Tomorrow night will see game five of a series that has lived up to its billing as another “El Clasico.” After dramatic moments aplenty (yes, there will be clips), Real Madrid will head to the Palau Blaugrana for a decisive showdown with longtime rivals FC Barcelona.
• The 81-Point Threshold and the 29 Rule
In this series, at least 81 has proven to win in this series; game one and four, Barcelona won 81-80 and 81-75, respectively. More compelling is the “29 Rule” in this series, i.e. the first team to 29 points wins the given match. It should be noted, however, that both Barcelona in game one and Real in game two would have to come back in the fourth quarter after getting overtaken at 29.
• The Navarro Factor
Once again, as goes Juan Carlos Navarro, so goes FC Barcelona. A marked contrast colors Navarro’s numbers when comparing the Barça wins to losses. One indication of defeat early on tomorrow night: Barcelona’s dependence of his three-point shooting. In the first three games, Barcelona went an uncharacteristically awful 18-of-69 (26%) as Navarro was just 6-of-18 – including 4-of-9 in the game one win. Game four? Barcelona went 10-of-20 while Juan Carlos did more facilitating and took only one shot from beyond the arc.
Now here’s an argument starter for you … with much debate perpetually going on among European basketball fans vis-à-vis the influence of American and/or NBA players on the Euroleague, BiE decided to take a look back at the 2011-12 season in hopes of drawing some comparison on an individual, player-by-player level.
Below, then, runs four all-star squads based on play in this season’s edition of the big league; for convenience and competition’s (rather than geopolitics’) sake, players from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and FYR Macedonia will be virtually suiting up for the “former Yugoslavia” team.
And this week … the Euroleague Final Four! To get things started, BallinEurope presents a roundup of highlight clips from the seasons-that-were of CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos.
(Wow, BiE wonders every time upon looking at that list just how the big league could have ended up with a more scintillating Final Four: You’ve got undisputed powerhouses in CSKA Moscow – the model example of how NBA refugees affected European basketball in 2011-12 – and FC Barcelona. You’ve got the defending champions with Hall of Fame coach and a nucleus of veterans on yet another title run. And you’ve got a compelling underdog story complete with the possibility of seeing the legendary Greek rivals meeting for a medal … couldn’t have written it better myself.)
First up, the favorites, namely, the big bad Red Army, 2011-12 edition. While Mikhail Prokhorov’s lot has been credited for the team’s relative resurgence at the beginning of the 2000s, CSKA Moscow has admirably continued its winning tradition after the billionaire’s jump to the New Jersey-cum-Brooklyn Nets – mostly through using the big-bucks tactics espoused by Prokhorov et al – and are poised to take a unique triple crown. Indeed, should CSKA prevail in the EL Final Four games and against BC Khimki for the Russian crown, the team will have amassed VTB, EL and PBL crowns in under two weeks of play.
In the interests of complete transparency – hey, somebody in Hungary should aspire to such – BallinEurope today presents the outcome of a heavy Euroleague basketball-watching habit plus several hours of intense thought: Namely, the five names that went onto BiE’s media representative’s ballot for 2011-12 Euroleague MVP.
Since there’s no way the chosen quintet will make anybody completely happy – even though surely the top seven or eight (depending how you feel about certain American imports in Lithuania) individual performances in the 2011-12 ‘League would surely be agreed upon by the great majority of Euroleague fans – BiE will explain the thought process behind the vote and show the initial list of 25 from which the five players receiving points were winnowed. (Bonus: YouTube clips, natch.)
In backwards order, then…
• Toughest omissions – Henry Domercant, Erazem Lorbek and Sonny Weems. Each was so emblematic of their teams in 2011-12, with Domercant and Weems veritably carrying their clubs at times to unexpected Euroleague success. Unics Kazan got attention early in the regular season with a few monster performances by Domercant – including the amazing 30-point, seven-rebound show against Montepaschi Siena in the opener – but Bad Henry actually became more consistent and more well-integrated into the Kazan offense as the team’s season progressed.
Weems kept the overachieving Zalgiris Kaunas afloat – and more – after Ty Lawson returned to the NBA post-lockout, plus gets bonus points for performing among the more YouTubable in European ball. Keeping Weems off the ballot were a couple of off-games in the Top 16 round which may have ultimately kept the Greens out of the semifinal round – and the man did turn over the ball the second-most frequently in the EL, too…
Most notable about FC Barcelona – even more so than in previous years of title glory – is the team’s incredible defenses. Lorbek has controlled the paint on D to make the Blaugrana’s zone traps even more effective and together with Pete Mickael has been triggering fast breaks off the boards while playing in all 19 Euroleague games. Plus, what if someone had told you at season’s beginning that the leading scorer for 2011-12 on Juan Carlos Navarro’s team would be the big Slovenian?
Tough to leave off this expectation-scattering trio, one and all…
• 5. Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
After not exactly fitting into the Boston Celtics after an ill-advised trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder late in 2010-11 and reading the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the player lockout, Krstic may have been the first NBA refugee headliner to sign in Europe. And whoa, has the investment paid off for CSKA Moscow. In Krstic, the Red Army has the ‘League’s no. 1 in accumulated performance index rating, no. 2 in average PIR and no. 5 in points scored – with a shooting percentage of just under 64% overall. A big man among the big men at Moscow, Krstic had to get on the ballot.
• 4. Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
• 3. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
• 2. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
BiE swears that with each coming year, the playmaking guard becomes even more disproportionately important to European and/or international success. Case in point, these three guys in 2011-12; first, the statistical highlights for each:
McCalebb – 16.9 points per game on 61.3% overall shooting, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 17.29 average PIR
Diamantidis – 11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 17.00 PIR
Spanoulis – 16.5 ppg on 49.7% overall shooting, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.37 PIR
Bear in mind all are in the top five in average index rating behind a couple of dudes on CSKA Moscow and that none of three have missed a single game for their teams – now who do you choose? The reputed “fastest man in Europe” and Euroleague top scorer who can lead break after break though doesn’t have the best eye for the open teammate (Gee that’s kinda 2003-04 Kobesque)…
…or the more-than-sum-of-parts guy who just happened to chase last year’s EL MVP bid by leading the league in assists and three-pointers made plus added priceless veteran leadership of a three-time champion…
…or do you go with BiE’s selection from among the three, i.e. the “rock in the middle of that roster … on whom all the Reds could rely” with a career year on the only surprise in the Euroleague Final Four?
• 1. While deciding among the 2 through 4 and 5 through off-ballot positions was difficult, the top choice was the opposite. Yes, BallinEurope went for that most polarizing (only the basketball gods know why) player of 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.
Forget what you may think about his consistent-if-not-mindblowing tenure with the Utah Jazz and the virtual all-star squad CSKA management set him up with in the 2011 offseason: The AK-47 has had a monster year. His average PIR of 24.07 per game played is more than 19% better than the nearest competitor (Krstic) – such a mark is currently the 15th best for a single season in the modern era and would be the highest by any player advancing past the regular season since Anthony Parker for Maccabi back in 2004-05. And while he’s “only” ranking seventh in ppg at 17.0, he’s tops in rebounds and blocks plus no. 2 in steals, making him the sole player even close to the top 10 in those four statistical categories.
Yes, Kirilenko missed five Euroleague games and yes, CSKA went 5-0 in that run, but BiE dares say that no single player in the 2011-12 EL became the center of focus every minute he’s on the floor the way that this season’s prospective MVP did – four player-of-the-week awards should prove it.
This season, Kirilenko rules. Let the comments begin.
The top 25 players, as BiE sees it for 2011-12, were the following.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Jaycee Carroll, Real Madrid
Devin Smith, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Omar Cook, Emporio Armani Milano
Marcelinho Huertas, FC Barcelona
Andrei Kirilenko, CSKA Moscow
Sonny Weems, Zalgiris Kaunas
Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid
Mike Batiste, Panathinaikos
Marko Banic, Gescrap Bilbao Basket
Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow
Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce Ulker
Pete Mickael, FC Barcelona
Richard Hendrix, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Giorgi Shermadini, Bennet Cantu
Luka Zoric, Unicaja Malaga
Congratulations go out from BallinEurope today to a quartet of national Cup holders in Real Madrid, Beşiktaş Milangaz, Chalon-sur-Saone and Montepaschi Siena. The former three victories are set to be particularly noted in club annals: Real ended a 19-year drought while Beşiktaş and Chalon both bagged their first-ever championships in their respective national cup tournaments after each were runners-up in 2011. Below run game wraps and highlight clips.
In Spain, Madrid won their first Spanish Cup since Arvydas Sabonis was on the team with a convincing 92-74 victory over FC Barcelona on the Blaugrana home court. Twenty-three was the magic number for Los Blancos, as Madrid took its 23rd such title behind 23 points from tournament MVP Sergio Llull. An extrapolation from the Liga Endesa’s official site goes something like the following.
Locked-out New Jersey Net Jordan Farmar continued his personal drive to history in impressive fashion against Real Madrid on Thursday night. Farmar contributed a huge 35 overall performance index rating based on 27 points on 10-of-12 overall shooting to go with five assists in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 88-82 win. The official Euroleague writeup on the EL’s top five performers of week three follows, along with a Farmar-filled highlight reel.
(Euroleague) – Jordan Farmar delivered his finest performance to date since joining Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over the summer, leading the Israeli champs to an 88-82 victory over Real Madrid and earn Week 3 bwin MVP honors.
Farmar, a Euroleague rookie, had big shoes to fill this season when he took the spot in the starting lineup of All-Euroleague point guard Jeremy Pargo, who led the Israeli champs to the EL title game last season. But in a highly-anticipated showdown against the team Maccabi bested in the semifinals at last season’s Final Four in Barcelona, Farmar came through using his speed, shot-making ability and ball-handling skills to post big numbers: He finished with 27 points on 9-of-11 two-point shooting, made his only three-point attempt, and added five assists, four rebounds and eight fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 35, which was best in the Euroleague this week.
Right, then. With the last teams advancing into the Euroleague two dozen for the regular season and a break in the Kobe-to-Bologna soap opera today, BallinEurope breaks out an old favorite: power rankings!
Once again, the BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings are based on current trends, i.e. who’s hot, who’s not. For this edition of the list, also taken into consideration are offseason acquisitions and a dash of expectations vis-à-vis how these squads will look when the games really start to matter. Let the arguments begin!
1. FC Barcelona – Heard it before? Well, you’ve probably heard about the core of the Barca roster before, too: Juan Carlos Navarro, Pete Mickael, Erazem Lorbek, Victor Sada, Boniface N’dong, Kosta Perovic and Fran Vazquez; getting to add Chuck Eidson and Marcelinho Huertas doesn’t seem fair. In going 8-0 thus far this preseason, the Blaugrana have added to their trophy case with Lliga Catalana and Supercopa Endesa titles and Navarro in particular is still in EuroBasket form. Right now, BiE says this is the team to beat.
The 2011 FIBA EuroBasket tournament gets things started again today, after the 12 advancing teams get in a couple days’ worth of hard-earned rest. With the dust now settled, BallinEurope takes a look at how the dozen sides look going into the second round of play (numbers in parentheses represent each team’s win-loss record brought forth into Groups E and F); and yes, BiE is bracing for the inevitable barrage of criticism forthcoming from fans of Greece, Slovenia and Turkey…
1. France (2-0) – Les Bleus had their sights on nothing less than taking this thing when the tournament began and pretty much brought an all-star game to do so (luckily for them, La Republique could foot the bill for insurance on five locked out NBA players). With Tony Parker going for 23.2 points per game through five – second-high in the first round after Luol Deng, who was forced to do it all for the thin British squad – and Joakim Noah grabbing 7.8 rebounds per, these guys have proven to be the class of EuroBasket thus far, bringing a big one-game advantage into Group E.
2. Russia (2-0) – In nipping Slovenia in the final game, 65-64, Russia capped the first round of play with the fewest points allowed in the tournament so far at 64.2 points per game – albeit against perhaps the tournament’s weakest group. No matter: David Blatt’s outstanding defensive game plans combined with speedier play and some great individual performances on offense (Vitaly Fridzhon leads all players at 12-of-18 three-point shooting to fight for the unofficial tournament deadshot award with France’s Mickael Gelabale and Serbia’s Marko Keselj; Andrei Kirilenko’s putting in 16.4 ppg) make Russia one of the scariest teams remaining – particularly if they can show the clutch play as against Slovenia.
It’s hard to believe the 2010-11 season is drawing to a close, but so it goes. Leagues in Turkey, Spain and the United States could be all shutting down for the summer (or, in the latter’s case, perhaps a good deal longer) within a week. A brief roundup this morning, then, of action in this trio of top professional basketball associations.
Eleven players scored in double figures in the game, but while Fenerbahçe’s headliners include studs like Darjus Lavrinovic (16 points, six rebounds, two blocks), Roko Ukic (18 points, four boards), Ömer Onan (18 points) and Sarunas Jasikevicius (12 points, three assists), Galatasaray got nice performances out of less-than-household names Ermal Kurtoğlu (20 points, three assists), Jerry Johnson (18 points, six assists), Joshua Shipp (14 points, 10 rebounds), Preston Shumpert (14 points), and Luksa Andric (10 points, four boards).
For your convenience, BallinEurope brings you a quick collection of highlight clips from Euroleague Playoffs games one last night. Below the break, relive (or don’t, if you’re a Montepaschi Siena fan) the posterable moments from four games’ worth of home-team victories. Enjoy!