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Apr
8

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
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.

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.

Nov
2

Lokomotiv & Maccabi record last-gasp wins in Euroleague thrillers

The Turkish Airlines Euroleague is well under way but the action isn’t letting up anytime soon, thanks to some thrilling games on round four.

The pick of the night’s matches came from Group D as Eurocup champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnoda defeated Panathinaikos Athens 69 – 72 in an exciting match. Lokomotiv led for most of the game, the most it led by was 43 – 56 early in the fourth quarter before Panathinaikos made its comeback and leveled the game at 69 – 69 with six seconds to go.

It was Krunoslav Simon who made the difference, burying the game-winner in the final second to give Lokomotiv the win.

There were more important wins in Group B as EA7 Emporio Armani Milan grabbed an important 62 – 76 victory over Brose Baksets Bamberg, evening out its record in Group B at 2 – 2.

Bamberg was on the back foot as Milan held the lead for most of the game. Nicolo Melli of Milan made a pair of three-pointers to give the visitors a 33 – 43 lead at halftime, but Bamberg fought its way back and reduced the deficit to two points early in the fourth quarter. However, a strong defensive display from Milan ensured that a comeback didn’t happen, with a pair of Keith Langford jumpers securing a Milan victory.

Back in group D, another thriller took place in Lithuania as Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv grabbed a tight 74 – 76 victory over Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. After its shock win over Panathinaikos in the opening win, Lietuvos’ has yet to record a win and losing by the narrowest of margins will be scant consolation for the team.

Maccabi led by as many as 18 points during one point, but Rytas pulled back and ensured that the final quarter was full of thrills. Rytas eventually went in front to go 71 – 70 with 1:55 to go. With the two sides tied at 74 – 74, it was Tyrese Rice who scored the winner with 3.5 seconds to go.

The remaining games that night saw Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade picking up its first Euroleague victory in Group B by defeating Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 63 – 73.

In Group D, Tadija Dragicevic saw off a stubborn Zalgiris Kaunas side 72 – 61 thanks to an impressive fourth quarter display, while Real Madrid made sure its flying start to the season continued with a 66 – 85 win over Strasbourg. Madrid’s victory meant that it tops Group B with a 4-0 record, making it the best four-game start in the competition this century.

- Quinton O’Reilly (@qoreilly)

Nov
0

Madrid continues unbeaten Euroleague run with dominant win over Milan


As the season heads into the winter months, the Turkish Airlines Euroleague is hotting up with some cracking games as the campaign gathers pace in Group B and C.

The showcase match for Group B came courtesy of Brose Baskets Bamberg who edged past Anadolu Efes Istanbul 88 – 86 in a thrilling game that went right down to the wire. There was only 1.3 seconds remaining on the clock when Casey Jacobsen clinched it for the winners. He scored 23 points overall and was helped by Anton Gavel who scored 17 points, Jamar Smith put 14 points on the scoreboard while John Goldsberry contributed 8 assists for Bamberg.

Efes made it difficult for Bamberg by being incredibly effective when on the offense. A scoring rate of 15-of-21 two-point shots and 5-of-7 three-pointers before halftime meant that the team took a 44-51 lead at the break as well as extending the margin to 52 – 66 midway through the third quarter. However, Bamberg didn’t give up and thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Jacobsen, the team started a 20 – 2 run that saw Bamberg lead 70 – 66 with nine minutes to go.

The lead was increased to 84 – 77, but Efes’ Kostas Vasileiadis singlehandedly brought the team back to life. The decider came at the final minute as a jumper by Jamon Gordon gave Efes a 85 – 86 lead with 6.8 seconds left. Bamberg called timeout and Jacobsen rounded off an impressive game by scoring the winning shot with only a second to spare.


The other Group B game that night saw Real Madrid continue a dominant start to its campaign by defeating EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 93 – 74 at home. The win meant that Madrid remains the only unbeaten team in the group while Milan dropped to fourth place.

Leading for the entirety of the match, Madrid were in total control thanks to Sergio Rodriguez who finished the first half on a 22 – 5 spurt, ensuring the score was 52 – 31 during the halfway mark. Nikola Mirotic scored 15 of his total 19 points in the first quarter alone, Rudy Fernandez tallied 16 points during the game, while Felipe Reyes bagged himself 14 points and 9 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Group C saw Stelmet Zielona Gora making history by securing its first ever victory in the Euroleague by beating Montepaschi Siena 73 – 65. Led by Lukasz Koszarek and Vladimir Dragicevic, Zielona Gora stayed in contention before Przemyslaw Zamojski secured the win with 7 points in the final half minute.