Week 6, the beginning of the second leg in the regular season under the new format, was better than a big fat joint next to a banana-coconut shake with cream on top, on a Caribbean island with Beyonce whispering in your ear, “Did you enjoy my breakfast, darling?” as you’re already thinking about dinner.
Ok, maybe not THAT great, but it was interesting. A bit. Here and there. Sometimes. Randomly.
If Le Mans’ replica of last season’s performance – five close losses against a diversity of teams from different levels, at home and on the road – hadn’t already been amazing enough thus far, Week 6 made it even more incredible. Last year, the streak of close losses was stopped in Week 6 with a big 91-71 defeat at Cibona. This season Le Mans’ streak of close losses stopped in … Week 6 with a big 87-55 defeat to Unicaja at home. With this in mind, it’s time to predict the future. Last season, the French tallied their first win only in Week 13, but that won’t happen this year, as their season will end if they keep losing, after ten games. With matching to the new format, let’s say that just like last year the team of coach Jackson will escape from a win-free season one week before the end, at home against Air Avellino.
Pini vs. Prkacin
Maccabi’s Pini Gershon has decided that Nikola Prkacin is the key to Cibona’s success. Not a bad idea and in order to get that big obstacle out of his way, he did whatever it took, even if it made him look bad for a couple of minutes. Pini thought Prkacin would start so to the tipoff he sent his best big-guy defender, Yaniv Green, and kept Lior Eliyahu on the bench. On the other side of court, Cibona’s coach Velimir Persovic had different thoughts and kept his big guy on the bench. Gershon noticed this, and after 19 seconds made his first substitution – Green out, Eliyahu in – probably the quickest in Euroleague’s history.
Perasovic tried to ride that wave and probably didn’t think his opponent would react when he sent Prkacin in after 112 seconds of play. The three-time European champ, who meanwhile had replaced Derrick Sharp with Tal Burstein, reacted right away with his third sub in less than two minutes: Eliyahu back on the bench, Green once again in.
The outcome was exactly as Pini planned. With 4:39 to play in the first quarter, Green drew an offensive foul from Prkacin while fighting for position. It was the second foul for the big Croat, who was frustrated enough to argue with the refs and earn a technical for three fouls after less than six minutes for Cibona’s key player. Maccabi couldn’t ask for more and used this to take an early double-digit lead: perfect execution of a game plan. Green was sent back to the bench right that second and Eliyahu went back to start his MVP of the week show…
The jinx is dead
One more Gershon piece. Believe it or not, but in all of his seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and in those seasons he reached two Euroleague finals and won three titles, Pini Gershon has never won the Week 6 game with Maccabi – vs. Olympiacos, at Krka Novo Mesto, vs. CSKA, at Olimpija, and vs. Rytas. Five seasons, five losses. Since then, Gershon moved to Olympiacos and in both seasons has won Week 6, while at the same time Maccabi, under two different coaches, won Week 6 as well. On Thursday night, it wasn’t fair.
Roma men can’t shoot
The absence of Sani surely didn’t help, but even without him it doesn’t look good for Lottomatica Roma and coach Jasmin Repesa. For the second week in a row, Lottomatica got no three pointers from the backcourt. This week, they connected only twice and both shots were made by Roberto Gabini. Ibrahim Jaaber, Allan Ray, Rodrigo De La Fuente, Jacopo Giachetti and Brandon Jennings finished a combined 0-for-7 from distance, as the team reached a terrible total of 2-for-10. Then again, if Repesa and the gang still managed to win both games, perhaps that’s nothing but good news.
Ricky is back!
It was less than three minutes on court, but Ricky Rubio is back in action. In his first minutes of the season, including ACB, he gave a small example of what we’re about to see in the weeks to come. In that short time, he grabbed one rebound, two assists, a single steal and drew one foul. Without taking a single shot or making a single mistake, he reached an index of five in less than three minutes.
The symbolic turnover
The last play by CSKA in Milano finished with a turnover by Ramunas Siskauskas. He fell, lost control of the ball and saw the round orange end up between Milanese fingers. Since leaving Benetton, Siska has been not only one of the best players in Europe, but also one who rarely loses the ball. From the day he joined Pao to 10 days ago, he stood on 44 turnovers in 48 games. Considering the number of balls that go through his hands and the attention he gets from the opposing defense, it’s anything but easy to stick with a tpg average of lower than 1.0 tpg. In the last two Euroleague weeks, something has changed. Three turnovers at Partizan, combined with four he committed in Milano, are nearly 16% of what he has made in over two full seasons. The final-play turnover was symbolic in a way.
Still in the turnover business, check out the attached table. Listed are the players averaging the most turnovers in each Euroleague regular season this decade. Up until this season, Sergey Bazarevic was atop this list with an average of 4.5 in the debut ULEB Euroleague season. Since then, nobody has reached more than 4.0 tpg. Unless something changes in the next four weeks, we can expect to see Bazarevich drop to the second place with a record that will be hard to break. SLUC Nancy’s Ricardo Greer stands on an awful 5.17 ratio after six games. His “best” performance included only three turnovers, while his worst, when he met Diamantidis, stopped with eight.
Zalgiris have four more games left in this nightmare season. The team is still in search for a debut win, and with games at Montepaschi and at Barcelona still on their schedule, its not a very cheering page to look at if you’re from Kaunas. Right before the Xmas break, they host Prokom, which will give them a chance to get that prospective W. On BallinEurope, we gave them another challenge: to reach 70 points in a single game. This week, they came as close as possible: After gathering only 26 in the first half, at the final buzzer the scoreboard showed 69. A season high for Zalgiris but far from enough.
Congratulating a 7-footer
When was the last time you had a chance to congratulate a Senegalese seven-footer? On Thursday night Unicaja’s Boniface N’dong scored his very first Euroleague three-pointer on his first attempt this season, but has second attempt including his debut season when he tried and failed in a game in which Unicaja lost by a big margin at Efes. N’doong also tied his best index rating (23) performance and set a new individual high in points (19). At age 31 (at least the documents say so), the tops in Europe finally recognize N’dong as a productive key big guy.
The weekly battle
One payback for a debt from last week, when the race between David Bluthenthal and Dewarick Spencer was left out of the column. Back then, Spencer took the lead in the “Who takes more field goal shots” dash by taking 17 shots against Bluth’s 11. This week, Spencer once again had the upper hand, winning 13-10. After six weeks, with probably only four more to go in their Euroleague season, Spencer leads 4-2. The big guy will have to step up in the next weeks to recover from this deficit.