By Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
The Final Four is just around the corner and only a few days away, and the Magnifying glass tries to decipher the big battles that will take place in Madrid. To begin with we are going to focus on the 1st semifinal between Olympiacos and CSKA, teams that have faced each other in 2 of the last 3 Final Fours, with the winner in both tournaments being the Greek team.
The particularity of the 1st semifinal is that the two teams met on the court once again this year, so they already have an idea of what they are going to face.
CSKA is a team that relies heavily on the offensive part. They score a lot in the tournament and their perimeter is literally rocket-powered. Whenever Teodosic is on the court almost all of the balls go through his hands with the aim of him directing the facilitating. In this area is it clear what Olympiacos will do. They will try to be as aggressive as possible, with offensive hedge outs and double-teaming on the Serb. The most important part though, beyond the aggressiveness of the defense, is the positioning of the players that cover the spaces that are left open on the court. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Teodosic has an easy pass next to him to Kirilenko, with the Olympiacos player being slow to mark him, Printezis who’s on the weak side not having closed down in the center and the Russian star with an easy assist passes the ball to Kaun for the dunk.
In a similar play the two sideline players close out better in the center of the paint, while Papapetrou is closer to Weems. In this play the ball went to the strong side, the covers came faster and the Russians were forced to a missed shot.
What does Olympiacos have to do in the ideal defensive scenario! What you will see in the video below.
In this play, Olympiacos’s players close down all the passes-stepping stones and force De Colo to make an error that leads to a fast break. It’s the most aggressive form of defense that Olympiacos can display.
Generally, the Russians’ foundation in offense is the pick and roll, especially when Teodosic, De Colo, and less often Weems, are involved in the play. When Jackson is on the court, the approach changes and the Russians play a more open game so he can create rifts.
Another characteristic of the Russians’ game, especially after Kirilenko’s arrival, is the post game, with the Russian star in the ‘3’ position and Weems in the ‘2’ position. This is a play that they try to make either in set situations or even in surprise attack situations.
The Kirilenko factor
The Russians’ big addition that makes the difference in defense and offense. In offense, aside from the mismatches he creates, he has excellent moves along the baseline in order to receive passes when he cuts in, while he is great in the defensive part, whether this has to do with a individual defense or a team defense. Another big advantage that he has is his game above the rim that can provide defensive stops in penetrations.
Here we see that Printezis has taken up a good position in the post, he has lost his opponent, and Kirilenko offers great help – like a libero – and prevents the pass. The ball is stuck and the “red-and-whites” are forced to shoot under bad conditions.
Here we see what a good defense he plays against Printezis, preventing him from getting to the basket, and then how he gets his hands on the ball forcing the opponents to make an error.
Overall, we can say that the Russian star is a player who can change the conditions and flow of a game and requires great caution.
What Olympiacos can rely on
Once more, the “red-and-whites” have to rely on their aggressive defense first and foremost, that can throw the Russian team off rhythm and force them to make errors that can offer easy points in transition.
Also, they can strike the Russians’ poor defense along the perimeter. In contrast to Olympiacos, the Russians do not press as hard on the ball, are not very aggressive on the hedge outs, and in general play a defense of switches, taking the risks that come with this kind of defense. Especially with Spanoulis, in situations where after a screen he can come face to face with Kaun or Vorontsevich, he can create easy rifts and chances for a good isolation situation.
We can see that after the screen Spanoulis finds Kaun ahead of him, and as the play develops he dribbles to the paint and passes to Dunston for an easy dunk.
And here we can see that essentially Vorontsevich cannot keep up with him after the screen and as a result the leader of Olympiacos is able to get another three-pointer.
The “red-and-whites” have to try to get the ball to the post, primarily to Printezis who in both of his games against CSKA demonstrated that he can create situations opposite Vorontsevich but also create from the inside out. We shouldn’t forget that Printezis was impressive against Barcelona and he seems like he’s going through a top form period.
The keys for the teams
- Composure and good choices in traps and Olympiacos’s hedge outs.
- Taking advantage of the mismatches in offense.
- Blocking Spanoulis and Printezis.
- Securing all the defensive rebounds, denying the Russians second attacks.
- Patient in ball distribution and good percentages in executing outside the 6.75 line.
- A bone-breaking defense that will blur the opponent’s mind.
If we could pick a winner, we would go with Olympiacos. Even though they might lag behind in terms of individual talent, they are the toughest team and at the same time the one with the most basketball constancies in their game. Let’s wait until Friday then.