Week 8 of the Euroleague presented some unusual numbers in the Zalgiris-Prokom game, a junior big guys battle in Athens, a Turkish delight thanks to veterans and a big tie in the Le Mans battle.
Part I will present all that before Part II, in which the games in Barcelona and Roma take center stage.
Prokom’s Pat Burke came very close this week to writing his name in the Euroleague history books. Burke finished the game in Kaunas with 20 rebounds and could have become just the fourth player in Euroleague history to notch a 20-20 game, but instead scored 18 and stayed off the list. The only three players who registered a 20-20 performance remain: Spencer Nelson, Antonis Fotsis and Mirsad Turkcan. The first two are only playing in the Eurocup this season. Behind them is a list of four more performances by players who reached 20 rebounds or more, but failed to connect on enough points. Turkcan is in charge of three of them, while the fourth is Dejan Milojevic’ 17-point, 20-rebound game. Burke scored his 18th point when there were still four minutes to play, and actually had a great chance to make the list with a shot under the rim in the closing seconds of an already decided game, but was blocked by … Loren Woods, which leads us right into the next joint.
Philosophy still hasn’t found an answer to the question, “If a shot is rejected in the middle by Woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, but Prokom felt Loren’s presence all the way. That block on Burke was only one of seven the Zalgiris center delivered on Thursday night, finishing with seven points, 14 rebounds to go with the seven blocks: Not too far from the third triple-double in Euroleague history and the first to be reached with blocks. The Euroleague record for blocks in a single game belongs to Ukrainian big man Grygorii Khizhniak, probably the best shot blocker in Euroleague’s history. Khizniak also played for Zalgiris when he put in his eight-block game back in the debut season of the Euroleague in 2000. That game, by the way, went into overtime and Khiz played over 40 minutes, so that record will carry an asterisk. Khizniak also had two additional games with 7 blocks, tying him with Woods and yet another former player of Zalgiris, Darjus Lavrinovic, who reached that figure in only 27 minutes. In total, Zalgiris holds the top five shot blocking performances in the list. Behind them are four players with six block: Fred Weis who pulled it off in 23 minutes; Maceo Baston, who notched the total in a Final Four semifinal game; another Maccabi player in Terence Morris; and Marcus Haislip in his days with Efes.
Pass last Logan
Still along the line of Zalgiris blocks, more or less, here’s the story of Prokom’s David Logan in Kaunas wherein he finished the game with no fewer than 21 attempts from the field: not a figure you see every week in the Euroleague. The bad news was that he connected on only five of those shots on the way to a terrible 23.8% night. Logan actually scored his last field goal in the final minute of the third quarter, cutting the difference to 57-54 and reaching a not-so-fun-in-the-first-place 5-for-13 on field goals. The problem was that in the last quarter he missed all of his eight shots, and dropped to the terrible numbers above. During that run of missed shots, Logan was blocked three times and reached a total of four received blocks in the games. If it’s any comfort, he wasn’t the only one to suffer so this week.
After the terrible performance last week against Maccabi it was time for Chris Warren of Avellino to wake up. He provided 16 points and 6 rebounds as his team once again gave Unicaja a hard time but, like Logan, Warren was blocked four times. For Chris, it happened in a span of 18 minutes and each block was made by a different opposing player. Not an easy experience.
Bluth and D. Spen are tied
Two more games to go in the season and this race will be decided only on the last game. David Bluthenthal and Dewarick Spencer are now tied 4-4 in the weekly race for “Who took more field goal shots for Le Mans?” Bluth won 12-10 this week, an expected score, since he played against his former club Maccabi.
Where We Stand, Group A
So now it’s final and official. The four teams to qualify to the Top 16 are: Olympiacos, Unicaja, Cibona and Maccabi. Le Mans will host Avellino next week to try and avoid a winless season before flying to Greece. Right after the break, get ready for a big show when Olympiacos comes to Tel Aviv to meet former coach Pini Gershon. All is open among the four as they still have to play one another. Maccabi will travel to Malaga in the last week, so they are in charge of their own destiny, but a 19-point loss in Greece and a 7-point home loss to Unicaja makes make the task difficult. The next round of games will decide if it’s a Olympiacos-Unicaja battle on top and a Maccabi-Cibona fight for 3rd place or just a free-for-all.
Efes Pilsen had to win in Athens to avoid an uncomfortable situation, considering their last two games are against CSKA and at Real. Efes lost to Panionios in the first leg, 78-69, and replied with a close result but five points better for them, 78-74. Coach Ergin Ataman decided to bet on his veterans and it paid off big time: 31-year-old Bootsy Thornton had started in all of Efes’ Euroleague games this season, but for 32-year-old Greek forward Michalis Kakiouzis, it was the first time. Neither wasted time in making a statement: The Turks took a 11-4 lead after five minutes, while Kakiouzis had seven points and two assists in the run – nothing but perfection. After a Peker dunk, it was Bootsy’s time. He scored seven points in a row for Efes and saw Kakiouzis reappear with another assist as Efes took a 22-6 lead they never relinquished. Both veterans provided their season highs just in time. Bootsy had 18 points on 5-for-7 from the field, 6-for-6 from the line, three rebounds and four assists to reach an index rating of 25. Kakiouzis returned with 15 points, 5-for-8 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line and five rebounds on the way to an index rating of 22.
Where we stand, Group B
It’s very unlikely Barcelona won’t finish first after their performance in the last two weeks, so the big is on the 2nd spot and it will take place right after the break in Siena. Montepaschi will host Pao with both teams tied at 6-2. Pao won by five in the first leg, so anything but a five-point win by the Italians will give Pao second place. Things are wide open at the bottom, as Zalgiris can still escape from a terrible 0-7 start to gain a spot in the Top 16. Right after the break, they host SLUC Nancy; a 15-point win, not an unreachable goal considering their shape in the last two games, would give them the first place in the tiebreaker with the French and Prokom. If no huge upsets happen, that win would be enough for Zalgiris to qualify. A Lithuanian win of less than 15 will push Prokom into the next stage. A French win would punch Nancy a shocking Top 16 ticket.
OK, there was one more thing to follow in that game if you’re a diehard youth basketball fan. In fact, if you’re a scoutk then this game is a must-see, as 1989-born Georgian center Giorgi Shermadini, who was recently signed by Pao on a long-term contract, took the court for the first time and played more than 10 minutes in which he felt the big difference between dominating European youth championships and the real world of basketball. On the other end waited the 214-cm, 1988-born big man from Niger, Amadou Aboubakar Zaki who spent a season-high 20 minutes on court. The kids combined for one point, and if you are curious how they did on court, well, there are other places on the web to hunt for that type of information.
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