A tasty appetizer
Obradovic vs. Messina is always a battle to watch, even if we’re only in week three of Euroleague play, even if Felipe Reyes on one side, Mike Batiste and Sarunas Jasikevicius on the other side, are not available.
Yesterday in Madrid, we had two games in one. Early on, Panathinakos ran its pick-and-roll playbook with Spanoulis handling the backcourt and Pekovic scoring in the paint. On the opposite side, Real Madrid was slow, predictable, and confused on defense; from the second quarter, however, the match changed ownership: The Greeks lost their fluency on offense due to Spanoulis’ rest on the bench, while the Spaniards regained their rhythm with a fresh boost from Kaukenas and Sergio Llull. Clearly, a 20-0 run is not absurd, because Panathinaikos didn’t score a field goal for nearly nine minutes, with Drew Nicholas and double-teamed Pekovic with a mountain of turnovers.
In the third quarter, Nicholas and his 13 points kept PAO alive, while Prigioni, Kaukenas, and Velickovic killed Obradovic with their three-point shooting. During the final period, Pekovic was sought for more continuity by his teammates, but his contribution wasn’t enough to get closer than seven points, because Real Madrid was able to capitalize on the negligence of a defence that allowed 10-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc, mostly in the second half.
What’s the message from this match? Well, Panathinaikos is not to be judged until the Jasikevicius-Batiste duo is again on the court, but the 68 points made by Real Madrid over 30 minutes is a signal of less will to defend. With bad rotations and help not arriving, Panathinaikos’s never even got a hand in the face of any Real Madrid player scoring a triple, simply because the kickout passes of Llull and Kaukenas put the defenders out of position. Pekovic was unsuitable to guard Darjus Lavrinovic – he hasn’t the Lithuanian’s footwork and shooting range – and this is fault of Obradovic: I think Antonis Fotsis was the ideal solution to use on Lavrinovic, maybe together with a double-team when he received the ball in the paint, shoulders to the basket. But that’s a situation Dynamo Moscow’s former big man doesn’t love, so using Pekovic on him guaranteed Ettore Messina an advantage for his player by facing the heavy opponent and forcing him to come out of the paint to contest the baseline jumper, resulting in better floor spacing to penetrate the middle.
Real Madrid made a strong impression when it used the 4×100 unit, perfect to break an unaggressive defensive first line. Without Felipe Reyes, there are some problems against Pekovic lookalike centers, but the job done by Velickovic – more than Garbajosa – was remarkable, as he sacrificed himself in the defensive end.
Obradovic has lost the first round, but these teams are ready to face off again in Paris, if all works out for them. That time, maybe Obradovic could stop calling pick-and-rolls and replace disastrous guards when the opponents are on a 20-0 run. And he has to remember Milenko Tepic, little used in a game in whom Dimitris Diamantidis did not shine.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv has destroyed what remained of CSKA Moscow’s last era, giving CEO Andrey Vatutin’s ambitions something to consider. Rebuilding has been revealed as more tangled than he thought, and now Top 16 qualification is also in doubt. In Tel Aviv, the Red Army immediately slumped (down 19-7 after 10 minutes), and neither Siskauskas (who has to be unselfish without a solid post-up player to whom give the ball) nor Holden/Langdon (a combined 4-of-14 from the court) never gave the feeling they could take over the game. For a moment, they seemed disappointed, not convinced by young teammates that management believed ready for Euroleague, but they aren’t.
However, the statement match of the subtitle is the next in Roma, where Lottomatica will meet Maccabi and play for first place in Group C, a real possibility after the latest exhibitions of Caja Laboral Baskonia, not the team suspected for first place nowadays. Roma is 3-0 and has beaten Baskonia at home, CSKA and Maroussi away; Maccabi is 2-1, having paid for the unlucky loss in Spain last week. Pini Gershon is molding his team day by day, paying attention to a way of play that has to be speedy, with fewer restrictions and more isolations: Easy to find with a team boasting talent not many other clubs can dispose of. Maciej Lampe is the cornerstone of his project, together with Chuck Eidson; these are two players who can act at least in two roles. In anticipation of Roma, it’s up to Herve Toure and Rodrigo de la Fuente (yes, just that man restored after fans’ complaints, crucial with Luigi Datome sidelined and Ibrahim Jaaber dedicated to offense) to guard them. Through these duels, pass the four victory to Nando Gentile.
Good defense, bad defense
Unicaja is 0-5 in ACB, and losing by three points vs. Fuenlabrada, then by four at Manresa, two vs. Real Madrid, and again two at Sevilla, could demoralize Aito and his players, devoid of Giorgios Printezis, who seriously injured a shoulder in the last match. Against an Efes Pilsen searching for answers from a start not as good as Ergin Ataman expected, Malaga took a large lead in the third quarter to go up 17 at 59-42, then suffered the recovery launched by Kaya Peker. In overtime, Ataman changed the zone defence after the first triple made by Taquan Dean, but Jimenez, Rodriguez, Cook and Dean kept on nailing threes. The result: 20 points in five minutes and Efes Pilsen’s record gone to 1-2.
Asvel did a great job by showing-and-recovering on pick-and-roll plays of by McIntyre and Eze, and they stayed in the game (even way ahead, 29-10, after the first period) until the last half of the last quarter. A quite risky option would have been effective if Terrell McIntyre wasn’t Terrell McIntyre, and next to him weren’t Henry Domercant and – above all – Romain Sato. That tactical move made Montepaschi’s offense slower and nebulous, but when T-Mac found his guards on the perimeter, Asvel’s rotations showed us how they were short. Trying to protect the paint, much more space was left from four to seven metres from the basket: that’s where Romain Sato (probably the best small forward in Europe, since last games) and his companions built their 13-of-25 from the distance.
Shame on you, Piero Bucchi! Milano could won in Gdynia, and would have, had he better studied Jan-Hendrick Jagla and his way of play. Putting Marius Petravicius on him? Are you joking? Jagla has been the true MVP, thanks to his flashes outside the paint, the court-vision far from the basket, 16 points and 4 assists; Bucchi was the LVP.
Is Matt Walsh the next Euroleague top scorer? He’s averaging 25.7 points, and marvelous numbers (including 59% shooting for two points, 50% from three, and six fouls drawn per game) hard to amass on a team which was thought to be Sani Becirovic’s property … Who’s the best between Pete Mickeal and Romain Sato? If Barcelona really wants Sato for next season, it has to move Mickeal closer to the paint, cause Siena’s star is now at the peak of his role … With Willie Solomon out, and Lynn Greer not fully healthy and involved, Fenerbahce is struggling a lot to score more than 70 points, and much depends on Oguz Savas and Omer Asik, decisive against Cibona … EWE Oldenburg isn’t a Euroleague Cinderella; they demonstrated why in Russia … Olympiacos: there’s a Von Wafer case?
— written by Francesco Cappelletti