Home far away from home
In Week 2, when FenerUlker hosted Alba the official attendance indicated 3,000 people less were on the streets of Istanbul. This week Alba gathered an impressive 13,189 people in the O2 World arena, that will host the Final Four. The anecdote of the story, as big boss Christophe mentioned, was that among those 13,189 people there was a big representation to the big Turkish population in Germany. No official numbers, but it’s very likely that in Berlin there were more Turks cheering for FenerUlker than in…Istanbul.
So here we stand – Group C
Tau and Lottomatica fight for the first prize, with the Basque team still need to play in Roma. A win of the Bodiroga gang and they should finish first, but even in the case of loss the tie-breaker with third place Joventut goes in their favor and without any upsets Roma, at worst, will be 2nd. Ricky’s team, FenerUlker and Alba will blood to avoid the 5th spot while Olimpija chances are small but surely exist. The schedule of newly appointed coach Zure Zdovc features games against two of the teams they need to pass to reach the 4th spot – vs. FenerUlker and @Alba. Both are winnable and the tough draw the other two have leaves Olimpija a chance to somehow make it happen.
Front vs. Back
The French squad returned from Zagreb with a 19 point loss, in a game that was decided way before the final buzzer. Front lines usually have an easy life against Cibona’s defense in the paint, and usually you’d see big guys write big numbers when they face the Croats, but this week it was a little bit different. It’s difficult to say Le Mans’ front line had a good game but check out the differences between their front and back court. Alain Koffi, David Bluthenthal, J.P. Batista, Pape Badiane and Jeremy Leloup combined 57 points and an index rating of 49. The back court – Brian Chase, Antoine Diot, Maleye Ndoye and Dewarick Spencer – added 13 points and their total index rating was…-3.
Seven games played since the season started. That’s roughly a total of 70 players who had the pleasure of facing CSKA’s defense this season (Some of them are counted twice, because they played CSKA twice already). Despite half of those games had long period of “garbage time”, when it should be easier for players to better their stats, no more than two lucky ones were able to write an index rating of 15 or more against CSKA. An amazingly low number compared to the other 23 teams. Olympiacos, the second best in this unofficial category, stand on triple than that. The duo are Charles Smith of Efes and David Hawkins in Milano’s big win. On Wendsday night, when Panionios’ newly purchase, Demos Dikoudis, went for a three point shot in the last minute of a 30 point difference game, it was clear that ball would slip out. Dikoudis was standing on an index of 15 before the shot. With it he would have climbed to 18. Without he dropped to 14, and kept Smith and Hawkins alone in the prestigious list of 15+.
The lost trio
What would you think Tau Ceramica Vitoria did this week if you heard Pablo Prigioni, Igor Rakocevic and Tiago Splitter finished the game with a combined effort of 11 points, 2/9 from the field and an index rating of 14? That doesn’t sound like a good start for Dusko’s team, but the bottom line was a 101-69 triumph over Olimpija. The three weren’t at their best, to say the least, and indeed in the first quarter, when all were on court, Tau were behind. This game belonged to the back ups – Fernando San Emeterio, Will McDonald, Sergi Vidal, Mirza Teletovic, Stanko Barac and Pete Mickeal. All of which wrote a double figures index while the leading trio were far behind. The back ups were the reason Tau moved from 18-27 down in the first quarter to 52-37 lead at the half.
You know those days when nothing works out for you? Whatever you do goes wrong no matter how hard you try to overcome. This was Thursday night for Avellino’s Chris Warren. Whatever he tried to pull against Maccabi went the exact opposite of the original intention on the way to a 5 points, 2/10 FG, 4 turnover and -1 index rating night. That’s the first time this season Warren doesn’t reach double-digits in points and index rating. Only the 4th time in 41 Euroleague games his index is negative. Considering one of them was in his Euroleague debut, and that game was against Diamantidis… you might want to count till three. Warren got used to have big performances against Maccabi, but seems like the arrival of Pini Gershon symbols a new era in Maccabi, as last week @Maccabi Cibona’s Rawle Marshall had his worst night of the season. That’s two strikes in a row for the Israeli defense. Six days later Marshall rose to the MVP of the week award with his huge night against Le Mans. Maybe that’s a good sign for Warren who will travel to Malaga next week.
So here we stand – Group D
CSKA, surprise-surprise, secured their spot in the Top 16 and stand on a two wins gap from second place. No more words needed. Next. From there it’s a free-for-all run. All five teams still compete for the remaining three spots. AJ Milano’s win over CSKA could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory (in a way), as they are still last and would need wins that will give them advantage in the tie-breakers. Now would be the time for that as they host Partizan and Real. Those two edged Milano by small margins, so Bucchi and Hawkins will have a chance to get those so-needed tie-breakers in their hands in front of their fans and models.
The Efes’ situation
Finally Efes Pilsen broke their losing streak and after four in a row kept AJ Milano behind to take a 3-4 record, but the Turks’ situation deserve a closer look. In the last three weeks they expect a single home game, of the worst kind – against CSKA, and two very tough road matches. The first will be in Panionios, where no human team (that is, not counting CSKA) won so far, and the last will be @Real. This means the upcoming game in Greece will probably decide Efes’ future in the competition and will make a difference between at least an acceptable Top 16 season and a disaster of not even that. Panionios won by nine in Istanbul, and share the same record as Efes coming to the game. Partizan, the other team that shares the same record with Efes now, holds a tie breaker advantage after losing by a single point on the road and winning Efes by six in Pionir. This means that a Greek win will most likely mark the end of the season for Efes. Get ready for a big battle…
Heart attack Partizan
Three more games till the end of the season and thousands of doctors in Serbia hope Partizan will maintain their tradition. Mentioned here before, but as it keeps going on, worth another one. This week Partizan lost 69-68 @Real and wrote their seventh close game in a row. Their most one-sided game was a six point home win over Efes last week. Three were decided by a single point, all of them the Serbs lost by the way. With a road game at Milano this week and a home match versus Panionios the following, it’s likely for the streak to continue, but on Week 10 they will travel to…Moscow. If they escape from there after a close game…
A group-mate of Partizan, Real Madrid, doesn’t stand on seven out of seven, but stay not too far behind. This week’s one point win over the Serbs marked Real’s fifth close game in this Euroleague season. Other than two big wins over Panionios and @Efes, all the other games of were decided by up to four points. The nicest thing about this week’s game was to see Real learn from their “mistakes”. Last week, in Greece, they were down by two, going on their last possession and saw Raul Lopez miss three attempts in a row before Marko Tomas grabbed an offensive rebound and tied the score. This week, down by two again, Lopez was on the ball once more, but this time he dished an assist to a three pointer by…Tomas to win the game.
When Jaka Lakovic moved from Panthinaikos to Barcelona he left a lot of betrayed hearts in Athens. One of them was of Coach Obradovic, who couldn’t believe the news when the Greek reporters told him Jaka signed in Barcelona. “Jaka will never do this without telling me first,” he said in one way or another. Add to that statements by Jaka’s agent in the Greek media few days before that the only reason Jaka didn’t sign the renewal with Pao is his wish to check the NBA option, and he won’t sign in any other team than Pao if he stays in Europe, and…well, you can imagine the welcome Gate 13 gives him whenever he returns to Athens. Until this week Gate 13 got his wish. In his first game in OAKA in Barcelona uniforms Lakovic wrote 0 points, 1 assist, three turnovers and index rating of -3. In the last visit on Thursday Jaka got his revenge. He came off the bench in the first quarter with Barca up 10-15, and his first action was to hit his famous left-handed three point shot. Following were no less than five assists to 13 points in the next eight minutes, which sparked Barcelona’s run, all the way to 24-44 in the 17th minute. All in all he was responsible to 16 points of his team in the run that shocked Pao. When Barca took that 20 point gap, if you take into account the 24 point win in the first leg, the total advantage of Barca over Pao was an amazing 44 difference, as whispered on our ear by the great Álvaro Karatavuk.
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