If there is anyone out there who still doubts that the Euroleague is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of its founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of its small clubs, the last two nights were your answer.
After three weeks take a look at the standings in groups A & B. The team on top of Group A is Cibona with 3-0 and right behind them are small clubs with low budgets as Olympiacos, Maccabi and Unicaja. Considering the Croats faced two of those teams develops what psychologists may consider as a “feel of surprise.”
Now take a look at Group B and see the following. Montepaschi on top with 3-0 and following are three teams with a 2-1 record: Regal FC Barcelona, Panathinaikos Athens and…Assesco Prokom Sopot. Now, this is more of a case for psychiatrists, or perhaps Crusty, as the reaction would be something between combat fatigue and uncontrollable mixed with very loud laughter. This of course is a result of the schedule, as Prokom hosted Nancy and Zalgiris the past two weeks. If you ever wondered what’s the reason to have a button on your keyboard with the strange text “Prnt Scrn”, go to the Euroleague’s standings page and you’ll see the vision. Prokom between Pao and Barca. It probably won’t happen soon again. Print, save and frame.
This was the third week in the Euroleague.
VAL Virgins – Panionios had the toughest draw in the competition. Being a small team in a league of giants you can’t think of a bigger nightmare than having your first three games @Real, vs. CSKA and @Efes. The fact they finished this trio with a 1-2 record is huge for them. After two weeks of adaptation they finally found the path, got some air to breath and in a way had their “first time” when it comes to influencing the fantasy game. In the first two games none of Panionios players reached higher than an 11 index rating. In the big win three players – Loony Baxter, Aaron Miles and Ioannis Kalampokis had a VAL of 19-23.
Kalamwho?!? – If you’re not Greek and you knew of Kalapokis already it’s a sign you follow European basketball closely. In 2003 he was still playing second division basketball. Then he made a big jump up to the hands of Olympiacos for two years. Not exactly the seasons that would go down in the history books of the Red club as their glory days, but he was there. Played Euroleague, later on another Euroleague season with AEK, then up to PAOK and past two seasons in Panionios. The Greek guard hit 17 points with just a single missed shot but on top of that he stepped up when the game was on the line. Efes made a huge come back, stopped all of Panionios attempts to score for six minutes to make it just a four point game. Then Kalampokis buried a huge three pointer, to stop the drought. Efes still fought but lost the momentum. Later he added two points from the line to secure the win. If you’re an Efes fan and you didn’t know of Kalampokis, you’ll never forget him from now.
The best team in Europe – Some people think Montepaschi Siena were the best team in Europe last season. Some minutes without concentration in the semi’s cost them the eventual trophy. Beating CSKA is never easy, but they might be right. We’ll never know about the past season, but this one they have another chance to prove it and so far it’s going well. In a battle between the two hottest teams in Europe – MPS and Barcelona the Italian side used an 11-0 run in the last quarter, on the way to a 26-10 fourth quarter win, to stay perfect and prove something. It was a battle between David Andersen, the man Montepaschi lost to CSKA’s big money and now in Barcelona and Romain Sato, the man Barcelona once signed for a short period but hardly used him, before he landed in Siena. Andersen returned home to write 7 points in a terrible 3/12 from the field and just a single point of index rating. Sato? 11 points, 50% from the field, 3 rebounds, 1 block, no less than six steals and…yeh, La Bomba was stopped on 7 points. Recruiting wise MPS is still on top.
Duo Yellows – Two Maccabi players lead their categories in the fantasy league. Carlos Arroyo is the most expensive PG and D’or Fischer is the most expensive PF/C, and actually in the entire competition.
Milos got balls – The Serbian guard didn’t have a great game to say the least, as most of his team-mates, but in case you doubted he proved once again he’s not afraid to face the heat. In the last minute, not in a big shooting day, he took Efes on his shoulders. His slash to the rim made it a two point game again and kept Efes alive. His next move with a three point shot, that went out and actually allowed the Greeks to secure the win, but when there are so many players out there who are afraid to take the last shots in these situations, players as Milos deserve a good word.
Bluth vs. Maccabi – The Yellow-and-Blue survived in the game thanks to a Marcus Brown three pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, but it wasn’t a good shooting night for the Israeli side. Four players hit from long range but each scored just once to reach a team total of…four. Bluth himself scored five three pointers as Le Mans, who made 0/12 last week at home, finished this tough road game with 12 made three pointers in 46.1%.
Jennings’ debut – Ok. So far he was just testing the water. @Olimpija Brandon Jennings made his real first appearance in the Euroleague with 14 points, index of 16 in less than 19 minutes, but there’s still one more task for him. In the first two games he missed all of his 2pt range shots, but scored from long range. Last night he hit his first ever 2pt basket in the Euroleague to finish with four, but missed both long shot attempts. Balance is needed.
Bienvenu Antoine – Le Man’s guard, Antoine Diot, is familiar to whoever followed the national youth competitions in the last summers. The 19 year old point guard played with Nicholas Batum and Alexis Ajinca – two first round picks in the last draft, and won titles with them. Now he’s making his moves in the Euroleague and this week against Maccabi he wrote his best game so far. 11 points and an index of 17 are career highs in the Euroleague, but it’s the three pointers that made it a different experience. He was never a great shooter. Actually until this game his career total in the Euroleague stood on two hits from long range in 15 games. In Tel Aviv he hit 3/5
He might be giant – Keep in mind. Two-three years from now, tops, Emir Preldzic will be a big Euroleague star. The Bosnian guard/forward showed his package, basketball one that is, @Joventut. 17 points and 25 val were his Euroleague highs next to three steals and four offensive boards. His last eight points came in the last two minutes, when his team came back from six points down to a big three point win. 4/4 from the line in addition to a huge tip in, down by one, with 12 seconds on the clock, and 2/2 free throws to secure the win combined those eight. An athletic and very long 21 year old talent who still needs to improve his long range shooting, bulk up and gain experience. Once he’s done with that he’s a Euroleague star. No doubts.
In case you didn’t notice – Olimpija’s Mirza Begic is slowly turning into this season’s Nikola Pekovic. The 220cm big guy showing consistency much better big guys wish to have. In all three games he scored between 15-17, grabbed 7-8 rebounds and blocked 2-4 shots. Just, please, find someone to change his photo in his Euroleague page.
Turkish comeback – Entering the last minute in Badalona the players of Coach Tanjevic were down 65-61. The only points Joventut scored in that minute were foul shots by Simas Jasaitis, a result of a foul far away from the rim.
Weekly report – There was a very small doubt who’s going to win this one. David Bluthenthal came back to Tel Aviv and obviously wanted to prove something. This week Dewarick had no chance, but still such a landslide wasn’t expected. Bluth, in a good shooting night, took 16 shots in 42 minutes. Spencer got in early foul trouble, and never found his rhythm. He played only 18 minutes and took only five shots. It was the 13th Euroleague game of Spencer, and the first time he didn’t reach double-figures in shot attempts. 2:1 Bluth.
One half Jobey – He’s one of the best shooters around. No doubt. Since his junior year in college he never finished a season with less than 40% from long range, and just one time scored in less than 50% from the closer range. Jobey Thomas can shoot. No doubt. @Partizan he displayed an amazing first half. Crossed the 20 points line without missing a single shot, combining easy lay ups and difficult three pointers. AJ Milano already took a 23 point lead in Pionir, but in the second half Jobey went cold, to finish the game with 27. Milano was ice cold, and allowed Partizan to write another chapter in the book of “Pionir come backs”.
Losers streak – Le Mans opened the past season with a very long losing streak, but in seven of the first eight losses they had a chance to win. Time after time the French club found a way to enter the last minute with the game on the line, sometimes even with the lead, and still drop the W. One season passed. Coach changed. Key players changed. The theme is the same old one. Le Mans is 0-3 after three weeks and all three losses were close ones. Five point loss @Unicaja, four point home loss to Cibona and this week a two point road loss to Maccabi in overtime. Le Mans had a three point lead in the closing seconds of regulations, but allowed Marcus Brown to nail a tying three ball. In overtime it was Carlos Arroyo who beat the buzzer, to show Le Mans how much winning style Maccabi got, and that they still need to find their’s.
Sani came home – Hala Tivoli hosted one of its best former sons – Sani Becirovic and the father had every reason to be proud. 23 pts, seven rebounds, six assists, great shooting accuracy and an index of 33 in only 24:45 minutes. Euroleague career high in index rating by the way.
One side rebound – The best All-Time offensive rebounder is Travis Watson with 3.41. Pops Mensah-Bonsu stood on an average of 8 after two games and before he got injured for a long period, but the Euroleague still presents several great offensive rebounders. Stephane Lasme, Mirza Begic and Ronnie Burrell life off their offensive boards, and so far lead this table with 5 for the Lasme and 4 for the following two.
On fire Igor – The top two index rating of the week came from Igor Rakocevic and Sani Becirovic. The later reached 33 in 24:45 minutes as mentioned, and since Igor played 30 seconds more he managed to collect one more index point and set a Euroleague career high as well in index rating. The Serbian shooter was on fire, hit 6/6 from long range, 7/7 from the line and dished five assists. After a tied first quarter Tau took off in the second, and never really stopped. Igor was the main reason this game was one-sided. Tau scored 63 points in the second and third quarters. Finished the game with 65.7% inside the arc, 62.5% beyond it and 93.7% from the line. A total of 138 team index. Yes they surely do….
Perfect Jovi – What can be perfect in a day you lose at home? Free throws. Joventut hit all of their 11 free throws attempt in the 67-70 home loss to FenerUlker. The Turks weren’t far behind and hit 11 as well out of 13.
The best shoot in Europe – SLUC Nancy managed to be not too far behind Pao entering the closing minutes. It was just a single point game in the closing minutes, before the Greens took off to have a seven point lead and the ball. Nancy were still dreaming and then came Dim Didis. He was never known as a great shooter, but when you need him to nail a big shot, it’s one of the safest bets in Europe. Take EuroBasket semi-finals add a career high of 4/4 from long distance against Roanne the past season, add this game and maybe Diamantidis just loves to hit three balls against French teams? Way before the ball came close to the rim it was clear to people who follow DD there’s only one option. Three pointer. Ten point game. This one is dead. Next.
Good morning, it’s 1993 – Micheal J. Fox showed up in Madrid last night, when CSKA beat Real 54-58 in what reminded the mid 90s games. CSKA arrived injured, without Holden for the first time since he joined the team. Both teams were in a horrible shooting night. Real totaled 2/18 from long range, Terence Morris was 0/8 from that range to bring his team to 5/27. If it wasn’t for free throws the score would have been even lower. Real scored 16 field goals but 20 points from the line, while CSKA settled for 18 hits from the court and 17 from the foul line.
Jonas is back! – After two terrible games to start the season it’s safe to say Jonas Maciulis is back. In one game he doubled his season averages. In the first two he combined a total of 14 points hitting 4/18 and 12 rebounds. This week he wrote 15 points with 5/12 and 11 rebounds. The fact the first two were against big teams as Pao and Montepaschi and the last against Prokom is the more suspicious one, and will have to be checked as the season goes along.
Scouting – Partizan knows how to scout for the young Serbian talents, but turns out they know how to pick their foreigners too. After Milt Palacio the past season the current hit in Beograd is Lasme. A PF/C that combines great athleticism, impressive wingspan, strength and quickness. He works hard on defense, can handle several positions, block shots, intimidate under the rim and gives a headache on the pick-n-roll. Hardly forces his shots, goes for every rebound and the stat sheet doesn’t show how many balls his team won because of his pressure on the rebound. If he keeps that up, the big contract is just around the corner.
Where’s Carlos??? – If you have an idea what’s going on with Carlos Cabezas please advise. Index rating of 2 against Le Mans and -3 in the past two games give him a season average of…-1.3? One of the finest PGs in the competition didn’t show up yet to this Euroleague season. The last time he had a negative index rating was in January 2007. The last time he had two games in a row with a – on the right side column was in his first Euroleague season, in the second and third weeks of the 2001/02 season. Without their best PG in shape it’s hard for Unicaja to win even @Avellino.
Oh yeh – Cibona beat Olympiacos by nine. Go figure…