BallinEurope this morning sends out congratulations to BCs Valencia and Khimki Moscow region for their advancement into the 2011-12 Eurocup finals . The Spanish representative managed to get up to a 20-point lead before fending off a furious comeback by Lietuvos Rytas to take the 80-70 victory. Khimki meanwhile won the battle of Russian sides, topping Spartak St. Petersburg for the third time this season, 77-73.
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.
Both Patrick Beverley and Yotam Halperin of Spartak like to dribble toward the rim and Khimki also struggled to stop both of them. By contrast, Valencia favors constant ball movement in trying to find the most suitable player with the minimum amount of dribbling.
Of course, when Nando De Colo gets the ball, he can do anything – But what if Khimki stops him? Then Valencia’s game relies too much on the outside shooting of Caner-Medley, Rafa Martinez and/or Stefan Markovic. At this point, Brad Newley’s role becomes more important because he loves to attack to the rim via dribbling and played quite effectively yesterday. Victor Claver, who has important athletic ability, can also use his post-up plays.
Valencia showed some vulnerability against penetration to the rim in the Lietuvos Rytas game. In the first half, this came from Tyrese Rice and, when Rice went down to injury, Stepanos Babrauskas took on extraordinary responsibility for the offence and came to the foul line many times. Khimki’s Zoran Planinic always has great potential to create matchup problems with his physical superiority and so the remaining question is: Can Nando De Colo deal with Planinic when needed? Big help will surely be needed there.
Khimki has important weapons behind the arc such as Vitaly Fridzon, Thomas Kelati and Sergey Monya. Let’s keep in mind that Valencia did not let “nearly” any L. Rytas player — On one or two occasions, hero captain Babrauskas, long-range shooting skills aside, was some lucky – to look for a three-pointer. If Valencia can do the same against Khimki, this will make things a lot easier for them.
One thing to add before the final prediction regards the importance of offensive rebounds. Both teams were quite successful in this department yesterday and the ability of one team to outscore the other statistically on “given second chances” could be the tiebreaker.
If one really, really must guess then I would say Valencia. Khimki are the hosts and have a great coach in Rimas Kurtinaitis, who knows to win a Eurocup from his days at L. Rytas but the atmosphere in the Valencian team that they showed yesterday looks like a champion’s spirit.
Of course, referee decisions were a huge factor in deciding the finalists – Ask the Lithuanians, and you realize you can never know who’s going to win a final…