In a great rarity, BiE’s editor actually got up in time for the Adidas NGT on Friday. Here’s what Emmet Ryan made of the second day of action.
The Magarinos is a lovely facility. A tight but not too tight arena. Rob Scott hit the nail on the head, saying it would be perfect for a British basketball league team. The tight confines also made the partisan Real Madrid crowd seem twice its size in the opening game of the day. The hosts took on Insep Paris in what was essentially a play-in game for Sunday’s final.
Having missed the first half, hey I’m not that good at getting out of bed, I can only really give thoughts on what I saw in the last 20 minutes. Luka Donkic looks really smart, despite going an ugly 4 of 15 from the field his vision and movement impressed greatly. Insep gave Madrid a fight and briefly led in the final frame before a late three from Donkic effectively sealed the win. Real took the W 65-58 and barring a shock against VEF Riga tomorrow, they will play in Sunday’s final.
The player to watch in the day’s second game was Rodions Kurucs of VEF Riga, a Latvian prospect with NBA first round potential. The tall guard made a nice three to tie things up midway through the first after a slightly slow start before driving hard to draw a foul in the paint. Two steals and a dunk later and you could see why this kid is getting a lot of attention. It wasn’t just his individual play that made an impression. While his off ball movement was a touch too quick for his team-mates, he showed good vision in distribution on offence. The game itself wasn’t the highest standard and Korucs had 15 points and 5 steals by the half. Korucs finished with an impressive 23 points, 4 rebounds, 6 steals, and 3 blocks. The calibre of opposition should be noted, he was literally given some of those steals, but on the whole his own talent was clear.
While technically not the last game of the day, there was still one between Unicaja Malaga and Zalgiris Kaunas to come, the clash between Crvena Zvezda and Spars Sarajevo was the last BiE kept track off. With last year’s tournament MVP Vojislav Stojanovic suiting up for a talent-laden Zvezda squad, this promised to be the game of the day.
Stojanovic got off to a hot start with 9 points in the game’s opening 8 minutes while Edin Atic impressed early for Spars. Amar Gegic’s court-vision showed maturity beyond his years and looked like a young man with a great future. In terms of raw movement, Stefan Kenic for Zvezda has some good drives early. Overall it was the pace of this game that impressed, while scrappy at times, both sides showed comfort on offence and a willingness to play fast. With Spars having recorded their first ever win at this level yesterday, it wasn’t wholly surprising to see Zvezda dominate on the scoreboard. Backed by three raucous fans in the stands the reigning champions cruised into the half with a 48-27 lead. The Belgrade club eventually ran out 95-47 winners to book a likely final date with the hosts in a repeat of last year’s decider.
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