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The BBL experience – Rowdy in Frankfurt +++ Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs +++ A Dario triple-double? Now that’s good timing +++ Swee’ Pea needs your help +++ Final Four: What the bookies say when the bookies talk +++ The greatest Eurodance tribute to Goran Dragic ever +++ Swaggy P’s tribute to Os moving back to the USA +++ Help Swee’ Pea make the big screen +++ The Dish: Can I play with Madness? +++ Just point out the bounce +++
Apr
4

Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs

BallinEurope only went 6 of 8 in picking the teams to make the post-season and one of those sides we didn’t have faith in won’t be happy with how we see the playoffs shaping up. It’s fearless prediction time.

Barcelona vs Galatasaray

Pick: Barca in 3.

So we didn’t think Galatasaray would make it this far and now we’re saying there roll a doughnut in the post-season. Harsh? Perhaps but we’re standing by it. Barcelona’s slump at the end of the Top 16 can’t disguise a 22-0 start to Euroleague this season. This team is going to Milan, the question is how many games it will require. Much as Galatasaray deserve credit for holding their nerve in the wild battle for fourth in Group F, they look to have drawn a pairing suited to exploit them. If it’s any comfort, we seem to have given Pops Mensah-Bonsu some added motivation.

Real Madrid vs Olympiacos

Pick: RMB in 4.

This was a tough call to make and not for the reason you might think. Real Madrid look to have the most complete team in Europe this season. If they weren’t utterly unbackable, I’d take RMB to walk into a 2-0 series lead without blinking. The question in my mind is whether they will be able to finish the Reds off quickly or if it will require them going back to Madrid. In the end I split the difference and called it Real in a 3-1 win.

CSKA Moscow vs Panathinaikos

Pick: CSKA in 5.

Honestly, this was the easiest call of the lot. You could slot in any opponent and I’d have trouble believing this CSKA team would take care of business the easy way. It’s just not been their style all season. If any series goes the max, this will be it. Panathinaikos still look capable of taking care of business back home but neither of the Greek giants looks like final four material this year.

EA7 Milano vs Maccabi Elektra Tel-Aviv

Pick: Milano in 4.

This is about as good a style match-up as Milano could have hoped for. They have the weapons to hurt Maccabi and to do so repeatedly. Home court in the final four isn’t something that comes around every year and that’s plenty motivation for Milano. It could have been a source of nerves but the maturity this outfit showed in the Top 16 makes me think otherwise. For the first half of that phase Milano kept stumbling, not quite doing enough to convince skeptics like me (who said they wouldn’t make the post-season) of their worth and then boom they caught fire. The Barca win is what most remember but the change had already happened. They had evolved from could-bes to probablys.

So where have I gone horribly wrong? Please vent your frustrations in the comments.

Mar
1

The Dish: Can I play with Madness?

Rudy
It may be March Madness across the Atlantic but Euroleague served up plenty of insanity this week as the races for the final playoff spots entered crazy territory. Emmet Ryan breaks it all down.


The story of this week should have been the return of Zeljko Obradovic to the OAKA and, in fairness, it was but only barely. The love-fest for Zoc’s return was quite heart-warming under any circumstance but moreso considering the importance of Panathinakos’ game with Fenerbahce. The Greens took the lead in the race for the final two spots in Group E with a 76-67 win over Fener. The whole celebration has been documented well by Eurohoops who also did a great job on Twitter in the build-up with their #ReturnOfZoc tweets.

That win not only moved Panathinaikos to 6-5 and third spot but also gave them the season head to head advantage over Obradovic’s side. Olympiacos ran riot over Baskonia but they only hold fourth on tie-breakers over Unicaja and Fener. Malaga for their part looked limp in defeat against visiting Barcelona. The Blaugrana moved to 21-0 in Euroleague play, 11-0 in Top 16 play. A win next week and top spot is their’s, fortunately if that does happen their two dead rubbers almost certainly won’t influence who makes the next stage. EA7 Milano effectively ended any shot at the playoffs for Anadolu Efes and look certain to take second spot following their 76-69 win.

Before I move on to Group F, on behalf of the whole BiE family I’d like to extend our support to all of our readers and followers in Turkey. With Twitter being blocked, you guys responded the only way you should have; by finding ways around the block. This is not a political site but we believe that everyone should have a voice. There is nothing right with silencing people, it was good to see so many of our friends finding ways to keep their voices.
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Mar
0

The Dish: Let’s keep this brief

It was another big week in the Top 16 of Euroleague, the Greek stars narrowly won their own All Star game, and Killester claimed the title in Ireland.

My keyboard is acting up and I hate writing on a touchscreen so this won’t be too long.

Is that breathing room I see in Milan? The biggest result of the week was unquestionably EA7 Milano pulling the upset at Olympiacos. The 86-88 final score crucially moved the Italians, who host the Final Four, to 6-3, two games clear of fifth place with five games to go. Having stayed in the playoff places throughout the opening eight rounds, Milan have looked the part but hadn’t been able to establish their credentials as a probable playoff side. Now, with Barcelona out of sight on 9-0, the Italians sit in second place with room to err before getting worried about their season falling apart. Rob Scott has a lengthy but good read on the rise of EA7 Milan over on Euroleague Adventures that you should check out.

The rest of Group E is all kinds of insanity. Unicaja hold third place on 5-4 with Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, and Fenerbahce right behind on 5-4. This isn’t going to shake out in any sensible way until Round 13 at the earliest and my money says there is still at least one place up for grabs in the final week.

Group F is really all about fourth at this stage and it’s a funny old battle. Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, both 8-1, are likely to take the top two spots with Maccabi Elektra slotting into third. Lokomotiv Kuban have looked much, much, better than Bayern Munich during this stage but keep on giving the Germans chances. A big win for Kuban over Maccabi put them ahead of the Bavarians, who took a pounding from Partizan, but both sit on 4-5 and Galatasaray are only a game back of a playoff spot on 3-6. All logic and reason says Kuban finds a way to take fourth but this game is about wins and losses. This fight is far from a done deal.

Looking ahead to next week, Fenerbahce’s home game with Unicaja is huge for both sides. A road win for the Malaga side makes life an awful lot tougher for Fener. If Obradovic’s side is serious about making the playoffs, this is a must-win game. Milan travel to cellar dwellers Baskonia. If they hit the 7-3 mark, they can seriously start thinking about home advantage in the playoffs. Over in Group F, Kuban host Galatasaray while Bayern welcome RMB. It’s tough to see anything other than a Madrid win in the latter so Kuban, if you’re serious about making the post-season, it’s time to take care of business.

Outside of Euroleague, the Irish title was decided on Sunday. Killester, fresh off a road upset win over cup winners Blue Demons, needed to win two games in as many days to lock up the championship. Convincing victories over UL Eagles on Saturday and Neptune on Sunday gave the Dublin club their eighth championship. Killester, Neptune, Demons, and DCU Saints, will contest the season ending Champions Trophy next weekend.

Sunday was also the day of the Greek All  Star game with the Greek Stars edging their international counterparts 123-122.

The most entertaining geeks in European basketball over at In-the-game.org have a new podcast up. Check out their historical analysis of the 2002 Euroleague final which once again serves to remind us that someone in basketball should hire Simon Jatsch.

Feb
0

The Dish: No wild cards here

Fenerbahce are in free fall while the Greens and the Blaugrana served up another gem. Take your mind off the FIBA World Cup for a minute and take in this week’s edition of The Dish.

The top two in Group E squared off in the OAKA and at half-time it looked like the Blaugrana would stroll out with an easy W. Fortunately, the fixture Panathinaikos vs Barcelona rarely serves up such straightforward fare. Dimitris Diamantidis nailed a huge three at the end of the third and we were all set for a grandstand fourth quarter. And then…nothing. In a frame low on offence, Barcelona did enough to get over the line with reasonable comfort, the Greens go down 56-63 at home.

Had this group started out differently, we’d be talking about that result as a game the Greens could really have done with winning. Instead the team in crisis is coached by the man who brought four Euroleague titles to the Athens club. Fenerbahce were first hand witnesses to EA7 Milano establishing their playoff credentials. Linas Kleiza dropped 26 for Fener but they got nothing from the bench and that lack of support cost them on the road. Fenerbahce are now bottom of Group E, two games back in the playoff race after just five games.
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Jan
1

The Dish: If it bleeds we can kill it

You’d be forgiven for thinking this week’s Euroleague slated consisted of one game and one shot, we begin with the latter.

Efes? Really Efes did this? And Planinic? Wow, it’s like all the mockery of the club and Zoran (there was plenty on Twitter through the evening) was channeled into one wild moment of positive energy. Well, that’s the most sense I can make of it. There are buzzer beaters and there are you are taking the proverbial beaters. This was somewhere north of the latter. The score obviously meant a lot to the Istanbul club but it had wide ranging implications across Group E. Let’s start with EA7 Milan, that one moment of misfortune dropped them to 2-2. That keeps them locked with Unicaja Malaga and Olympiacos and only a game clear of Efes, Fenerbahce, and Baskonia. It is, of course, a tad on the early side to start talking permutations but none of those bottom three teams needed to lose extra ground to Milan. Planinic made sure they didn’t. Now on to the title of this week’s column.
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Jan
0

The dish: A nice relaxing start

Round 1 of the Top 16 was a little crowded, we’ll get to that, but by and large it was awfully relaxing basketball.


We open with the game that closed the openung round if action. Vassilis Spanoulis went nuts in the SEF as he ripped Zedijko Obradovic a new one on the coach’s first trip to the arena as Fenerbahce coach. Obradovic brought his troops to the OAKA for warm-ups earlier in the day, a nice touch we must admit, but he couldn’t get them to fix an issue that’s hit them a few times this season. Could somebody please tell Fener to show up in the first quarter? Credit to the Istanbul club, they clawed their way back into it and made it a one-possession game going into the final minutes but then V-Span went out of this world again and the home side took the W. In a shock to no-one, Spanoulis was named MVP of the round with 28 points, 9 assists, and PIR of 39. Whatever the result when Barcelona visits Istanbul next week, a far better first frame is necessary for all of us reformed doubters to keep the faith. One final note on this game, be sure to check out Raul Jimenez’s piece on mismatches inspired by this game.

Staying in Group E and there was a good spot by Rob Scott over at ELA. The difference in offensive performance by Panathinaikos with and without Dimitris Diamantidis is frightening. They took care of business on Thursday night 73-57 at home against EA7 Milan, helped by 11 dimes from DDD. Daniel Hackett may be happy to still be in Italy but he must be guessing that his European season is going to become frighteningly irrelevant soon.
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Dec
0

Group F: The knowns and the unknowns

The slate is clean for the Top 16. We’re breaking down what we know about each team in the second phase, what we want to know, and what we think we still won’t know after 14 rounds of action. We went through Group E yesterday, now it’s time to look at Group F.

Real Madrid
What we know: They are an offensive monster. Going 24-0 in all competitions to date, this is the best start enjoyed by any Real Madrid team ever.
What we want to know: Their weaknesses. Even a team this good has to have some but nobody’s come close to testing them yet.
What we won’t know: How they handle a low-scoring match-up.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv
What we know: They are so Maccabi. This team is business-like but stops well short of flashy. Yup, sounds like what we expect from this outfit every year.
What we want to know: How they stack up to RMB.
What we won’t know: Their ceiling. This is the weaker of the two groups and a 10-4 record is possible without causing any major shocks.

CSKA Moscow
What we know: They are flawed. Talented, yes, and en route to the playoffs but inconsistency has dogged this team when it was the one aspect Ettore Messina was expected to fix this year.
What we want to know: If they can settle on their best line-up.
What we won’t know: If any of this matters. In a flip from last year’s team, the ability to get hot in a hurry may be this side’s saving grace.

Galatasaray Liv Hospital
What we know: They are weaker than their record. All statistical measures outside the W-L column point to this team being in much worse health than the regular season record indicated. Over 14 games, that’ll be tough to mask.
What we want to know: If there’s a plan longer than half a season.
What we won’t know: See above.

Zalgiris Kaunas
What we know: They are survivors. No VTB League campaign, struggling in LKL, yet here they stand in the Top 16.
What we want to know: How they are going to balance their priorities.
What we won’t know: What the long-term future is.

Lokomotiv Kuban
What we know: They are seriously motivated to make an impact in Euroleague, as evidenced by a regular season where they silenced many doubters.
What we want to know: What was on their bulletin board to get them so fired up through the autumn.
What we won’t know: Where to buy a good beer in Krasnodar.

Partizan Belgrade
What we know: They will give one of the top three teams in this group a heart attack on their home court.
What we want to know: If they can play consistent enough to mount a real challenge for the last playoff spot.
Whzt we won’t know: If this is a renaissance or a blip.

FC Bayern
What we know: They are the most dangerous looking team from the Bundesliga to enter the Top 16 in a long time, which admittedly isn’t much of an achievement.
What we want to know: If they can capitalise on a soft group and get that last playoff spot.
What we won’t know: The date at which all of Europe should realise these guys ain’t playing anymore and a real power is emerging out of the Bundesliga.

Fearless prediction: Real to take top spot, Maccabi to squeeze CSKA for second, leaving the mother of all fights for fourth. Kuban look the best bet on paper but…this is a fearless prediction so nope. FC Bayern to steal it from the cookie jar.

Dec
0

Group E: The knowns and the unknowns

The slate is clean for the Top 16. Today and tomorrow we’ll break down what we know about each team in the second phase, what we want to know, and what we think we still won’t know sfter 14 rounds of action. We start with the eight participants.

Fenerbahce Ulker
What we know: This is an Obradovic team. They’ve pulled out wins they would have lost a year ago and show a level of organisation to match their talent.
What we want to know: Can they do enough to get home advantage in the playoffs.
What we won’t know: If home advantage in the last eight will have any real impact in their Final Four hopes.

Olympiacos Piraeus
What we know: Even with heavy losses in the off-season, this is still a team that is built for one-and-done play. They waltzed through the regular season and should make the quarter finals with ease.
What we want to know: How they will manage their roster over the meat of their schedule with an eye to keeping their best players fresh down the stretch.
What we won’t know: Their ability to hold up over a Best-of-5 situation.

EA7 Milano
What we know: Coming second in an awful group has its rewards but there’s a limit given the opponents they face.
What we want to know: The ability of a relatively thin roster to handle a heavy schedule.
What we won’t know: Their chances in LegABasket, yeah they ain’t making the playoffs.

Saski Baskonia
What we know: They have the capacity to force the best out of anyone but not necessarily make the opponent pay.
What we want to know: If the long format will improve their playoff chances.
What we won’t know: If they can mount a serious threat in the playoffs…okay, we’ll know if they don’t make it.

FC Barcelona
What we know: They have scorers and can and wil use them to great effect.
What we want to know: If they can show more innovation in creating opportunties when the going gets tough.
What we won’t know: Their health.

Unicaja Malage
What we know: This remains an intelligent ball club with a veteran style against the relative upstarts of Euroleague.
What we want to know: Will they benefit from playing 9 games of 14 in Spain, significantly reducing travel (naturally applies to Barca and Baskonia too).
What we won’t know: Like Baskonia, if they make the post-season we still won’t be sure how they’ll handle a Best-of-5 situation.

Anadolu Efes
What we know: This team is not as strong as last year’s line-up but has the same functional issues.
What we want to know: If greater organisation in the Top 16 can make up for that drop in overall quality.
What we won’t know: Who they will sign next year to make up for missing out on the playoffs.

Panathinaikos
What we know: They took the thin part of their name by its English meaning this year a large part of the regular season and decided to play fast and loose with their progress.
What we want to know: If they are, in simple terms, the team that started the regular season, the team that finished, or a better version of both.
What we won’t know: What they can do if DDD isn’t there to save them. For the time being at least, he makes them a threat in any situation.

Fearless prediction: To me there are three teams fighting for the top two and three more for the last spot. I’m going Olympiacos and Barcelona in that order with Fener third but it goes to the final game. Panathinaikos to take fourth and, this is the fearless bit, in far more comfortable fashion than anyone expects.

Dec
1

The body eventually breaks

A couple of weeks back this video had the internet salivating at what Juan Carlos Navarro could do, it had the opposite effect on Emmet Ryan. What Navarro did was depressing to BiE’s editor.

Look at it, 21 straight three balls. Even in warm-ups that’s impressive. Now look at Navarro’s stat line from the game he played straight after. 17 minutes, 1 of 4 from the field, 1 of 2 from 3, 5 points, 1 steal, and a PIR of 8. If that was a bench player we wouldn’t be breaking that down too much but he’s not there to high five, he’s the highest scorer in Euroleague history.

The issue with Barcelona’s star is unquestionably physical. When your signature shot is a floater, having chronic foot injuries is a massive problem. The overall line for JCN isn’t terrible. In 7 games he’s made 55 per cent of all shots but only 10 of 34 from deep. In theory three-pointers should be the least of his worries. Navarro doesn’t need to drive for the three. He can step back and fire. The problem of course is that every baller in Europe knows Navarro has issues driving. They’re covering the three more, they are bringing that extra pressure because they know that Navarro is less likely to charge past over-exerting defenders.

There’s no combination of adrenaline and psychosis that can overcome Father Time. If it were that easy MJ would still be playing. Mentally Navarro is still in the game, physically he has run out of room to adjust as a complete player. Xavi Pascual has recognised that in recent weeks, placing less of a defensive burden on him and allowing him to commit purely to his role as a scorer. Some big outings in the middle of the Euroleague regular season and in ACB have pointed to this being better for Navarro and Barcelona. Where they go from here is another matter entirely.

Long-term, what do you do with a player like Navarro? Could he handle the idea of being switched to a sixth man next year? Could anyone in Barcelona even dare to ask that of him. Navarro’s ego isn’t Kobe-sized but like the Mamba, he expects to have the ball in his hands when it matters. That last shot is his property, by right or not.

As an every game starter, JCN is done. He’s relatively young but a foot injury for a player built around being nimble is a killer. Older players have stayed relevant by adjusting their roles and strategically that’s comfortably the best route to go with him. Ask him to be the Ray Allen of this team, the Jason Terry, or even what Saras was last season with Barca. Navarro’s a proud baller but he’s also a smart one. Barcelona won’t remove him from the starting spot until he says it’s time but what if he took the initiative. Next May, when all is said and done, take Xavi for a cortado and talk about a plan to win.

As long as Barcelona’s pockets remain deep, they will be perennially in the playoffs in Euroleague and the top two in Spain. The difference between being one of the best and the team that raises the silverware is slim. Navarro’s a winner. He doesn’t want to lead a team that comes narrowly short of getting over the line. He wants to break the tape every year until he hangs up his kicks for good. If Navarro wants to win, he’s going to have that chat with the boss.

Nov
1

Euroleague Heats Up As Barcelona & Nanterre Record Dominant Victories

The Turkish Airline Euroleague continued as Group A and D matches were underway. The highlight came from Group A as FC Barcelona as it defeated CSKA Moscow 79 – 70 in a hard-fought game. Barcelona’s Juan Carlos Navarro was the key difference as he scored 17 of his 20 points after halftime, making 3 of 4 two-pointers, 3 of 5 threes and 5 of 5 free throws while dishing 3 assists, to secure the win.

CSKA did try to stage a comeback, reducing the gap to 8 points during the fourth quarter, but Barcelona never lost control, and made sure that there was significant distance between the two teams at the final buzzer.

In the second Group A game, JSF Nanterre dominated Budivelnik Kiev for its entire game as it recorded a comfortable 80 – 61 victory in Paris, marking the team’s first home victory in the Euroleague.

After an impressive win over FC Barcelona last week, Nanterre took control with a 17 – 3 first quarter run, controlling the game from start to finish. Thanks to some fantastic three-point shooting in the first half, the team was ahead 51 – 23 and the visitors had no response. Will Daniels scored 14 to lead a balanced Nanterre effort that saw all but one player score.

The final Group A game saw Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul continued its unbeaten run after rallying from a double-digit deficit, beating Partizan NIS Belgrade 78 – 88 and securing top spot with a 4 – 0 lead.

Partizan built a double-digit lead in the second quarter, and held a 38 – 30 halftime lead, but Fenerbahce rallied as Bojan Bogdanovic and Emir Preldzic spearheaded the offense. The duo hit back-to-back triples early in the fourth quarter, sparking a 4 – 14 spurt that put the game out of reach.

It was Bogdanovic who came out as top scorer, capping off an impressive display with 26 points on 6-on-9 three-point shooting.

In Group D, a number of exciting games took place, the most notable being Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv registering its third consecutive win by edging Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 74 – 76, Devin Smith pacing the winners with 18 points.

In the other games, Eurocup champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar needed Krunoslav Simon to bury the game-winner in the final second to beat Panathinaikos 69 – 72 in an exciting game, while Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade picked up its first Euroleague victory by taking down Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 63 – 73 in a tough away game.

- Quinton O’Reilly (@qoreilly)