Let the young men play before us
Last game of the regular season. Most teams have a “must-win” label on their game, in one way or another. The serious pressure is on. The results can effect the destiny of a whole season. Investments of millions of Euros are on the line. Jobs, too.
You’d expect this would be the time for the veterans to step up. Those who make the big bucks need to justify it. To score 25 points in week 4 is nice, but to do it when the money is on the line, that’s the big trick. Right?
Well, this week belonged to the kids. Nothing to do with Partizan, but surely that’s just another good example. Take a look at the Top 5 MVPs of the week list. 60% are youngsters: 1987-born Oguz Savas, 1986-born Luca Vitali, and another ’86-born kid Vladimir Golubovic.
“As I watched the tapes, I honestly felt that this year they are better than last year. They don’t have the names of last year like Pekovic and Kecman, but they have young players like Tepic and Velickovic who give them a lot of energy and talent. They are much better at penetrating and passing, while last year they were better at shooting and setting screens (but they didn’t have the quickness to drive you to the basket). I knew that with this ability to penetrate and pass they could give us a lot of problems, and that’s exactly what happened.”
– Ettore Messina in his blog after the game between Partizan and CSKA in Beograd.
Go with the flow
Partizan’s shocking win in CSKA popped up some calls of “I told you so” from people who think there are smarter things to do than betting on the favorites when the game has no influence on their standings. “You automatically lose some intensity, no matter how much you fight it,” they claim and so on.
Well, the last week of the Euroleague showed the exact opposite: There were five games in which one of the teams didn’t need the win, while the opponent had to win to depend on themselves:
Tau-Joventut; Alba-Olimpija; Barcelona-Zalgiris; Olympiacos-Le Mans; CSKA-Partizan.
CSKA was the only team with nothing to fight for but the W and lost. Tau and Barcelona were already safe in their top spot. Le Mans and Olimpija were eliminated already.
You could also add the Panathinaikos and Montepaschi games to the mix, which wouldn’t be 100% accurate by the definition, since there was still a small chance for Pao to pass MPS in the standings, but it was a very slim chance.
The bottom line shows a 4-1 record, if not 6-1, yet most people will probably remember the game in Moscow, because it’s the biggest story.
The Spencer takes it all!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we have a winner! Dewarick Spencer was the big winner in the big clash of the season against his teammate David Bluthenthal. In the victory over Olympiacos, Spencer took 14 shots against just six for Bluth, and earned the eventual crown by a 6-4 score. Bluthenthal’s was damaged a bit lately, as in the last two games he played less and came off the bench. Spencer also edged Bluth in the season totals with 115 against 104 field goal shots. Both players spread their shots almost equally, taking almost the same number from both ranges, and their percentages were close, but only one side can win the prize.
There have been countless attacks throughout the years about the fact that France gets two tickets to the Euroleague. In nine seasons, they have never really justified this. Nobody is expecting the first French team in the Final Four since 1997, but no team recently has even challenged for a final eight finish.
What makes this season different from others is that, apart from the shocking win of Le Mans in Pireaus on the last game day with no influence on the standings anyhow, there was really no good reason to watch the French teams this season. Not even one.
Well, unless you were curious who’s going to win the “Who’s going to shoot more” Spencer-Bluthenthal matchup in Le Mans, or track game-by-game the march of Ricardo Greer to the unpleasant title of Most Turnovers per Game in a Regular Season.
Last year, Le Mans had Nicolas Batum while Roanne displayed the regular season MVP in Marc Salyers, for good reasons to at least take a glimpse over there. The season before, Le Mans were somewhat in the fight for a Top 16 slot, while Pau not only got that ticket but also shocked CSKA Moscow while displaying Aaron Miles to Europe.
Previous to this, even if the teams didn’t perform, there was a rising Euroleague player given the chance to test his abilities. Players like Terrell Lyday and Mire Chatman showed they deserved a spot among the top competition in Europe. Heck, even Shawnta Rogers was there to make it into the record books as the shortest player to play for Jordi.
This year? Nancy didn’t present any new exciting faces. Those who somehow belong on this level were players most fans already know or heard of. Maybe — maybe — one day we’ll talk about “the debut season of Zaki,” the 19-year-old 214cm-tall kid from Niger, but that’s about it.
Le Mans relied on familiar names in Bluthenthal and Spencer. Brian Chase didn’t leave his mark despite some good games, and Antoine Diot is nice, but … still not enough to buy a ticket to watch. If anything, it was somewhat of a breaking season for Alain Koffi, but that’s only if you work real hard to find a bright spot.
Ok, let’s work real hard for a second. Alain Koffi did bring one comforting title to the French side of the Euroleague. The 205 forward finished with more double-doubles than any other player. His 15+13 performance in Greece this week gave him his fourth double-double and the first place over Lior Eliyahu, Ionannis Bourousis and Ersan Ilyasova, who each reached no more than three.
You’re as good as your last bottom line
They say coaches learn especially quickly in their career that they’re only as good as their last game, but sometimes the correct way to put it would be is that you’re as good as your last bottom line. At least, this is the case so far with Olympiacos.
Last season, the Greeks hosted Montepaschi, for sure one of the strongest teams in the league. They lost in front of their fans, dropping to a terrible 7-7 record and 5th place in the group. The outcome was showing Pini Gershon the exit door, and welcoming a local legend.
This week, once again in the regular season closing round, they lost in front of the same fans to Le Mans, surely not even close to the level of last year’s Montepaschi. Still, at least at this moment, Yannakis is in the same seat. Why? The fact that his team has a positive 6-4 record and second place in the group probably helps. Not that such record brings pride to a club like Olympiacos after the offseason work they did, but … If Olympiacos was in fourth at 5-5, maybe the chair of Panagiotis would be less stable.
One small shot = One big title
This season presented the closest race ever for the Regular Season MVP title. It came down to the very last minutes, actually to the very last shot for each of the two contenders. After the final buzzer, Sani Becirovic had only two index points more than D’or Fischer and got the crown. One shot was enough to change it all. If Fischer had scored only one of the few shots he missed all season, or Sani had missed one of the many he scored, the crown was traveling to Tel Aviv.
This comes after last year, when we witnessed another close race with Marc Salyers collecting only 5 index points more than Nikola Pekovic.
Still the same Peko
The same Pekovic moved this summer from a small club where he was the main target to one of the biggest clubs around where he’s another pin in the big system. At the end of the regular season it’s a good time to see how Nikola is adjusting to his new role.
Last season he was the runner-up in the index rating race, close behind the prize winner, 4th in rebounds, 3rd in points and first in fouls drawn, but since we’re talking about much less playing time – around 10 minutes per game, the best way to check it would be through these four categories per minute.
So last season, at the end of the regular season, Nikola was 1st in index rating per minute (0.78), 3rd in points (0.63), 9th in rebounds (0.28) and 3rd in fouls drawn (0.22).
This season he’s much far behind in the averages, but when it comes to per minute he’s still high in the top. 10th in index, not too far from his last season’s figure (0.71), the same 3rd in points per game with a slightly better display (0.65), dropped to 84th in rebounds (0.17) but jumps to the top of drawn fouls with a much better ratio (0.30).
Considering Pao is a team with more dominating players in the paint to pull down rebounds, and in general never a team to excel in the rebounding department, Pekovic’s decline to 84th is understandable. The other three categories, show he’s still one of the best players in the Euroleague, even in one of the biggest teams in Europe.