Βy Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
Even if we are still at the 3rd round of Euroleague’s regular season, the battle for qualification has begun. We had some big games, some huge wins and key losses for some others. Let’s go into the action with the magnifying glass of the 3rd week.
Magic night for the Greens!
What a night for Panathinaikos! In the second return of Zeliko Obradovic the Greens had one of the best performances in the competition the last five years. They destroyed the defense of Fenerbahce behind the three points arc shooting an unbelievable 18/25 shots. Panathinaikos played a wonderful first half on both ends of the floor. It was the individual and team defense that gave them a psychological advantage in the offensive end. The Greens executed perfectly with pick and rolls that led to passes either to Batista who score 12 early points, or diagonal passes mainly to Slaughter and Fotsis in the week side. They looked also and took advantage of any mismatch that they had. It was a huge night for Slaughter who scored from everywhere with 23 points and 7/9 threes.
The highlight of the night was the milestone of 1000 assists in Euroleague for the captain and leader of Panathinaikos Dimitris Diamantidis. He needed just one but he drained 10 assists in the game against Fenerbahce. He is in the top 20 in almost every statestical category in Euroleague and he is the all time leader in assists and steals.
The surprise for Panathinaikos was the total transformation in defense. In previous matches the Greens faced a lot of problems in their transition defense and during big parts of the game they were losing their concentration. In the game against Fenerbahce, even though the Turkish team had almost 15 possessions more from their offensive rebounds and the turnovers of Panathinaikos, the Greens didn’t let them take any advantage of it. Concentrated and passionate defense was the big difference in this game, even more than the made threes.
This is a weak of skepticism for the two Turkish clubs and Valencia. Of course, the situation is not the exactly same because the Turkish teams faced their first defeat while the team from Levante still doesn’t have a win. What is common is that both three teams have weaknesses that are more or less the same in every game
So let’s try to define their most obvious problems.
- They have a serious lack of creations in the guard positions. Balbay and Draper are not enough while Janning is mainly a shooter and Osman is very talented but inexperienced.
- They don’t get any offensive advantage till now from Lasme, which is the best finisher in pick and roll plays.
- They rely too much in isolation plays from the forwards and the center without sharing the ball enough in offense.
- They don’t get defensive stops from the point guard and the center positions. It’s terrible defense and spacing in defensing the pick and roll.
- They don’t have a real point guard. Sipahi is talented but he needs games in order to have a role. Hickman is NOT a point guard. In Maccabi he played alongside good creators like Rice, Ohajon, and Ingles. He cannot play that role in Fenerbahce
- They have limited offensive ability in the post. Savas is better than last year, but besides him there is no other player who can be a threat in the post
- They seem to have huge chemistry problem especially when Buycks is in the court
- Buycks has a very limited court vision and he cannot take advantage of his teammates in many plays. He needs to understand better European Basketball.
- There’s a serious lack of inside game especially when Dubljevic was absent. He needs more help in the paint now that he is back.
All these three teams are very talented overall but they need to find solutions to all these issues, otherwise they will face huge problems and they may lose their goals.
If we exclude Panathinaikos, two other teams played great in defense and took a huge boost from that in order to achieve great wins.
Zalgiris was once again very tough in their defensive end. They forced Efes to shoot with 35% (22/62 FG) and 1/11 threes, dishing only 10 assists in the game. They also got all the needed stops in the end when they faced a lot of difficulties in the offensive end, with Javtokas and Jankunas winning almost all the isolation plays against their opponents. Additionally Zalgiris took a huge help in the offensive end from the post by Ulanovas and from the perimeter by Milaknis in the most crucial parts of the game.
The second team was Red Star. They limited all the offensive weapons of Valencia for 30 minutes with unbelievable press in the ball, and good placements in all the screens and plays of the Spanish team. Especially Blazic, Kalinic and Mitrovic have to be mentioned for their great job. Marjanovic played very well as usual and Red Star took a big win for the qualification race. The game was more or less a repetition of the game against Galatasaray. They forced Valencia to score only 40 points after 30 periods and the game was over.
Both those two teams have kept their opponents in their wins in an average of less than 65 points and this is the way they have to play. Defense is their weapon.
After three games Nizhny is by far the worst defensive team in the competition. Their opponents have an average of 98, 3 points and if we exclude Real Madrid we are talking for opponents like Sassari and Zalgiris. With the way they defend, the Russians are probably out of the competition. They have to change all their attitude, improve their defensive transition and in total play way better in defense.
Like last year!!!
Real Madrid set a new Euroleague record for assists in a Euroleague game with 33. We saw an extremely well passing game and execution from the Spanish team, which totally controlled the tempo, producing transition offense and beautiful basketball. They finally seem to find a rhythm in offense, but they still need to perform better in defense. Jaycee Carroll finally had an excellent game with 32 points in only 21 minutes with 7/9 threes after a long period of injury woes. Sergio dished 9 assists in 20 minutes and every player of the Spanidh team contributed in the offensive end.
Maccabi got a very important win in O2 Arena in Berlin against Alba. Smith and Tyus came back in the squad and both helped a lot their team in offense. Pargo and Ohajon contributed together 16 assists and Randle had a huge offensive game with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. On the other end this was the worst game of the German team. They didn’t get any advantage of the 15 offensive rebounds and had very poor shooting from the perimeter with only 3/24 threes.
The Reds suffer…
The performance of Olympiakos was totally problematic in Klaipeda even though the Reds escaped with the win. Even though they are unbeaten, they still have to improve a lot of things in their game.
Their transition defense was terrible and the same happened in many screen changes. Olympiakos also couldn’t find solutions in offense, the ball was not moving in many plays and the team depends totally on Spanoulis. He scored 34 points in 41 minutes and secured the win for the back to back Champions of 2012 and 2013. Without Printezis the Reds couldn’t find any solid post scorer. Dunston and Hunter don’t like to play in the post, Petway prefers to shoot from the perimeter and nobody is considered a real threat in the paint for the opponents’ defense. Even though Olympiakos is first in the group, the team’s performances are not convincing.
Heurtel in the end!!
A wonderful game was played in Fernando Buesa Arena. It was a really rocking contest with both teams playing extremely quick without being focused in defense. The key for Baskonia was the great debut of Vujacic. Nobody could expect such a performance from a player that has spend just two days with the team. In the end it was all Thomas Heurtel, in our opinion one of the most talented guards in the competition. He scored 14 points in the second half, most of them executing behind a screen, one of his strengths. He is the leader of this team by opening spaces and distributing the ball in an excellent way.
On the other hand Galatasaray had a good performanc and in the end the Turkish team was just one shot away from one big win in Vitoria. Micov finally found some offensive rhythm, Aldemir was very good until he fouled out, Arroyo scored and passed with class and this game could have gone either way. Baskonia will face some issues because they still change players but they will become better as the time goes by.
Barcelona, Unicaja Malaga, and CSKA continued with wins and they reached a 3-0 record. This was the first game that CSKA faced a lot of difficulties mainly in their perimeter defense. They gave a lot of spaces and open shots for Gordic and Ukic but in the end Milos was there. After a mediocre performance in the biggest part of the game, he was the leader that the Russian team looked for in the end. He scored 4 threes in less than 4 minutes and gave a double point lead to his team. Cedevita played better than previous games and this is good for the group in order to be more competitive.
Barcelona and Malaga continued their runs in the group phase. They both played as much as they had just to win their games in order to keep their team fresh for the following games. Thomas and Doellman where the players with the better performance for Barca, Tomic was only one rebound away from another double double.
Malaga had a perfect third quarter where they run a partial score of 25-2 and convert the 36-44 deficit to a 61-46 lead. Jayson Granger was great at that period, creating easy baskets for his teammates, Vasquez was unstoppable in the paint and the job was done for the team from Andalucia.
Finally a win for Milano
Olympia Milano faced a lot of problems in the first two games in offensive creation. Against Bayern it was the first game that they really tried to share the ball better, to create team plays and not settling for one on one situations in the offensive end. This is the reason they escaped with the victory from Munich. They opened their game and their distances in offense, found some good passes and some good looks for open threes. The Italians increased the number of assists to 15 (after averaging 10 in the first 2 games) and scored more than 80 points for the first time. They started and finished the game in style and with good runs. Still they need to perform even better, but this win is very important for the psychology of the team.
Bayern as we already mentioned last week is trying to find a solution in the guards. Now that Delaney is not there, they face problems in creation and perimeter shooting. Gavel is trying but he is not Delaney, Micic so far faces a lot of problems in his first season in Euroleague and Schaffartzik is first a shooter and then a passer. The front line of the Germans is doing well but they need more help from the backcourt and especially when Djedovic faces many problems against a solid defense, like it happened against Milano.