After examining each of the four finalists this week, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca considers a few key players, matchups and tendencies that could affect today’s championship match – plus highlights and an Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™! Well, sort of.
It’s another final day for Eurocup. This means that we’re going to see one side hopping around and celebrating after a huge victory and on the other side, players leaving the court with faces looking to the ground and hearts broken with disappointment. Which one will play the victor’s role: hosts Khimki or their Spanish opponents Valencia? Can we make a prediction?
Basketball enthusiasts fairly know that it’s not fair to merely name one team as favourite. So I will try just to put forth some ideas, to try to reach some conclusion; i don’t know yet whether I will reach one or not.
Firstly, as a reminder, last year saw Russian side UNICS Kazan taking the Eurocup title against Cajasol Sevilla of Spain. Then we must consider the recent experiment we’ve seen: In the semifinals, we had a chance to observe that these two finalists have two different faces. Both can defend the basket aggressively and can find easy points – and vice versa. One thing to note is that in the 2009-10 Eurocup final, Valencia played ALBA Berlin and we can say that Kosta Perovic, Matt Nielsen, Florent Pietrus, Victor Claver and Sergiy Lischuk were just merciless while defending. The latter three remain with Valencia and scoring from low post plays will not be easy for Kresimir Loncar, Khimki’s main aggressor under the rim.
Another point was the ability of Spartak St. Petersburg to find open shots against Khimki in the Final Four match. The Eurocup season in general showed us that Khimki kept their rivals’ scoring very low on some occasions but not quite frequently. Valeriy Likhodey did significant damages to Khimki especially in the second half and Nick Caner-Medley’s shooting-oriented game can do the same.
With most leagues drawing to a close and playoffs beginning – not to mention champions already crowned in Albania, Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Norway and a few regional leagues – BallinEurope returns its “List of European Basketball Champions.”
At present, only the above-listed domestic leagues have shut down for the summer; BiE supplies information on the current situation in the others’ regular seasons and/or playoffs. This list will be updated whenever possible.
While much of the basketball-loving world was distracted by the squall of opening-round NBA playoff games, the roundball game nevertheless played on in leagues throughout Europe and beyond. Of course, this lead-in mainly serves as an excuse to justify running the below handful of highlights, links and pithy bon mots to (help you waste some time on Monday morning) get your week started correctly (and by “correctly,” BiE means in part ignoring that 109-100 win by the New Orleans Hornets).
• First up, congratulations from BallinEurope go out to Unics Kazan, who became the first unlicensed team to officially join the 2011-12 Euroleague ranks with a decisive 92-77 victory over Cajasol Sevilla in the ULEB Eurocup championship match. Maciej Lampe contributed a huge effort with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Kelly McCarty went for 18 and Terrell Lyday put in 15. But it was Marko Popović who was named MVP for dishing out a Eurocup championship record 11 assists to go with his 18 points.
Better late than never, as the old expression goes; and in the case of Unics Kazan’s 2010-11 season, continuing to achieve late could prove much better in the medium- and long-term future.
Few teams so actively rebuilt and retooled with purpose last offseason as Unics Kazan, bringing aboard Slavko Vranes out of Partizan Belgrade, 2009-10 Euroleague/FIBA Worlds sensation Kelly McCarty, and Zakhar Pashutin from Spartak St. Petersburg, among others while ensuring key big man Maciej Lampe would stick around for another couple seasons.
Since returning to Spain in 2009 after a stint with BC Khimki Moscow region, Garbajosa has been on something of a statistical decline. In 2009-10, he maintained respectable per-game numbers of 8.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in Euroleague play, but managed lines of just 6.7 ppg and 3.1 rpg in the ACB that season. This season, Garbajosa has managed just 3.9 ppg and 1.7 rpg in ACB games, plus recently registering two DNPs.
Got the vitriol brewing? All right, then, with BallinEurope now caught up on some preseason basketball viewing, it’s time for another edition of BiE’s Official Euroleague Power Rankings. Just one quick note for irritated fans (we’re looking at you, Olympiacos, Žalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas backers): Remember that these rankings are first totally subjective and secondly are based on *trending*, not necessarily where BiE believes the teams will finish when all’s said and done. Excelsior!
FMP Belgrade benefited from another nice effort from go-to guy Bogdan Bogdanovic to take their second nail-biter in two days: FMP topped Unicaja, 79-78, on a buzzer-beater by Bogdanovic for his 20th and 21st points in the game. The win capped a perfect 3-0 run for the Serbian side, the only team in this year’s Nike Invitational Junior Tournament to do so.
Meanwhile, France’s INSEP shocked BallinEurope’s pick to take the tourney (another fearless prediction gone awry, i fear), Zalgiris Kaunas, 89-82. In his increasingly dominant play, Livio Jean-Charles was the French team’s top player with 20 points and seven rebounds. Jean-Charles is now averaging 16.7 ppg on 72% shooting (!) over the NIJT finals thus far, quite an improvement over the 10.2 per game on 58.6% he managed in the first stage in Belgrade.
In the leadup to last night’s Euroleague semifinal games, BallinEurope only got the chance to check out a couple of Nike International Junior Tournament games yesterday; a few brief thoughts run below.