The Euroleague playoffs began this Tuesday and despite having practice during the evening, I tried to blog my playoff night as it happened. So the evening started in Moscow, of course, with the playoff opener in a tournament that is finally played in best-of-five mode.
After a nice rocking intro, the player presentation in Moscow is also rocking the house with a football stadium atmosphere as the arena speaker calls out only the first names of the players while having the crowd answer with the surname.
The game starts a bit less enthusiastically with a Partizan team only going for long-distance shots and CSKA playing huge defense. The Serbians are not really getting a lot of calls in their favor, and Dule Vujosevic is close to getting a technical when a monster block by Stephane Lasme wakes me up. The game continues without anything spectacular unless you love automatic mid-distance jumpshots from Erazem Lorbek or two-meter turnaround airballs from Slavko Vranes. At halftime, the score is 30-20 and I have to leave to practice.
Returning home from practice, I start up the Euroleague website and switch to the Olympiacos-Real Madrid game because it’s the more competitive of the two games still running. And we start immediately in the last quarter with a one-point Real advantage after a comeback run, according to the commentator.
Despite an opening basket by my favorite Belgian, Thomas van den Spiegel, it is “the great” Theo Papaloukas who takes over the game with a nice backdoor assist for Lynn Greer and another steal to feed Greer for the breakaway layup and one for the Olympiacos lead. And after another poor defensive rotation, Papaloukas sets up Ionannis Bouroussis for the open dunk and a Real time out.
But what a bad decision out of the Time Out as Van den Spiegel goes for a highly difficult baseline hook shot that just hits the side of the glass — ouch! And Real goes back into the zone defense that helped them to a 20-0 scoring run previously, a zone that is now no problem for Panagiotis Vassilopoulos as he beats the buzzer with a big three that is answered by Axel Hervelle from behind the arc.
In the other game still running, Barcelona appears to have come back but a big three reset the game to its original eight-point lead for TAU Ceramica. And in Piraeus, we have “watta Blahhhk” by the Reds followed by a fastbreak to make it a nine-point Olympiacos lead.
Meanwhile, behind the effort of Lou Bullock, Real cuts the lead to five, but it is again Papaloukas who forces a big turnover to bring the game home with 39 seconds remaining.
At the same time, Barcelona suffers its first defeat in the Spanish series, with TAU sparked by Pablo Prigioni’s 17 points and 8 assists. With 14 seconds in the game and a seven-point advantage, I decide to switch back to Moscow to check out the second half of the Partizan versus CSKA game.
The halftime show is still going on, with some shooting exercises from the Russian fans and an All-Star best of oligarchical wives. I have to forward really far in the stream to see the second half start, so I can already imagine this one’s no longer a contest. Especially after CSKA starts immediately with a goaltended shot, a technical foul against the Partizan bench, and another two pointer to make the score 36-20.
Matjaz Smodis takes out the chainsaw to break Lasme’s arm on a drive but everybody stays calm after this very hard foul. It really looks like Partizan is not in the game, because such a foul should be used to start a little altercation and try to get into CSKA’s heads. But nothing happens and Smodis chucks up a massive brick on the next possession. The game continues like this, and I decide to switch to the replay of Panathinaikos versus Montepaschi in the hopes of seeing a better game.
I decide to go into the game with two minutes left in the third and a 57-53 advantage for Panathinaikos. Sarunas Jasikevicius comes up with an amazing no-look pass that ends up in the basket against his own team by Terrell McIntyre in a OAKA that is totally quiet for whatever reason.
The final quarter starts with the Rimas Kaukenas show on a spectacular underhand scoop alley oop, but Panathinaikos continues to score and Montepaschi needs to take a timeout quickly. During this timeout, with PAO is up by 10, I realize that this opening night of the playoffs is really boring so far, to say the least. No really close games, nothing amazing happening and even the Euroleague.TV commentators aren’t making me laugh. Let’s hope this game gets closer but I don’t feel it coming like that.
But Montepaschi comes back to five down behind two spectacular plays by Romain Sato, and McIntyre adds another two on a nice drive. Could I really see a great finish tonight? The level of intensity is increasing, too, as both McIntyre and Antonis Fotsis hit big shots from behind the arc to keep their respective teams in the game. Drew Nicholas hits nothing but net and the Italians need an additional timeout as the Greens lead by eight.
The break doesn’t help, though, as Saras goes for a terrific assist to Nikola Pekovic, who scores with the foul to increase the lead to 11. Another offensive foul call later, the story seems to be said and done as PAO manages the lead until the final buzzer.
Conclusions: Watching Euroleague games in bits and pieces is not really amazing despite close scores. Unfortunately, the Wednesday games are gone now and my practice schedule prevents me from watching them live in their entirety.