One of our readers has won two tickets for the Euroleague Top 8 game between Partizan and TAU Ceramica and he was so kind to send us his report of that incredible night for all the Partizan Belgrade fans.
So here is what Stevan has to tell us about his experience from yesterday.
First of all thank you once again for this opportunity and I want to apologize for not writing immediately after the game, since Dule (Dusko Vujosevic) let the Grobari (the Partizan fans) wait for 40min after the Game to salute him, and the chaos on the streets which let me arrive with the bus on the other side of the town exactly 3 hours after the game.
So here the story goes: Since the Ballineurope team made it possible, I set forth my way to the bus 3 hours before the game to hunker down the tickets which were left for me in an envelope. It was not the greed for the tickets which made left earlier (although, it this country everything seems possible, even Euroleage tickets disappearing) but I wanted to be a part of the famous pre-game atmosphere and wish the TAU players a huge welcome, since they traveled a long way, and arrived on Wednesday at 4 in the morning just to enjoy our chanting 🙂 .
To my lets say surprise, 2 hours before the game already about 2000 people (and 2000 policemen) were chilling in front and another 2000 inside the Pionir waiting to get in or just considering what they will shout to Rakocevic when he enters the floor. I met with two friends (I have to point them out, Serzo and Zica, both of them so dedicated and also basketball educated) and headed for the envelope which wishfully waited for me to be caught up. After opening it in front of the Steward, he fell in a little shock since I got court-side tickets 🙂 and as I would later see, they were 2 places alongside Vlade Divac. You must consider me a fool, but I preferred to go up to the ranks as I did not attempt to remain silent and not to jump up. I thought it would be a little inappropriate to shout the whole game alongside guys with a cravat. So we went up to the ranks opposing the Grobari ‘Kop’, meeting some other friends.
It was 1,5 hours before the game and Pionir was already packed with about 6000 people, when the first little singing started. Tripkovic and Tepic come in for a shoot-around and received greetings from the Grobari. 1 hour remained as the TAU players entered the court escorted with a salve of catcalls. Rakocevic a Grobari darling entered as the last just to catch the smiles and hugs from his teammates because of the enduring kind and warm welcome (he is a Red Star fan and former player). Now I have to admit that I have not taken part in the emphasizing of his sister 🙂 , which I considered is debasing the value of the Partizan fans. The Partizan players entered shortly after, and were anticipated with ovations, but they still remained concentrated, at the same time amazingly relaxed.
I got a little upset as I saw the referee with the number 49, Recep Ankarali, recalling he was on the ABA list until the last year and have had some frictions with Dule since he thought he was always calling against Partizan, leading as far as Dusko got suspended for saying he is used by the ABA management as an manipulative instrument to slow Partizan down and loose some games. As far as I can remember Ankarali whistled 6 consecutive(!) Cibona-Partizan games in which it seemed that he was tendentious but…
The atmosphere started to rose as the game was to start, Pionir was packed with more than 8000 people (all the stairs were also full), finishing with the Partizan anthem and so the frame was set for what was a good game to begin. As for sure you have already read the recap on euroleague.net and on BallinEurope, so I will just give some of my thoughts on this one.
Partizan started good and full of intensity especially on the perimeter, pressuring the outside guys, knowing Vranes in the back disallowing midrange shots and lay-ups, on the other side scoring with some three’s and second chance points, establishing an early rebound domination, going along with excellent movement without the ball. Partizan grabbed an early lead and carried by fantastic cheering grabbed an maximum 13 point lead throughout the second quarter. Somehow I got the impression that this lead was just due to an unlucky constellation for TAU, and that they soon would catch up. Now after the game, I have to admit, that maybe just one TAU shot was uncontested, automatically leading to this low shot-percentage.
Although TAU played their well known fast game they did not receive many break and secondary points. TAU often played their ‘5 fingers down’ system primarily for Rakocevic coming of screens receiving the ball on the wing and deciding either to do it himself or or to initiate an penetrate and kick/dish game what was not so affective since Partizan denied the low-post dish and had good closeouts to also deny perimeter bombs and stop the penetration. Another thing TAU was using was a high Pick and Roll, which worked well and for what Partizan had not a adequate answer for. The score was -13 for TAU as they switched to a 1-3-1 zone with 5 minutes to go in the second quarter. I remember 2 turnovers and 3 or 4 consecutive Partizan misses. It started with Velickovic on the high-post delivering a bad pass to a backdoor cut and Vitkovac forcing some mid-rangers when he could not stand the pressure of 2 scoreless minutes distracting the team-game. On the other TAU was making shots and Jasaitis cut the margin with a corner three to an unreal -5 to end the second quarter, which was not deflecting the right strength relationship on on the floor.
It was obvious a good to see that this excellent TAU equipe has no real leader. Although on the floor Rakocevic and Planinic, even Prigioni are pulling the strings, a lack of personality is what they miss to be great leaders and push their team when it needs to be pushed. In my opinion this is the real problem of TAU which is missing a real leader to be an unbeatable team. Partizan on the other hand has Palacio, who is beloved and respected by the teammates. More over that he is trusted. This is what allows him to control the ball most of the time allowing tactically skilled youngsters to step up either, though he needs consistency to gain another level of leadership.
After some early Partizan baskets in the third quarter TAU played up, lowering the tempo of the game, controlling the ball much better, setting up their half-court offense and pressuring on the defensive end. This may have been the result of Spahija’s speech, but surely it was also a part-time fault of Palacio having had a turnover but moreover having some nearly loose balls, when he lost the control of it, resulting in Partizan players somehow avert a turnover but were forced to take take shots with the clock running down. Now Ankarali steps up calling 5 (five!!) consecutive fouls against Partizan, two against Pekovic. Sorry for being biased but I cannot neglect the impression that he wanted to turn the momentum for TAU, which resulted in an one-point-down game for TAU. It was time for Uros ‘the beast’ Tripkovic to step up and hit some big threes to persuade the Grobari that the two years waiting for him to step up big time were worth it.
From now on Partizan was enlarging the lead with Pekovic being unstoppable in the paint and the outside players knocking down shots from every position. With 5 minutes to go TAU gave up made themselves comfortable withe the decisive match. An outstanding defense in the last quarter especially from Novica Velickovic and Tepic,Tripkovic annihilating Igor’s shot and drives could have made it possible for TAU to set up a negative scoring record of only 4 points per quarter. But thanks to one man with courage this would not happen. Planinic was eager to spoil with the Partizan fans as he hits a three on the last possession when all other players were just standing to earn a, lets say, well deserved massive appreciation from the fans 🙂 , not to be to direct in my writing…
The game was over, the 21 point margin does not reflect the real strengths of the teams nor the close game it could be, if, if, if and only if.
TAU players disappeared quickly while Partizan players were dancing
with the fans and celebrated a huge deserved victory. The Fans who made Pionir erupt throughout the last quarter were waiting for Dule Vujosevic to come back out of the locker to give the ‘magician’ an encore. But the great one let the fans wait for 45 minutes but finally appeared and received what is his.
Some notes about the the surroundings of the game:
- I have seen Rebraca and Singleton chatting for about 3-4 minutes during the warm up and I wonder where the hell they know each other?
- An interesting detail also happened after the game. When Danilovic’s name was cheered he also pointed at Vlade Divac but the Grobari denied the former president the applause, mainly because of the two Euroleague games he played for Red Star during the NBA lockout.
- A fan threw Palacio a Partizan scarf and he celebrated with the scarf.
So I want to thank the whole BallinEurope team for making this possible for me and hope all of you appreciate this report.
Well Stevan, we thank you for this huge report and we wish your team good luck for the decisive game next week in Vitoria.