Has it really been almost two months since the Euroleague Final Four? And when did the seasons in Spain, Greece, Italy and the NBA finish up? Time gets exceedingly relative and outright bendy once offseason transactioneering begins as memories of the previous year are quickly disposed for a look to the next and the money starts flying around.
Last week was a particularly noteworthy, headline-making span, particularly over here in Europe and especially if you’re interested in any player not named Dwight Howard. Here are BallinEurope’s five favorite moves of the previous seven days. (Is it wrong to say BiE already can’t wait for October?)
• Adam Hanga to Laboral Kutxa Baskonia. The career arc of the player destined to become Hungary’s all-time greatest continues: After developing in the Hungarian league followed by two seasons with Manresa of Liga Endesa, Hanga is set to make his Euroleague debut at age 24½ with Baskonia – and seems certain to surprise those not in-the-know with his across-the-board contributions; while Hanga will be having some minor surgery this week, he expects to miss no regular-season games. The four-year contract with Baskonia may yet keep Hanga here in Europe and out of San Antonio for a bit longer, which can be construed as good news (certainly for Continental ball followers) or bad (for the NBA supremacists).
Okay, below runs the highlight clip European basketball fans traditionally look for this time of year – namely, the Top 10 Plays of the past Euroleague season. And while BallinEurope just as traditionally questions the pecking order of these things, BiE’ll have to admit the big ‘league pretty much nailed it this year right up to no. 1.
Said top play comes from the Olympiacos-Real Madrid final and justifies (BiE believes) this media partner’s vote for EL Final Four MVP in and of itself. As BiE always says, when an audible collective gasp swamps the press section, you know you’ve got a moment for the ages…
To no one’s surprise, Sportando reports that CSKA management is already looking at some serious roster rebuilding for 2013-14, but Spanoulis-to-Moscow would be a bit jarring, in BallinEurope’s opinion.
No matter which way this year’s Euroleague championship played out, history would be made with Olympiacos chasing a repeat championship and Real Madrid its first in 18 years. And as it turns out, fate’s scribe was writing with Red(s) pen: Once again, tournament underdogs Olympiacos ended up EL alpha dogs with a 100-88 win over Real Madrid for only the third repeat title of the last 25 years.
Olympiacos: They are the champions — again
Real Madrid jumped out to an early lead as All-Euroleague first teamer Rudy Fernandez accounted for six points and two assists on his team’s first 10 points, finding Sergio Llull again and again; the two would combine for 16 in the first quarter alone. Los Blancos’ 27-10 lead after the opening stanza might have been considered enough against an ordinary team – but Europe’s comeback kids are hardly ordinary.
Pero Antic’s three to start the scoring in the second quarter got the Olympiacos fans back to their feet –more importantly triggering a 13-2 run with contributions from Kyle Hines and Kostas Sloukas to bring the Reds to within seven at 29-22. And highlight-reel Reyes-to-Slaughter alley-oop dunk aside, the Reds fairly well owned the second 10 minutes, outscoring Real 27-14
Of particular note in the second 10 minutes was Stratos Perperglou stifling Fernandez, limiting him to just two points on free throws; in fact, Perperglou’s defensive play was representative of Olympiacos’, as nearly half of the Madrid points (six) in the quarter were made at the line, while six Real turnovers were forced.
Vassilis Spanoulis, remarkably quiet for so long, finally broke his personal cold streak with a three after the first minute of the third quarter and a subsequent three would give Olympiacos its first lead at 48-45 – must’ve been something concocted at halftime … another run – this one 15-5 – appeared to have Real on the ropes in the third, but Los Blancos weren’t finished yet, momentarily retaking the lead at 56-55 after a pair of jumpers from Fernandez.
Among the highlights in a pressure-packed final five minutes of the third were two consecutive stops of Fernandez after he’d run up seven in the stanza already; among the lowlights, Sloukas assessed for a technical after flopping. Nikola Mirotic, uncharacteristically plagued with foul trouble earned his fourth PF – one of 10 committed by three members of the Real frontcourt – late in the third quarter as well. After 30 minutes, it was a new ballgame: 61-61.
With 90 seconds gone, Spanoulis reentered the court to palpable tension. A section of Reds fans maintained their trademark noise, but many were strangely silent while the Madridistas clung to edges of their seats.
The death blow may have come on a hidden play, as Acie Law forced Llull to bounce a dribble off his foot and into the backcourt – Spanoulis’ followup three would ultimately seal the deal from 70-62:
While Law and Sloukas and Georgi Shermadini went on to score from various spots on the floor, Jaycee Carroll’s three-pointer – just one of three Madrid shooting attempts in the fourth quarter’s first five minutes – stood alone as a Real success from the floor. By that time, the Reds’ lead had ballooned to 82-70 and the Spanish side simply did not have an Olympiacos-like miracle comeback in ‘em.
BiE’s got enough time to throw these out there, so here goes nothing … since in this debacle, we went with a final score of 72-60 – albeit with way wrong finalists picked – we’ll run with it: Olympiacos 72, Real Madrid 60, to complete the amazing back-to-back. And your Euroleague Final Four MVP will be … Kyle Hines.
(Regular readers of this ‘site of course realize what this likely means: Los Blancos take their first EL title since ’95 and, say, Felipe Reyes will take the individual award; wager accordingly.)
Congratulations go out from BallinEurope this morning to FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena and Panathinaikos, perhaps each respectively their nation’s top basketball club, for taking domestic cup titles this weekend.
Heading into games two of the 2011-12 Euroleague Playoffs, BallinEurope acknowledges CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos’ superiority over their opponents, FC Barcelona having tallied an emphatic win, and Olympiacos shocking Montepaschi Siena in Italy.
So to get things started in advance of tonight’s game two matchups of Unics Kazan at Barca and Olympiacaos at Montepaschi Siena, below run the Euroleague’s official top five plays from the playoff openers – for some reason posted in silent-movie fashion…
Before BallinEurope signs off for 2011, let’s give a late Christmas gift to the dunkaholics out there, shall we? Below runs a collection compiled through the year featuring dunks by Europeans, on Europeans or perhaps simply in Continental games.
The first 20 will listed by competition, followed the top five runners-up and the champion jam of the year. Who will be no. 1? Read (and watch) on to find out…
Right, so here’s a dunk of the week candidate for you. Former Western Kentucky Hilltopper and current rookie Sergio Kerusch got, like, 20 feet of air while posterizing Kyle Hines badly for his Aris Thessaloniki against Olympiacos on Sunday night.
Though Kerusch’s jam gave the underdog visitors a 44-43 lead going into halftime, the Euroleague side eked out the 71-70 victory to put the Reds at 6-1 atop the EƩAKE table. With the loss, Aris is just 1½ games above last-place Maroussi BC at 1-5.
While much of the basketball hype from the ‘States in currently focused on tonight’s scintillating NBA championship game six, BiE today runs a quick jaunt through Europe’s championship action, with video-embedded stops in France, Spain and Germany. Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™ at the very bottom.