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May
2

Final Four: Barcelona beat CSKA Moscow 93-78 in third place game

CSKA-Barcelona-third-place-game

It’s the game nobody wants to play in and few want to watch but at least it featured a milestone for Juan Carlos Navarro and quality minutes for Mario Hezonja. After the devastation of defeat in Friday’s semi finals, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona trotted out for the Euroleague third/fourth place decider.

A faint CSKA cheer greeted the opening tip with the drummer trying to rally the supporters in an arena that was at best a fifth full. Sonny Weems nailed his first shot, after his horrible evening on Friday it was of little consolation. CSKA raced into an 8-2 lead, forcing Xavi Pascual to call timeout early. Much to the chagrin of those present, this gave the MC from last year in London a chance to get on the mic. At least he was second fiddle to the main MC and there was comfort in knowing he would be drowned out by Maccabi fans in a few hours. Sasha Kaun was dominating the opening quarter, much as he did against Maccabi, scoring 8 points in the first three minutes of action. The scoring was fast but it was hardly a surprise given how easy both sides were going on defence. Milos Teodosic dropped a Navarro-esque floater, then the Barcelona guard responded in kind following his own introduction. At the end of the first, CSKA led 24-21.

Maciej Lampe opened the second quarter with back-to-back threes to remind us that yes, he is indeed still alive despite sitting the full 40 minutes on Friday night. Barca moved into a 34-28 lead on the back of Lampe’s efforts. Alex Abrines added another three and the Catalan back-ups were having a good frame. CSKA however were still finding plenty of room up the other end of the floor as Kaun moved to double digits on the scoresheet with a dunk. An alley-oop slam by Joey Dorsey drew a gasp from the crowd as Barca stretched their lead to 9. Mario Hezonja entered the game and certainly looked eager but had limited opportunities as the half drew to a close. Barcelona took a 50-47 lead into the break.

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May
0

Final Four movie…good job Euroleague

This is actually pretty great. Euroleague has put together a short film following all four Final Four teams through Thursday and Friday. Gives a great look inside the game and is really well produced. Take 9 minutes to check it out.

May
1

Final Four: The Final preview

Final Four Milan Assago Forum

In just a few hours we will know who the champions of Euroleague for the 2013/14 season are. Real Madrid are the favourites but Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv will have the crowd on their side. Emmet Ryan makes his call.

The dramatic finish to Maccabi’s semi final win over CSKA Moscow was incredible. The Israelis gutted it out to snatch a win at the death. It’s hard to see such a miracle comeback happen a second time if they fall into a hole against Real Madrid.

The ACB champions delivered one of the most dominant displays in Final Four history as they routed Barcelona on Friday night. Pablo Laso knows that if his side can get ahead early, it’s tough for any team to keep up. Despite sweeping Maccabi in the Top 16, Real were pushed all the way in both games. The Tel Aviv club matches up well in most positions with RMB. Real have superior talent but not so much that their are any mismatches that could prove liabilities for Maccabi.

Fundamentally it comes down to how Maccabi slow Real’s offence. The only way to live with Madrid is to stop them scoring in bunches. Twice this season, Maccabi have managed that but still come up short. Still, it bodes well for a competitive match-up.]

Then there’s the not so insignificant factor if the crowd. This will be a home game for Maccabi. As I sat down to write this the blue and gold horde was already building up outisde. They will be loud and make this feel anything like anything but a neutral site game.

Real’s pursuit of history brings pressure to their squad. It’s been 19 long years since they were crownd champions of Europe. Every player in white knows the burden they carry but, based on their display against Barca, it looks as much as source of motivation as one of pressure.

For all of Maccabi’s heroics on Friday and their stout displays against Real this season, there is a lingering fear that this could be another runaway win for Real. Barring an absolute meltdown by Maccabi early on, that shouldn’t be the case but it’s still hard to see them toppling the uncrowned kings of the continent. Real will ascend and claim the throne.

May
0

The Ballin After: Blatt on that miracle

Emmet Ryan looks back on Real Madrid’s dominant display against Barcelona and we hear from David Blatt about Maccabi’s miracle against CSKA.

May
1

Final Four: Real blast Barca 100-62

Real fans

Matching the hysterics, both on the court and amongst the fans, of the first game was always going to be a challenge for El Clasico. Even combined, the fanbases of Real and Barca were dwarfed by the now recovering Maccabi support. The Real support, situated mostly to the left of the upper press tribune, did their best to make some noise but this was always going to be a game where the crowd was of minimal influence.

Barca got off to the stronger start, with Marcelinho Huertas, Ante Tomic, and Kostas Papanikolaou help them into early eight point lead, forcing Pablo Laso to call timeout. A Marcus Slaughter dunk heralded the Real resurgence and they cut Barca’s lead to 13-12 before Xavi Pascual called time out. The arrival of Sergio Rodriguez made all the difference. Chacho’s three to give Real back the lead signalled the Euroleague MVP’s intent. Defensively Real started to click better after getting killed on their own glass early. RMB looked far from steady on D but they did enough to let their offensive power prove telling. At the end of the first it was all square at 20-20.

Real made the early going in the second, Rudy Fernandez giving them a four point advantage for the first time in the game. Rudy had struggled through the opening quarter but seemed to find more comfort as the play became more scrappy. Chacho hit another three and then two frees to push Real further out and with four minutes gone in the frame, Barca had yet to score. Salaj Mejri compounded the pain for Barca. Pascual called timeout with his side trailing 31-20. A three from Juan Carlos Navarro finally got the Blaugrana on the board but Felipe Reyes replied from deep immediately for Real. Rudy kept the pressure on as Real fought to maintain their double digit advantage. Brad Oleson and Tomic brought Barca back within single digits but Real looked well in charge, 45-37, at the break.
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May
1

Pullen: Pascual has taught me a lot

jacob-pullen-barcelona

Ballineurope’s Emmet Ryan caught up with Brad Oleseon, Erazem Lorbek, Jacob Pullen, and Joey Dorsey of FC Barcelona at Thursday’s Final Four practice.

“They are a very dangerous team in transition. When they get out in transition they get confidence and make threes,” Brad Oleson told BallinEurope.com.

He made the comments at Thursday’s practice ahead of Friday’s Clasico, a Euroleague semi-final with Real Madrid. Oleson said Barcelona’s recent win over Real Madrid in ACB could play a psychological factor in the games.

“When losing, teams tend to get focussed, when winning teams tend to relax a little bit. Hopefully we didn’t relax too much these last five days,”

Erazem Lorbek said the win had given his team a mental boost ahead of Friday’s game. “It’s a big game, every year we play them many times, and it’s always difficult against Real Madrid. They have beaten us many times but we got the last win, which we wanted, hopefully it will help us,” said Lorbek.

“We are pretty confident that we can do it, we are very focused but we will see tomorrow on the court. The game will be tough.”

Despite the win in their most recent clash with Real, Joey Dorsey said there is still room for him to improve on his performance.

“Coming into the game, the guys have got confidence. The biggest thing is coming to the Final Four with a lot of confidence. I know in the last game they beat us on offensive rebounds so it’s my job to take care of that,” said Dorsey.

Jacob Pullen said working with Xavi Pascual had helped him develop his game this season. “He does a great job of teaching, he’s taught me a lot. He’s also asked a lot of me and when I wasn’t able to do as much he made sure I knew that he still believed in me,” said Pullen.

For regular updates of all the action in Milan, follow BallinEurope on Twitter.

May
1

Devin Smith: “We can compete with anybody”

devin-smith-maccabi-electra-eb13

Devin Smith of Maccabi Tel Aviv spoke with BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan ahead of Friday’s Euroleague semi final with CSKA Moscow.

Devin Smith told Ballineurope.com that he was confident in Maccabi’s shooting options ahead of their clash with CSKA but that the team as a whole needs to succeed more on the glass.

“We have different players who step up for every game. That allows us to spread the floor and make shots for everybody,” said Smith.

“Rebounding has been a weakness of ours throughout the season. In this type of situation it comes down to the effort and the will to get the ball. Everybody has the fight and determination to make up for that.”

Smith made the comments at Thursday’s practice ahead of Friday’s Final Four game with CSKA Moscow. Smith said the team’s test in the playoffs against Milan would stand to them on Friday night.

“We hit a little rough patch in the Top 16 but we finished in a great position. We matched up with Milan pretty well. Winning one game here allowed us to go back to Israel pretty confident on our home court,” said Smith.

“It helped us grow as a team. Coming here and winning in this building, I don’t know if Milan lost many game here. Some of our players really grew from that situation, Alex [Tyus], Tyrese [Rice], really became a part of our team in that playoff series.”

Smith said the underdog label was fine with the Maccabi side but that his team has the talent to go all the way this weekend.

“Maybe we’re not favourites but when we play our type of basketball we can compete with anybody. It comes down to how much we want it and how hard we play,” said Smith.

“We’re going to have a lot of supporters here. They’ll want to see us fight, battling for the ball. Maccabi’s fans travel well and they are really excited to be here to support us,” he said.

“The best motivation is lifting that trophy. This is what we work for all year, to be the top team in Europe. You can’t really add anything else to that.”

For regular updates of all the action in Milan, follow BallinEurope on Twitter.

May
1

Jackson: “It’s all business”

aaron-jackson-cska-moscow-eb13

BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan caught up with CSKA Moscow’s Aaron Jackson at Thursdwy’s practice in Milano to get his thoughts on Friday night’s big game.

“Since we got here it’s all business. This year we communicated much better about the pressure [on us]. We knew who had pressure but we didn’t communicate well. Now we know the people on the team feeling pressure and we let them know we have their back,” Aaron Jackson of CSKA Moscow told BallinEurope.com.

Jackson made the comments at Thursday’s practice session before Friday’s Euroleague semi-final with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Jackson said talk of coach Ettore Messina possibly leaving CSKA for the NBA hadn’t distracted the team.

“He’s still 100 per cent focussed on the team and on what we need to do to win. He’s been really professional in dealing with the rumours he had bern hearing and he’s doing a really good job.”

Jackson said that going the full five games with Panathinaikos and closing the series out in Moscow would stand to his side this weekend.

“That was an elimination game, there was a lot of pressure, we were playing against a legendary team with legendary players. It was just a tough battle going through that series and it showed that, as a team, we can stick through it together,” said Jackson.

“My job is to just do whatever it takes, whatever coach needs me to do. I keep it simple and I’m real proud. It would be real sweet to end it with a championship this weekend.”

For regular updates of all the action in Milan, follow BallinEurope on Twitter.

May
0

BiE in Milano: And the winners are…

It was awards day in Milano and Chacho took the big one. Sergio Rodriguez of Real Madrid was name Euroleague MVP for the 2013/14 season. Rodrigruez and his team mate Rudy Fernandez were named to the team of the season along with Keith Langford of EA7 Milano, Ante Tomic of FC Barcelona, and Sonny Weems of CSKA Moscow.

Langford also took home the Alphonso Ford trophy as Euroleague top scorer while Bogdan Bogdanovic of Partizan was named the Euroleague Rising Star. Sadly we were unable to find out if he planned on starting a buddy cop show with Bojan called Bogdanovic and Bogdanovic. Bryant Dunston won arguably the most hard fought award of the year as he took Defensive PoY honours, having headed into the season with some uncertainty as to his value. Congratulations obviously go to all but we here at BiE are particularly happy for Dunston of Olympiacos who earned his prize against the odds.

Apr
1

Final Four: What the bookies say when the bookies talk

APTOPIX SEC Kentucky Florida Basketball
Those familiar with this site’s Twitter handle may be aware that our editor, Emmet Ryan, spent a few years working in the gambling business. He looks at how the bookies see the odds for the NCAA Championship and what it says about their confidence in the four combatants.

Lets take a look at the odds (NCAA Basketball championship odds taken from a prominent bookmaker) and see what the bookies are seeing.

Florida -120
Kentucky +240
Wisconsin +350
Connecticut +750

There are two quick takes here. Firstly, despite it being an utterly awful year for the SEC per the stats, the oddsmakers love Florida and Kentucky and it makes sense. The Gators have experience, talent, and have the edge in every area of note over all three of their opponents. Being odds-on with two games to go, even if it’s only narrowly, is no easy feat and Billy Donovan’s team must be seeing a lot of action. Make no mistake, this is a defensive stance from the bookies. They expect Florida to beat UConn and to then get a heap of action for the championship game on Monday. This is an effort to force that run until after Saturday.

The other key observation is importance of profile in terms of action. Wisconsin have done more over the course of this season to merit support, despite an ugly start to Big Ten play, but they haven’t laid a market down. Kentucky has the profile of being Kentucky, John Calipari as coach, and a lottery pick in Julius Randle. Throw in a hot run through March Madness and suddenly a team that lost three times to Florida is second favourite.

The value play here is, in fact, the team favoured to win it all. At -120, Florida aren’t priced out of the market and unless you seriously think they will lose to the Huskies, a bettor can back them now and then lay their bet with a bit of wriggle room on Monday.