Part II of the Weekend Joints breathes air before the weekend comes to an end.
Seems like Olimpija finally found the path to the W. In their win over Alba, the Slovenians finished 11-of-24 from close range and 13-of-33 behind the arc. The Germans had big problems deciding who to stop first, as no fewer than seven different Olimpija players stepped outside the arc to hit shots. On an average night, a team will have three or four players with at least one three-pointer: Seven is a big number in that category. Power forward Miha Zupan was steaming hot at 4-of-7 from that distance, some of those hits were made in ways the greater shooters don’t hit so often. Keep in mind that in the entire previous season, Zupan made only eight three-pointers and that in the first four games of the season he had gone 0-of-6 from the arc to realize what kind of a night Olimpija needed to get their debut win.
New kid on the court
In early August at the U18 Division B European Championship, Mirza Sarajlija led Slovenia back to where they belong by winning the lower-division title. Sarajlija was projected him as a prospect, and he earned his place in the all-tournament team, but it didn’t seem likely the 17-year-old guard would influence a Euroleague game less than four months later. The 1991-born talent already showed his skill set in several Adriatic League games and on Thursday played his first-ever Euroleague game, igniting Hala Tivoli right away. He scored no less than 13 points with three downtown rocks in addition to three rebounds, two steals and an understandable five turnovers. Very, very few players have such a Euroleague debut on their resume as a teen. Keep an eye on Sarajlija…
Rarity in Pionir
The fact that Partizan came close — sorry, very, very close — to beating CSKA is surprising, but nothing’s shocking. After all, in the previous season, the Russian giants lost at Olimpija in a close game, 74-72, on a buzzer-beating shot by Marko Milic. Partizan is a much better team than Olimpija of last season, and playing in Pionir isn’t easy for anyone, so those things happen. The real shocking episode from that night in Pionir was that CSKA was out-rebounded, 45-29. Even if you take out the last four offensive rebounds of Partizan in the final seconds (actually, the fact Partizan took four offensive rebounds in the deciding last play says it all) you still get a big 12 rebound gap. The rarity is that the Euroleague champs are almost never out-rebounded by that many. In most games they will grab more, sometimes many more, rebounds than their opponent. When they do lose that battle, the deficit will be no more than minus-five (as it was that night in Ljubljana). Other than a few occasions, most of them coming in games which CSKA has it decided early and allows the other side to come back, such a gap rarely happens.
69 reasons to visit Badalona
No details here. Clear and simple. In the second and third quarters, Joventut Badalona combined for no fewer than 69 points. God damn it.
New (temporary) king
Ksistof Lavrinovic of Montepaschi scored an index rating of 25 this week against SLUC Nancy and it seemed like the easiest 25 ever. Lavrinovic reached that on a night in which he was only 2-of-9 from the field and missed all four attempts from distance (the difference between a missed and a made shot is four index points). The fact he did this coming off the bench and in less than 20 minutes is not surprising if you follow his performance closely. This season, he took over one of the most interesting stat categories in the Euroleague. He tops the “All-Time Index Rating per Minute” category with a great 0.78 point per minute. Right behind him is Maceo Baston at 0.72 and, to understand how big a 0.06-point difference is in this ranking, just have a look and note that the distance between second place and 20th place is 0.1. The active Euroleague player closest to Ksistof is Mirsad Turkcan with 0.65, a long way behind. The only asterisk the twin carries is the fact that he’s played only 27 Euroleague games so far. Mark your calendars to check on Ksistof when he reaches 40 and 60 games to see where he stands.
It DOES get worse than that
Part of the reason Zalgiris leads the ranking of turnovers per game is the fact they play long stretches, and sometimes full games, with two young point guards. This week they got back their original signing for the point guard position – the American Willie Dean III who’s a little more experienced. Considering his performance against Barcelona, it’s likely Zalgiris would have done a better job without him that night. Dean came back from an injury and missed all of his six shot attempts to win the unofficial PVM award of Week 5 with an index rating of -8. The more disturbing part is that this isn’t even Dean’s worst performance in his very short Euroleague career, as on Week 1 he wrote an index of…-9.
Another new kid on the court
Sarajlija wasn’t the only kiddo to shine this week. Partizan usually give the stage to Serb talents, but Jan Vesely is a Czech big guy who’s certainly justifying the exception. When will he turn to a name everybody knows is a matter of time. For now he’s a 1991 born big guy who stops only after 210 centimeters and loaded with talent. Before stepping on the same court with Savrasenko, Smodis, Lorbek and Morris he played only two Euroleague games, and in both it was for short minutes in which he did pretty much nothing but adjusting. Against CSKA only Milenko Tepic played more than his 25:48 minutes. He still didn’t express his offensive skills, and finished with just a single point and three losses, but his three offensive boards and the six on the other side of court, in addition to effective defense in the paint, made him one of the nicest surprises this week.
Quinton Hosley made his break last season while playing for a mid-size club in Turkey by the name Karsiyaka. He averaged 22.9 ppg and 11.6 rpg to become one of the hottest items on the market this summer. Eventually he landed in Madrid, where he had some ups and downs so far, but once back in Turkey, for a Euroleague game @Efes, Hosley was once again on fire. He set individual season highs with 24 points and a 23 index rating, missed only two shots in 11 attempts and the most impressive part was scoring three times from distance after missing all five attempts in the four previous weeks.
Fifth week in a row the big team of Kaunas fail to reach the 70 points barrier, and their season high remains on 67. This week they stopped on 60 and marked another sad chapter in their impressive history book. Since season started, in five games, which roughly results 20 quarters, Zalgiris climbed to 20 points or more in only three of them.
Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca came off Joventut’s bench to win the MVP of Week 5 with a shocking index rating of 38. That performance threw me back to the Top16 of the 2001/02 season. Back then Hernandez-Sonseca was a 19 year old prospect on the bench of Real Madrid. A seven footer who can score from close and long range, rebound and run the floor and could become something very interesting one day. Maybe. Well, Edu didn’t play much that season, as expected, and even when he did, showed only flashes of skills here and there. Until Real had a field trip to Perm to face Ural Great on Week 4 of the Top16 back in 27th of March 2002. Both teams already had no chance to qualify on, the Spanish team arrived with only eight players on the roster due to injuries and whatever, so the kid got a chance to play. The final score was 104-113 to Real, in a game some claimed was fixed to be an “Over”, but for EHS it didn’t matter. He reached 28 points, in 10/14 from the field, 8/8 from the line, six rebounds and four blocks on the sure path to 36 index rating night. The following season he got a bigger role on Real’s roster but showed great inconsistency ranging from nights of 13+12 vs. CSKA to 2 points, 0 rebounds and 2 turnovers against ASVEL. From then till today he never came even half way to what he wrote down on Thursday night in international competitions, unless you demand to count an index of 30 against Guilford Heat last season.
No need to foul
Unicaja managed to grab a key win in Tel Aviv despite missing about half of their roster, which hurt their usual wide rotation, but didn’t effect their aggressive defense. Nevertheless Maccabi drew only 13 fouls that game. No player drew more than three. Go over 23 other Euroleague teams this week and you won’t find another sample like that. That’s not even the first time it happens to Israeli powerhouse this season. In the last three weeks Maccabi didn’t draw more than 18 fouls in any of the games. The lack of a slasher AND a post-up player limits the options of the current Maccabi roster, and helps their opponents to play tough and avoid fouls.
Will the real Rawle Marshall please stand up?
Despite the title it has nothing to do with any fist-fight. This is pure basketball talk. In the off-season Rawle Marshall was a hot name in the market. Lots of teams were interested in the US forward who played great for Hemofarm the past season, but most of them had doubts if he’s a very good Euroleague player or “just” a stud for a Eurocup team. Five games inside his debut season in the Euroleague and still no clear answer. So far he stands on two great performances, two he would prefer not to mention and an average one. In the two bad games and the average one he hit only nine shots in 37 attempts. In the game @Unicaja he excelled with amazing 7/10 from long distance, but stood on 1/6 inside the arc. Against Olympiacos he dished four assists, in the other four games combined only half of that. @Le Mans made four turnovers, in the other four combined just two. It goes way beyond stats, as Marshall at times seems like the real deal with his athleticism, size and skills, but then looks pretty far from someone you can put the ball in his hands and rest peacefully. It’s the most reasonable thing for someone who witnessed European Basketball for the first time only last year, and has no more than five Euroleague games in his resume, but from now on, as adjustment time is over, Marshall shall be examined under closer look.
History in Sopot
A long streak came to an end on Wednesday night in Sopot. A historical incident took place on the Polish court. The info is disclosed in front of you: Sarunas Jasikevicius finished 13:32 minutes with 0/5 from the field, no fouls drawn and three turnovers to reach a terrible -8 index rating, but worst of all 0 points. In eight Euroleague seasons Saras had a few rare games in which he didn’t score a field goal. Even in his two huge seasons with Maccabi he had a game like that in each season. Along the way there were some games with just a single bucket, and very few games with a negative index rating, but never ever, in all his 140 Euroleague performances, he finished a game with no points as in Sopot. There’s probably some symbolism in the fact that Saras will, most probably, start the new streak next week when he plays in his…home town – Kaunas.