By Panos Katsiroumpas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With two weeks left for the regular season end, nothing can be taken lightly and already this week some key contests for the Top16 were held. Here’s the sum up of all the action during the last two days, using our magnifying glass.
One man show!!
One of the big qualification games took place in Milan. After a thrilling contests the hosts won the game against Bayern and this was a result of the show that Daniel Hackett put in the court in the final period. The Italian guard scored 19 points in the last quarter in every possible way, including the game winning shot. This is the second game in a row in which Hackett is taking the situation on his hand in the offensive end. In the last two games he averages 23 points and 4 assists and he almost doubled his field goal attempts, something that shows he is stepping up in the offensive end to give the extra boost his team needs. Despite his aggressiveness in offense, his passing ability is in the same standards like in the first six regular season games. Both teams show a lot of problems in their offensive but this is not something new for them.
Fenerbahce on a roll!!
Fenerbahce hosted Panathinaikos in a big game for the second place of the Group standings. In the end itwas all Fenerbahce in Istanbul. The Turkish team took a huge win, in numbers the biggest for the club so far in the season.
Fenerbahce controlled totally the rebounding battle with Semih Erden being a factor from the beginning. That gave many second chance points to the Turks. On the other hand, in the first half Panathinaikos tried to hit early with pick n roll plays because Erden is not that quick in the defensive end and found some points there, but the injury of Diamantidis almost ended the game for the Greens.
The second half started with Goudelock scoring big shots in isolation plays, his speciality. But the biggest strengths that Fenerbahce showed, was the pressure in defense and the transition in offense. Without Diamantidis, Panathinaikos faced many difficulties in creation. Most of the times, they used Slaughter to set the pick and roll plays, but with him handling the ball, the Greens missed his main asset, the movement and execution without the ball.
The Turkish side quickly opened the court and find a lot of plays in transition, which is maybe their strongest advantage, while the defensive transition of Panathinaikos was absent in the second half. Moreover the individual defense of Panathinaikos was also very poor with Fenerbahce creating all the time plays after an isolation with split out passes that lead to open shots. Fenerbahce shows signs of improvement mostly in the defensive end. They are very good in transition and they can improve more in creation and ball movement. The Greens played their worst game this year but they missed Nelson, Batista, Mavrokefalidis and they saw Diamantidis getting injured. Those are very important absences that changed a lot the way Panathinaikos play.
What we saw from Anadolu Efes in Kaunas was a masterpiece of pressure and defense. The Turkish team especially in the first half put a wall in front of their rim. They allowed only two points in the first quarter and just 20 in the half. Using Draper and Balbay, they put a lot of pressure in the ball. Saric and Lasme were very quick to cover all the distances effectively and also able to make switches in screens without creating miss matches. Plus the individual defense of Efes was huge. They preferred to give a lot of fouls and allow points from the free throsw line, rather than risking the possibility Zalgiris finding offensive rhythm and make some runs.
Zalgiris had scored only 7 field goals after 28 minutes, a number that shows how many problems they faced from the quick feet and athleticism of Efes in offense. The team from Lithuania did find some rhythm in the final minutes and tried to force a comeback but this was not possible. Zalgiris finished the game with 15/53 field goals, shooting less than 30%. Efes shows from the beginning of the competition their defensive abilities and if they add Heurtel in their roster, they will become much stronger in the offensive end in terms of both execution and creation. Then they will become real strong contenders.
Skepticism for Malaga and Real Madrid
What we see in the last games from these two teams is without a doubt problematic. Even though Real Madrid manage to escape with the win from Novgorod we saw a lot of things that can create skepticism for Pablo Laso.
Real Madrid plays really bad in defense, especially in the backcourt and transition. In the last two games against Unics and Nizhny they allowed an average of 91,5 points, a number that is unacceptable for a team that targets the Euroleague crown. They are not really capable in pressing the ball like in previous years and it seems they miss a lot Draper and Darden in this aspect of the game. Their transition defense was very poor again, especially against teams that have quick forwards and centers. They also had huge problems in these two games against the pick and roll and their defense against penetration. Rochestie was able to get many good looks to score, many open passes in the weak side and the base line of Real Madrid that the Spanish side couldn’t stop. At this moment the defense of Real Madrid seems their biggest issue.
They also seem to have a role problem. In the game against Nizhny coach Laso used again four players in the center position with none of them playing more than 18 minutes. Maciulis who is a key player in both ends seems out of rhythm and also Rivers doesn’t play according to the standards of his previous Euroleague seasons. The only positive fact for the Spanish side was the comeback of Rudy Fernandez that gives quality in offense, transition and execution under any circumstances.
It is more or less the same for Unicaja Malaga but not with the same problems. The team from Andalucía after starting with three wins and quality basketball, they continued with four defeats in the last five games and in most of them, their performance was mediocre. The biggest problem for Malaga is that they don’t move the ball in offense as well as they did in the first four games. They take many difficult shots under pressure and they don’t have the team mentality of the early games. The two key players for Malaga are Toolson and Granger, and especially in offense, the Spanish team depends a lot not only on their execution but more on them creating for their teammates.
Let’s see how these appears in numbers.
- First 4 games (3-1 record): Assists total: 83 (21 average) – Granger& Toolson: 46 (11.5 average)
- Last 4 games (1-3 record): Assists total: 52 (13 average) – Granger & Toolson 19 (4.75 average).
From the numbers is obvious that Malaga has poor ball movement and this is the biggest problem. They don’t open their game in the way they did in the start of the season. They produce eight less assists and most of them are missing from the duo of Toolson and Granger. They must take more action and share of the ball in order to improve the offensive game of the team.
Fischer is the factor!!
Unics Kazan won their third game in a row and the biggest factor of their transformation has a name and it’s D’or Fischer. The center of Unics is the total difference maker and the dominator in the paint in the last three games. He plays more and he is an important factor of the offensive game, with the guards looking for him in pick and roll plays or after penetration in isolation plays. His finishes are great, he is a great rebounder and his defense is also solid. The only negative fact of this transformation is that he plays an average of 37 minutes in the last games which is a lot and that will be a problem as the season advances.
His numbers are totally impressive. In the last three wins he averages 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. In the last game against Sassari he had ranking of 43 points which is the 3rd bigger the last five years in Euroleague.
Group D is for Drama!!
Group D is the most complicated group in the competition with Olympiakos finishing in top position but five other teams in the battle for the three spots that lead to the Top16. In Istanbul and in Valencia decisive games for this battle took place.
The captain is here!!
Baskonia managed to take a huge road win in Istanbul with Fernando San Emeterio having his best performance in Euroleague in the last three years. He finished the game with 25 points, scoring crucial baskets every time Galatasaray was trying to make a run. Most of them in isolation plays and transition but with good off balance executions. Heurtel killed Galatasaray with his pick and roll plays, finishing the game with 9 assists. Baskonia won this game clearly from their offense. They created good plays for the centers even though they made some turnovers and they didn’t finish the plays. They also made plays with good off ball screens especially for Bertans who made some important shots. In total, the offense of the Spanish team was more balanced.
On the other side Galatasaray is paying the price of losing Aldemir. The defensive stops in the pick and roll were poor and also the helps in the isolations and the penetrations of San Emeterio and Heurtel were not there. Galatasaray couldn’t make any defensive stops and this was the main reason of their loss. In offense they relied almost exclusively in pick and pop plays between Arroyo and Erceg, shots after screen or in isolations from Arroyo. Guler and Arslan also made some plays with penetrations and long range jumpers, but the offensive game of the Turkish team was totally focused on the backcourt They didn’t have a player to put the ball in the paint and create threat from there. The defense of Baskonia was not something special, but when the shots were not going in, Galatasaray couldn’t find another way to score.
Defense, Defense and Defense
Red Star won another big game in Spain, this time against Valencia. The recipe was the same like in all other games. And this was DEFENSE, rebounding and taking advantage of Marjanovic. In all three aspects of this game Red Star performance was excellent. They totally stopped the transition of Valencia, they pressed the ball very effectively and they faced the pick and roll plays with attacking defense and hedge outs. All the players of the Serbian team tried to break the screens away of the ball and stop the execution of Rafa Martinez and Pau Ribas, something they manage to achieve. They protected their rim and they outrebounded Valencia with a total margin of +21 (46-25). Marjanovic was again the go to guy in offense, he was really unstoppable scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 boards in less than 25 minutes. Red Star manage to run effectively and take points in transition. The Serbs are a very tough team and they can do some things extremely well. They are totally Top16 material and they will be very difficult opponent for every team.
On the other end Valencia underachieved in another crucial game. They couldn’t move the ball as they usually do and they couldn’t make stops in defense especially against Marjanovic. They took a lot of points as a result of the individual talent of players like Dubljevic and Ribas but were not enough in order to win the game.