The most obvious technical
Whoever knows Saras didn’t have to guess. When you see he finished a game because he fouled out after less than ten minutes, as it happened to him, probably for the first time ever, it’s obvious the 5th foul was a technical. Sarunas committed his personal fouls on four different players, and burst in laugh after the last of them to get the fifth. The last time the three time Euroleague champ fouled out in a Euroleague game was still in Maccabi uniforms, on the closing night of the Regular Season in February 10th, 2005. Back then it was a road game against his ex, Barcelona. 40 games he played since that night, to start a new count on Thursday, in a game he would probably like to forget.
The wheel turns for Gordon
6 years, 9 months and 12 days passed since the last game of Gordon Giricek in the Euroleague, and his re-debut in the top European competition. 2,479 days of absence and he came back in a symbolic timing. Back then he played for CSKA Moscow in the last game of the Top 16 in Istanbul against…Ulker. He had a near perfect night with 22 points, 8/9 2FG, 6/7 FT, 4 rebounds and 4 assists to reach an index of 31 despite a local 96-91 win. This week he was wearing the uniforms of…FenerUlker in their Top 16 opener against…CSKA Moscow but once again he was on the losing side. The Turks scored the fewest amount of points in the Top 16 with 48. GG was a bit less impressive and finished with 31 points and an index rating of 5.
If there’s any volunteer in the audience there’s a task at hand. If there is none, just check it yourself each week – How do CSKA virgins perform when they face the Messina defense for the first time. Marques Green and Emir Preldzic finished their first experience with an index rating of -6 going each 0/4 from the field and turning the ball over 5 times together. Quinton Hosley of Real went 0/4 as well the first time he met CSKA. Jan Vesely was 0/3 and Aleksander Rasic 1/10, the same record Milano’s Michael Hall reached. There are some very few exceptions, who wrote a great game of 9 points in 3/13 from the field, but it does seem the CSKA virgins are the poorest group in the European basketball.
One bucket short
This week we saw no less than four players miss a double-double because lack of…points. Carlos Arroyo dished 10 assists but scored only 8. Semih Erden grabbed 11 rebounds but missed 2 points as well for the DD. Stanko Barac collected 10 rebounds with 7 points, all from the free throw line and Lottomatica’s Angelo Gigli reached 10 rebounds and missed a single point to get the DD.
Oddly enough the two players who did finish their games with a double-double – Terence Morris and Pat Burke – made it with only 12 points, not too far from the gang of four from above.
Alba forgot to foul
They say that if you want to beat Maccabi in Tel Aviv you need to first of all play tough. Send out a message. Well, Alba tried to do that. After 4 minutes they already had 5 fouls and a 4-9 lead. By the end of the first quarter they reached 9 fouls and were down just by 5, 25-20. Then came a break.
The next time Alba committed a foul was 16 minutes later, more than 1.5 quarters after. By then Maccabi was already up 56-35. Where were Alba’s fouls when the locals made the run?
96 points with 4 three balls
Maccabi had the 2nd highest scoring performance of the week with 96 points, and tied their season high. In the first time, against Olympiacos, the Israeli side reached close to 100 by scoring only 6 three pointers in 17 attempts. This week they proved it can be done even closer to the rim, when hitting just 4 times from distance in 10 attempts.
When you score 33 shots inside the arc in over 70%, as Maccabi did against Alba, there’s really no reason to go far. Actually, Maccabi scored 66 points just from two-point range, while Alba’s total was…65.
Will shines without Tiago
Tiago Splitter is out for the next weeks due to an injury and it was time for Will McDonald to step up with 11 points, 5 rebounds and no less than 6 blocks as he reached an index rating of 20. That reminded of the first week in the Regular Season when Splitter as well wasn’t fit to play and McDonald combined 18 points in perfect 7 attempts from the field, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks as he earned the MVP crown of Week 1 with an index of 32.
That called for a quick search on other games in which Splitter was not in his best shape or missed, and how did that effect Will’s performance. Well, there were none others this season, but when Tau hosted Olimpija the Brazilian big guy had some difficulties, and wrote his worst game of the season with 4 points in less than 13 minutes. McDonald… he had a season high of 21 points with 10/13 and two blocks to write his 2nd best index rating of the season – 24. His other best game was also Splitter’s 2nd worst game, when Tau hosted Roma.
Bottom line, the combined index rating of Will and Tiago in each and every game, even those just one of them played, shows Tau has a very good, and more important stable, contribution under the basket. In 9 of 11 games they combined between 25-34 index rating. In the other two they were “limited” to only 20 and 21.
Partizan held a 5 point lead at half time in OAKA and some people had a deja-vu from last season. After 30 minutes the Greens were on top 55-52, but it’s still was a totally open game. Then it was DD’s time. Diamantidis was in charge of an 11-3 run in the first 4 minutes of the closing quarter that eventually decided the game, as Partizan never came back from the 11 point margin.
Up to that point Dimitris didn’t have a great game. His total after 30 minutes was 2 points, with no rebound and just a single steal and drawn fouls. Once the last quarter kicked off he grabbed two defensive rebounds, drawn two fouls, wrote a single steal and a single block before capping the run with a three pointer. Until the buzzer he added another rebound and another three pointer. Pao won by 18 and started this awfully tough group with a good win.
Pekovic vs. Ex
Last season Nikola Pekovic was one of the main reasons Partizan shocked Pao, but this time in the green uniforms against his former team he didn’t show any empathy. Peko crossed the 20 point line for the first time this season with 26 points but more impressively after averaging 65.2% from the line in the Regular Season connected 14 out of 15 free throw attempts this night.
Watching most players against their ex team-mates, and especially ex coach, is intriguing and this was no exception. The past season Pekovic was the target player of Partizan but in almost half of the games started on the bench. It was hinted the reason was to avoid early foul trouble as happened in some cases early in the season. Partizan didn’t manage to limit him in that way as Nikola committed just two fouls, and punished Partizan in the paint.
The game started with Vranes rejecting Pekovic first shot of the game, but that changed quickly. What stood out was Pekovic’s display on the offensive glass, where he pulled down all of his six rebounds in the game, to convert them to 10 points. So much for on Partizan’s side for learning how to limit the giant.
Newcomers are more than welcome
The first deadline to sign players in the Euroleague (there will be a new short window between the 3rd and the 4th week of the Top 16) saw several teams make a move in the market – AJ Milano, Maccabi, Prokom, Olympiacos and Tau.
Three of the newcomers didn’t play a single second – Maurice Taylor, Qyntel Woods and Charles Gaines – but the other five played 15 minutes and up. Most of them had their first practice with the first team no more than 96 hours before the game.
Ilievski spent five ACB games with Tau before making his Euroleague debut with his new team, but despite playing in a 35 minutes “garbage time” game he spent less time on court than any other newcomer. Prokom’s Brazelton also came off the bench when the game in Vitoria was somehow decided and played more than any other the others, nearly 30 minutes.
Dee Brown of Maccabi had the best game of the gang. He took the court when Maccabi already held a double-digit lead in the second quarter, played a key role in increasing the lead with two three pointers and a lay up off a steal.
While the above players had a reasonable excuse to be sent on court after such a short with their new team, the most interesting players to follow were Milano’s Price and Olympiacos’ Pargo. One week ago there were team-mates in Dynamo Moscow. Each left to a different team in a different country, yet still were on the same court in their debut, this team against each other.
Pargo landed in Athens only on Tuesday morning, and played almost 20 minutes. Price joined Milano a couple days before, and played 23 minutes. When coaches talk about having a system, and the players need to adjust to their system, and play a team game inside their system and so and so, but then send on court, in a very close and important game, to play more than half the game players who hardly practiced with the team…