconds from a five points Unics’ lead. This game showed us some important things about these two teams.
For Unics it is obvious that they don’t have any kind of game in the paint. The only time they are attacking in the paint is after pick and rolls and changes of defense after the screen, using the size advantage of the player that sets the screen. They are a team that has all its talent in the backcourt. They have good individual players in the perimeter but they play mostly on isolation without moving the ball a lot. On the other side it was another mediocre game for Real Madrid, especially in the offensive end. They didn’t have good ball movement and were saved from their many offensive rebounds. Their backcourt lost the battle against the backcourt of Unics but their tall guys prevailed. Felipe Reyes grabbed 7 offensive reboun and added 6 points. Ayon scored 10 points most of them in the 4th quarter, while Bourousis and Mejri added in total 17 points and 8 rebounds.
The last minutes were thrilling with both teams exchanging baskets and the last word belonged to Sergio Llull who took the advantage of the screen switch, he was found in front of D’or Fischer and scored the last basket. Just seconds before that White scored the big three that could have been the winning shot. Unics is difficult to go far without a threat in the paint.
One of the biggest games of the week was the one in Milan where visiting Barcelona beat easily Olympia Milano and took revenge for their last year’s defeat. Barcelona has huge depth and this was the main factor of this win.
They missed Navarro and from the players that stepped in the court Tomic, Doellman and Marcelinho had a very poor performance. The difference was made from the newcomers and a young star of the team. Alex Abrines was almost excellent with 21 points (5/5 3pts), Pleiss also followed him with 16 points (6/6 FG) and 6 rebounds. Thomas played his first impressive game of the season, giving helps both in offense and defense and Satoransky showed that he can be very useful in days that Marcelinho is not so good.
Milano for a second game in a row played terribly. Brooks looks totally unadjusted to the European Basketball. He creates plays only for himself under the worst circumstances without scoring in the end. Moreover the Italian Champions have a total lack of chemistry in offense. For a second game in a row they have less than 15 assists (9 against Fener) with only 13 against Barcelona. Gentile had 8 of the 13 assists but his shooting was very poor with just 3/16 field goals. Milano needs a shock very quick otherwise they may face elimination very early this year.
Bayern and Galatasaray prevailed!
Bayern and Galatasaray won important home games against teams with the same goals, Panathinaikos and Valencia respectively. Bayern won a dramatic game against Panathinaikos relying mainly in the offensive solutions that appeared during the game. Savanovic was the main point of threat especially from the perimeter, but there were crucial helps from Gavel who played an excellent offensive game and also from the bench with both Stimac and Jagla creating many problems. Micic showed some aspects of his talent but definitely needs a lot of time and games in order to be a star in the Euroleague level.
On the other side Panathinaikos lost concentration in defense again in many plays, letting Bayern score some easy baskets and create runs. This is something totally out of the Greens mentality all these years, but untill now it’s the biggest problem of the team. Another one is that they don’t have a second player to put pressure in the post except Batista. He is great but he is alone in the paint. The other offensive option was just three point shots. The Greens finished the game with 32 three point shots attempts, a huge number for any team. With the additions of Nelson and Mavrokefalidis Panathinaikos will improve in these two aspects of the game.
Galatasaray opened their home games with a win against Valencia. After a 23 point lead in the 1st half they almost come face to face with a thriller in the last minutes. This win has a name for the Turkish side and this is Furkan Aldemir. It was a huge game for the Turkish center. He controled the paint and stopped almost all penetrations in defense when he was on the floor. Arroyo came back to his usual games with 16 points and 5 assists. On the other hand Valencia couldn’t solve any of the problems they faced in the first game. Buycks is still unaware of European basketball and without Dubljevic, there’s very little threat from the post and after pick and rolls for Valencia. Still both teams are not looking well and this is something that has to concern the coaches.
The work is done!
Fenerbahce doubled their victories in Poland without being that stable or impressive. Goudelock was huge. He is one of the most difficult players to defend, very explosive and created all the offensive game of Fenerbahce. Preldzic was also important in this game providing solutions in offense. The strong aspect for Fenerbahce is that has a lot of talented players that can create good plays in offense. The weak part untill now is that as a new team they have many ups and downs during the games that appeared so far in both of their Euroleague contests. Turow showed that if any team underestimates them, they will face problem. If a team pays attention and don’t let them run and do their game, they can defeat them easily.
Unicaja Malaga also doubled their wins in the most dramatic fashion. A three point shot in the last second from Vasileiadis gave the Greens a big win. In contrast with the first game against Cedevita, Malaga faced many problems in their defensive end, letting Alba control the game and shoot over 60% from the field. The reason Malaga won this game was the total control in rebound with +11 overall and 12 offensive. The performance of Ryan Toolson was the second reason. In this game he performed well in scoring and also created many open shots for his teammates and this creation of plays made the difference. Malaga is a good offensive team with balance but needs to perform better in defense. Alba on the contrary showed again that they will be a tough opponent despite two losses. Renfroe and Hammonds are doing well in the perimeter and Mclean will be a player to watch for biggest clubs in Euroleague. The Germans will win games and they will play a role in the competition.
In a very bad game in Piraeus, Olympiakos defeated Laboral Kutxa. The two teams played terribly in offense without cooperation and good ball movement. Olympiakos showed again that they depend too much on Spanoulis and when Spanoulis is in a bad day then the problems increase. Olympiakos won this game because of the defense. They made some huge defensive plays in the final minutes that gave them the win. The Reds showed an image of a team that has no solutions in offense and scored some points in transition but executed very poorly in set offense. They will improve with Printezis and Darden but this is not enough for them. This is a wake-up call and they have to understand it. On the other hand Laboral showed all the problems that new-built teams face in the beginning of the season. Chemistry in a very early stages, Heurtel and Bertans were in very bad offensive day with the French remaining scoreless and the Latvian finishing the game with 3/16 FG. This year Laboral is a team with limited potential and skills and we don’t expect much from them.
Efes escaped with the victory from Sardegna against Sassari. Lasme was huge, he finished plays in offense, protected the paint and got the defensive rebound for his team. Still these performances are not enough for Efes. They need to get better and quickly find a solution in the point guard position. The two point guards of Efes (Balbay and Draper) contributed together for 9 points and 8 assists but they cannot create threat and plays for themselves. McGrath didn’t play in his first appearance in the roster and he is not an elite player. In the future and against better teams this problem will be more obvious. Sassari is a run and gun team with few automations in offense and also many problems in the individual defense. For good teams they will not be a real threat but they will always be dangerous because of their style of play.
As we mentioned in the previous magnifying glass after week , Limoges is a team that can win games and create problems in many teams. Against Cedevita they didn’t play very well but manage to beat very easily a team that has too limited abilities for this kind of games and competition.
If somebody asks us which team made the most positive start, considreing what we expected in the beginning of the competition the answer will be very easy. Zalgiris Kaunas without second thought! The youngsters from Kaunas destroyed Nizhny and played total basketball one weak after their very impressive start in Madrid. All these new players are full of energy, fighting for every ball and for sure Zalgiris will be the team to watch in the next games. Nizhny was totally disappointing mostly in their defensive end. At this point improvisation is necessary in order to find a solution in defense, after letting in two games an average of 90 points.
After the first week anyone that had an image of the games of Neptunas and Red Star would conclude that the Serbs had a huge opportunity for a road victory. However, Neptunas played a very good game especially in the first half, they doubled their percentage in threes (4/26 against Laboral, 11/25 against Red Star) and created an important lead. Red Star faced many problems not only in individual, but also in team defense. They didn’t have Jenkins and Kalinic in a good day and in the end they expected it all from Marcus Williams and Jaka Blazic. Red Star is a team that can perform better and they are obliged to be better in defense. This defeat can cost them dearly in the end of the group phase. Neptunas played at their limits end expect more help from Shakur in order to be really dangerous in upcoming games.