By Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
The Final Four is just around the corner and only a few days away, and the Magnifying Lens tries to decipher the 2 big semifinals that will take place in Madrid. In this part we will focus on the 2nd semifinal between the hosts Real and the Turkish Fenerbahce.
If we spoke in the beginning of the year about this game we would most likely speak of a ‘run and gun’ battle, with a lot of shots, fast pace, and a high score. Throughout the year though, Fenerbahce changed their identity considerably with the presence of Zisis, Hickman’s injury and the excellent presence of Vesely in the ‘5’ position, who provided Fener with great opportunities to open up their defense and switch with a lower risk.
Real is a team of pace, a team that relies on their excellent backcourt. They are the team with the highest average of possessions and the 2nd best offense in this year’s Euroleague. Real’s three guards (Rudy, Llull, Sergio Rodriguez) score almost 40% of the points and distribute 60% of the Spanish team’s assists. The Spaniards tend to create the conditions for execution in the first few seconds of their possessions. With screens away from the ball, usually for Rudy and Carroll at a high frequency when he’s on the court, they try to force an imbalance on the defense from the start.
Beyond that, the Madrilenos function outside of a system and the decisions for how the offense will develop are decisions that are going to be made mostly by the players with the best instincts. Real rarely has the game in the post as a direction and most balls that get there do so after the ball has been distributed, or as a last resort toward the end of an attack. Let’s take a look at 2 of Real’s characteristic plays that start with the way we described.
Rudy gets the screen at the top and goes to a 1vs1 with Reyes opening up the space.
Carroll comes off the screen and passes on the switch, throwing the entire Barcelona defense out of the play. With a pass from one bigman to another the play is easily finished.
Carroll is an important foundation in the offensive part and when he’s on the court, with a lot of screens away from the ball so that he has the time to execute – since the American is a super shooter – or for a pass that will take advantage of the imbalances of the opponent’s defense. Most times, the more the defense stalls the offense of the Madrilenos and the deeper in the possession the shot happens, the more chances of the Spaniards not getting the score up. Sergio is the X Factor in this team. When he’s on a good day, he covers the entire court, passes exceptionally and can create many rifts for his own execution or passes for open shots.
On the other hand, Fenerbahce is a team that also relies a lot on their backcourt players. With Zisis and Preldzic primarily organizing the game and setting up plays in the offensive part, and Goudelock and Bogdanovic handling offenses mainly in isolations but also a lot of open shots from the weak side.
Sipahi gets screens and penetrates and when the defense folds inward he passes to the weak side for an open shot by Bogdanovic.
The great difference in the Turks’ offensive game is made by the tremendous quality of Bjelica in the ‘4’ position. A player who can execute even from 8 meters, who with the same ease can set up a pick and roll, post up and pass at every opportunity. He can cover the entire court and together with Vesely they’re maybe the best duo of bigmen in transition offense.
From an organizer’s position Bjelica makes the pass to Erden who has gotten a screen inside the racket and finishes the move easily.
Fenerbahce tries to get the ball to the post mainly through Vesely but mostly when he plays in the ‘4’ position where, because of his power and explosiveness, can do real damage. An important factor in the game is the kind of game Goudelock will have. When the American is on a good day and scores in high percentages his team usually does not lose. In the defensive part, the Turks seem slightly stronger and this occurs due to Vesely’s amazing ability in this part. The Czech plays excellent switch defenses, he’s a good blocker and he shuts off passageways to his team’s basket.
The rebounding battle is going to be crucial with both teams being excellent in this respect, and also the pace of the game. If the game moves toward a controlled transition, this is something that suits the Turkish team, while if the rhythm opens up completely Real has a huge advantage.
The keys of the game
- Opening up the pace, taking advantage of the skills of their backcourt players.
- Containing Goudelock and Bjelica.
- Getting defensive rebounds, not allowing any momentum to Vesely through second possessions.
- Controlling the pace, being patient in ball distribution, always looking for the best choice.
- Quick returns in defense.
- Utilizing Bjelica on the offensive end, especially when he faces the excellent but slow Reyes who is more of a racket player.
As for a prediction, we would give a small advantage to Real Madrid, because of the home court advantage but if Fenerbahce won it wouldn’t necessarily be characterized as an overthrow.