By Panos Katsiroubas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 7 in the first group phase of Euroleague and if something characterizes this week is the big wins of teams that were in difficult position in the qualification race and the comebacks of teams that played below their abilities in the previous weeks
Resurrection in Kazan!
The biggest win of this week was the road win of Unics Kazan in Madrid against Real Madrid. This was by far the best game for the team from Kazan in this year’s Euroleague. The most obvious differentiations in the last 2 games of Unics are that coach Pashutin closed the rotation to 7-8 players and that they try to put the ball in the post especially in the hands of Fischer. They achieve that with 2 ways:
* Isolations of the guards that look a lot for the pass option to the tall guy in the paint.
* Pick n roll plays with Fischer being the finisher.
The numbers in this situation are the fact. Against Efes Pashutin used 8 players that played 15 to 33 minutes and in the game in Madrid he used only 6 players that played 26 to 36 minutes. Moreover, the numbers of Fischer are more than impressive in the last 2 games compared to the first 5. In the first 5 games he averaged only 9 points and 3 rebounds and we have mentioned that the game of Unics was totally unbalanced between backcourt and frontcourt.
In the last 2 games the guards are looking more for Fischer and he responded very well. The result 20,5 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks average! The 3 guards of Unics controlled the tempo of the game and moved the ball extremely well in offense. The total of 24 assists is huge if we assume that in the previous 6 games the average of Unics was 13.
For Real Madrid is clear that the absence of Rudy has very important role. He is the player that takes the first pass after screen and he creates and scores a lot through these plays. He is also very good in transition offense, an aspect that Real Madrid faces problems in the last games. There is also traffic in the front line with 4 players in the center position that all seek for time in the court but is not easy for them to find rhythm and automations. Real Madrid is clearly a very good team but they need to clarify some roles.
Baskonia and Alba are still alive!
In Vitoria it was clearly a do or die game for the team from Basque Country and they faced it like their last chance in order to fight for qualification. They defeat easily Olympiacos, playing very tough in the defensive end and with good quality team plays in offense. Olympiacos defense was terrible in both transition and man to man. Baskonia find many opportunities to run after the defensive rebound executing well with Causer, Heurtel and San Emeterio. Moreover Shenghelia, San Emeterio and Begic in the post created isolation plays and finish them without facing the normal offensive defense of Olympiacos.
So the only strong part that remained in Olympiacos defense was the very aggressive defense in pick n roll plays with powerful hedge outs from the centers. Baskonia found the way to face this defense and this was by putting a player clearly very close to the area where the pick took place, mostly in the high post, giving an extra pass from the creator that could open the defense either with a vertical pass to the center that cut in the paint or a diagonal pass to the forwards in the wings that opened the distances and created problems to Olympiacos defense.
With these plays Baskonia opened the court and find a lot open shots. The defense of Laboral was also in a good day. They closed the majority of the passes in the paint and they press Spanoulis a lot forcing him to make difficult plays. They also risked the open shots from the positions 1 and 4 with Olympiacos executing poorly with the players in this 2 positions (Lafayette, Mantzaris, Agravanis, and Petway).
Thriller in Berlin
Alba defeated Unicaja Malaga in a thrilling game in Berlin. This was a very important win for the German team that gives them a boost for the qualification. It was a game that could have gone both ways. Alba played a balanced game and moved the ball better than their opponents. Malaga scored almost 80 points but most of them where after individual plays. They also scored some crazy shots that could have killed the opponent. But in this game Alba was very strong mentally and they forced a comeback in the 4th quarter.
Their pressure in the perimeter was increased in the last period and they executed well in offense, and took advantage of all the miss matches. In the end it was just one shot that decided the game. Redding penetrated in the basket the defense of Suarez was very poor and also the help from Granger didn’t come in a 5 second play. If the help from Granger was more effective in order to force a pass the most probable result would have been a shot after the buzzer. It was a fair win in the end for the German side. Malaga finished the game with only 9 assist, negative record in this aspect also the Spanish team.
The Spanish team played for their lives in the game against Galatasaray. Both teams appeared different because of their absences. Valencia was missing two of their best defenders, Sato and Van Rossom while Galatasaray didn’t have Aldemir who is going to the NBA. Valencia was in control from the beginning, sharing the ball in offense with Ribas serving and Harangody executing. The absence of Aldemir was obvious in the aspect of defense, rebounding and protection of the rim. Valencia finished the game with almost +16 possessions, a difference that was created from the margin in the offensive rebounds (+6 in favor of Valencia) and turnovers (-10 for the Spanish side). Even though the team from Levante finished the game shooting with worst percentages they won the game due to these factors.
From Galatasaray who are going to miss Aldemir a lot, Aradori played an exceptional game, his personal best this year. He was very efficient both in passing and executing finishing the game with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. In the end the game was thrilling in terms of the point differential. Both teams split the 2 wins with +7 points each. The biggest issue is that Galatasaray has the obligation to find a very good center that can help in all aspects, especially in defense.
Revenge round 2
The rematch of the previous year’s semifinal was total performance from CSKA Moscow against Maccabi. The Russian team started and finished the game very strong and the only period of the game that Maccabi created some difficulties was in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd quarter. The game was all CSKA, started from defense. They Russian side closed all the ways to their basket and forced difficult executions for Maccabi. In general CSKA won totally the battle of the front lines, took score from all the post players and in total the difference in this aspect was huge.
Maccabi took only 7 points and 10 rebounds from Tyus, Sofo and Maric when at the same time CSKA took 37 points and 21 rebounds from the trio of Kaun, Hines and Vorontsevich. Despite their efficiency in the post the Russians took their early boost from the perimeter, starting with 5/5 3pointers and a great 1st period from Sonny Weems. Total dominance for CSKA, which won the last 4 meetings in group stage against Maccabi with a total point differential of 82 points. They only lost the game in the Final 4 and that was enough for Maccabi in order to be European Champions. Can this story be repeated this year? In our opinion is more than difficult.
The 2 teams that use their defense as their basic weapon for success followed the same route even though they faced some difficulties for parts of the game. Red Star destroyed Neptunas with a great 2nd half. Marjanovic was again the go to guy from the beginning and Neptunas couldn’t find a way to stop him. They didn’t send double team early in the play and when the giant was close to the basket he was unstoppable. He scored 24 points with 12 rebounds and also 3 assists, which showed he has also good vision of the court. Defense was the weapon for Red Star and was very effective for almost 30 minutes. Neptunas find some good transition plays in the 2nd quarter, scored some easy 3 pointers and came back from a 10 point differential. In the 2nd half it was all Red Star. Blazic had a great offensive game and Jenkins helped a lot in this game.
Zalgiris also showed that they are a top 16 team for sure. Despite their bad offensive game, especially in the 1st half, they used their defense in order to come back. They allowed only 18 points in the 2nd half and they outscored their opponents 18-38 in order to come back from a double digit differential. Javtokas and Jankunas were again the players that made the difference in defense and helped a lot with their offensive rebounds and crucial baskets in the offensive end.
Despite the loss for Nizhny we have to mention the performance of one of the best players this year. Taylor Rochestie finished the game with 15 points and 7 assists. In the last 3 he averages almost 23 points and more than 5 assists and he is the biggest hope for the team from Novgorod in the qualification race the following 3 weeks.
He is the biggest talent of his age in Europe and he started to show his huge abilities in all Euroleague fans. After a slow start and some conflicts in the beginning of the season his star now starts to shine. In the game against Sassari and the easy win of Anadolu Efes, he showed his potentials. He finished the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists with a variety of offensive moves. He can run the court, he can go to the post, he can shoot effectively from mid-range, he has a good vision of the court and he can defend and protect the rim very effectively. For sure he is a player to look at and he will have a bright future if he continues like this. Truly impressive.
An opinion about Olimpia Milano
One of the teams that I am putting most of my attention is Olimpia Milano. I was expecting them to be one of the best teams in this Group Phase but I am very disappointed on the way they play till now. In my opinion they are one of the biggest underachievers of the competition. After watching almost all the games I came to a conclusion that many people will not agree.
The biggest harm in this team is the duo of Gentile and Kleiza. In the game against Barcelona they played without Gentile and with a poor presence of Kleiza and their biggest absence for real was that of David Moss. Both Kleiza and Gentile are very talented players but they are very selfish in offense. Most of the times they are looking for individual plays without trying to find the best team option. They are also a big hole in the defensive end which is also a big problem for the team.
Against Barcelona Milano tried to play team basketball and the result was the best performance of this year in Euroleague. The Italians totally deserved the victory and the refereeing played an important role in favor of Barcelona. In this game Milano played like a good team. If you want to have a good team the selfishness in the game is like putting a big rock to the neck of someone who is trying to swim. In Basketball nowadays no matter the talent, team spirit, co-operation and unselfishness are the most important factors for a team in order to achieve its goals. These 2 players with the way they play they will not help Olympia Milano. They have to change otherwise the team has to change the view in them.