CSKA vs. Lietuvos Rytas
|Key Data||8,896||73||75 – 73||53.6 – 50.0||21.4 – 18.9||0.34 – 0.29||20.0 – 18.2|
- Before we start: Friday afternoon, and Aleksandar Džikič has been sacked. Reach the EuroCup semis in mid-April (out vs. Valencia), reach the VTB semis in early May (out vs. CSKA), all against opponents with twice, three-, four- or five times the budget, then endure the incoherent ramblings of some celebrity fan in mid-May, and then – when you have done all that – please leave. A victim of exaggerated expectation. Now on to the game.
- Rytas had been handed a 48-75 trashing by St.Petersburg three days earlier, where they appeared to confirm our darkest predictions: zero creativity in a Blums/Nedovic backcourt that had averaged a combined (yep) 1.9 assists in 31.7 minutes per game through all competitions the season before. I am not going to write away Rytas’ creativity deficit after just one game. Were handed too many transition opportunities via CSKA turnovers (who turned the ball over on one fifth of their possessions) and poor transition defense. Need more data. But boy did they put up a fight.
- Renaldas Seibutis, Rytas’ projected topscorer (#11) at 13.2 points per game, was phenomenal right off the jump ball. Had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists & 3 steals. As often stressed, he’s Rytas’ far & away best player – not just a scorer, but a fine passer as well.
- Ettore Messina pointed at turnovers afterwards, and that should be directed right towards Teodosic (five). What’s more: Sonny Weems closed the game with a drive for the and one and a jumpshot off the dribble, but stopped the ball way too often during the prior 39 minutes. Was in fact surprised to see Weems play almost 27 minutes, given Vladimir Micov’s excellent allround-performance (9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists in 16′).
- Nemanja Nedovic (’91) had a fantastic Euroleague debut despite being limited to 16 foul-plagued minutes. Had 11 points on 3 for 8 and played killer on-ball defense with various deflections and pass denials that don’t appear in the boxscore. Played 10 of his 16 minutes on point guard.
- Dimitris Itoudis identifies two CSKA key plays in his video analysis: Post up for Nenad Krstic and stagger with subsequent Pick and Roll (if shot isn’t there) for Milos Teodosic.
- Zoran Erceg had a fine CSKA Euroleague debut, going 3 for 5 from downtown, with 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Even played center alongside Khryapa for a four-minute stretch in the fourth, where CSKA was outscored 5-8.
Zalgiris vs. Cedevita
|Key Data||12,420||73||90 – 62||67.7 – 48.2||25.3 – 25.4||0.63 – 0.18||26.1 – 18.8|
- Gotta love Joan Plaza’s no-nonsense approach. Said afterwards, a 90-62 blow out:
Although I am happy about the win, we need to be able to keep pushing despite a 30-point lead. Last year’s attitude at Zalgiris has to change.
- Zalgiris looked motivated, energetic, deflections aplenty, caused turnovers via full court press, hit 9 for 16 threes. An actual opponent would have been nice, though.
- Cedevita were on the back foot right from the get-go. Maljkovic elected to defend Darjus Lavrinovic with Predrag Suput and Paulius Jankunas with Luksa Andric. Both were hopelessly outmatched. Suput then collected foul number three still in the first quarter, after Jankunas had ran past him in transition. Goran Suton played a frustrating 18 and a half minutes, 1991-born Ivan Buva played 8 1/2. The quartet was so abysmal that they collected a mere five rebounds in 63:49 minutes combined. Only Buva has the excuse of inexperience.
- Mickael Gelabale had therefore to shift to power forward for 17 of his 35 1/2 minutes. Were outscored 24-36 during the stretch. Hardly made a difference.
Elan Chalon vs. Asseco Prokom
|Key Data||4,000||81||81 – 74||48.5 – 58.2||21.1 – 29.5||0.3 – 0.42||24.3 – 18.8|
- Did not catch this one. Fast-paced game, but extended by four or five possessions each due to stop-the-clock antics, according to play-by-play data. Prokom were without starting power forward Drew Viney, but kept pace for long stretches.
- 1993-born two-guard Mateusz Ponitka, a youth-tournament standout and leader of a golden Polish generation, had a superb Euroleague debut, netting 13 points on 6 for 8 from the field (including an alley oop and a trademark reverse layup, both on display in the video recap) and hauling down 3 defensive rebounds.
- Shelden Williams is projected to finish as one of the league’s top per-game rebounders. Started the season off in style, with 8 and 9.
- Point forward Blake Schilb – the ProA’s far & away best player last season – filled the boxscore in typical fashion (5 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals) but was 1 for 11 from the field late in the third quarter. Redeemed himself with 3 for 3 in the fourth.
Olympiacos vs. Caja Laboral
|Key Data||8,000||71||85 – 81||63.1 – 51.6||16.8 – 14.7||0.23 – 0.38||27.6 – 25.8|
- Watched the first half. Olympiacos were brimming with confidence in the early going. Two alley oops by Joey Dorsey brought the house down. Dorsey was his usual self in pick and roll defense, successfully challenging shots but also picking up quick fouls – his achilles heel.
- Baskonia was without Taylor Rochestie (sprained ankle) and Tibor Pleiß (mononucleosis), and will remain without their 1-5 axis in upcoming weeks. Rotating just Maciej Lampe, Nemanja Bjelica & Andres Nocioni on the four and five (Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca was a mere footnote at just 2:23 minutes), Baskonia were a real handful on the big positions: Pick and roll, pick and pop, post up, three point shot, face up, baby hook, fade away – you name it. Bjelica played 17 of his 35 minutes on the five, where he was often faced by the roughly ten centimeters shorter Kyle Hines. This tape covers nicely the multitude of options the Olympiacos defense was up against on Thursday.
- They will run post up for Papanikolaou opportunistically and Perperoglou regularly – that is what the latter gives them. Had a fine game with 14 points, 4 rebounds & 2 assists. Thought Papanikolaou would showcase his full skillset after a strong start (including a step back off the dribble), but sat for a long stretch finished the game with only four individual possessions (3 shots, 1 turnover) in 13 1/2 minutes of play.
- Running the floor and finding Printezis/Perperoglou/Papanikolaou on the block early is what they intend to do. Printezis was aggressive posting up and finished with 17 points, though 9 came from beyond the arc.
- The defense that had kept three Euroleague top teams – Siena (94.9), Barcelona, CSKA (88.7 combined) – to sensationally low offensive ratings was not there. Efficient offense was, though.
Fenerbahce Ülker vs. BC Khimki
|Key Data||8,400||73||92 – 80||57.8 – 50.7||13.5 – 12.1||0.34 – 0.19||34.5 – 27.0|
- Fully deserves the “Game of the Week”-tag: A highly entertaining game of basketball. Fridzon, Khimki’s projected topscorer, came out firing with two field goals in the first minute; didn’t score a single one thereafter. Fener played a perfect second quarter, paced by a fascinating performance from Emir Preldzic (who won Week 1 MVP honours, for what it’s worth).
- Khimki played Augustine, Monya and – for a four-minute stretch – Loncar on the four: entirely different players. Augustine couldn’t make his presence felt on the offensive glass felt like, say, Felipe Reyes regularly does to make up for the spacing issues he creates. Khimki was 30-30 in 13 minutes that Monya spent on the floor. Feel like transition defense is an underrated advantage of having a stretch four outside the arc top of the key. Especially a guy like Monya: Mobile, athletic, shotblocking threat even in transition. Moreover, as rodhig stressed in his offseason column, Augustine thrived as pick and roll big man in Murcia, whereas his performance in the highpost in Valencia had been so-so.
- As if Kurtinaitis hadn’t enough long inside players at his disposal, Alexey Zhukanenko (19:30 minutes) is offering a fine package on offense. Minutes will be few and far between once Paul Davis returns from injury.
- There is little use in analyzing individual stats in-depth in such small sample. They will fluctuate and eventually calm down after 20, 25 or 30 games. There is some use in looking at minute distribution, though: Pianigiani has divided his four power forward/centers in two units: Batiste/Savas and Karaman/Andersen. Batiste played 14 of his 18 minutes at the four, alongside Savas, while Andersen played all minutes at center, though the traditional positions don’t do their usage any justice: Andersen is the pick and pop option, with Karaman often waiting in the post.
- Preldzic showed us a glimpse of what he can do, but let’s not be naive here: He has done so before, in equally spectacular fashion. Having turned 25 in September, breakthrough time is now.
- Fener’s setup has been fairly loose even considering the fact that we are just a week into the season. Plenty of pushing the ball, early pick and roll & swing around to the other side for a side pick and roll, if no solution is found in the first attempt. Versus the Celtics, 60 percent of all pick and roll attempts were finished after one or less pass(es) (starting in the ballhandler’s hands), while 32 percent were finished with no pass at all: You are at the mercy of your ballhandlers. Therefore PnR ballhandling needs to be distributed to different players. If the Celtics game is any indication, exactly that is happening.
Mapooro Cantu vs. Union Olimpija
|Key Data||3,631||69||71 – 84||41.8 – 62.7||11.2 – 20.7||0.46 – 0.36||26.8 – 25|
- A massive upset by my account, one I regret not having witnessed. Cantu had eased through the Euroleague qualification round and clinically dispatched of their first two Lega A opponents. Olimpija grinded out two victories over Radnicki & Split in the Adriatic League, before falling to Red Star by 11 points – down 20 entering the fourth quarter – on Sunday.
- Olimpija played at a weighted age of 25.1 years, second youngest in the competition. All 80 minutes on the two/three were shared by Klemen Prepelic (19 years, 8 points), Sasu Salin (21,15) and Jaka Blazic (22,12). Salin & Prepelic also hit big fourth quarter shots.
- Olimpija playmaker Dominic Waters continues his scoring onslaught. He’s 0 for 9 through 4 games and 45 minutes. There’s nothing wrong with Thursday’s 6 assists in 18 1/2 minutes, though.
- For Cantu, combo forward Jeff Brooks played all but two minutes on power forward. May change once Marko Scekic returns from injury.
Unicaja vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv
|Key Data||5,900||71||80 – 85||50.9 – 53.5||18.7 – 16.1||0.47 – 0.58||29.4 – 28.6|
- Unsatisfactory preseason for Maccabi. Blatt was happy to at last have a full roster at his disposal, except for the still injured Devin Smith.
- Unicaja used various frontcourt combinations and I suspect Repesa will keep experimenting for weeks, if not months. The 4/5 is filled with Zoric, Vazquez, Lima, Perovic, all inside players. And Gist. And, as an option, Jimenez. Repesa wasn’t shy of asking for better performances from Fran Vazquez, but Ricky Rubio, Marcelinho Huertas & Juan Carlos Navarro and the high percentage shots they create (80 percent of Fran’s field goals midway through the 2011/12 Euroleague season were assisted) are no more.
- Repesa had played Earl Calloway and Marcus Williams together in both ACB games this season but waited until the 28th minute to do so in Unicaja’s Euroleague opener. From then on, Unicaja outscored Maccabi 24-13 in ten minutes the Calloway/Williams combo spent on the floor together.
- Ricky Hickman played point guard for 16 of his 26 minutes, according to lineup data. Nik Caner Medley spent all his 12 minutes on the four except for one defensive possession. With Devin Smith sooner or late making his return to the lineup, he’s less & less likely to appear on small forward.
- It appears Malcolm Thomas had an explosive Euroleague debut, hauling down 8 rebounds and blocking 3 shots. Thomas was a summer league standout. Here are his D-League stats visualizations from last season. Thomas played exclusively at center.
- Poor turnout of 5,900 spectators. The days when Martin Carpena Arena was a cauldron are long gone.
FC Barcelona vs. Brose Baskets
|Key Data||4,961||72||72 – 60||43.8 – 43.4||19.2 – 17.9||0.23 – 0.16||36.1 – 17.6|
- A dull affair. Dominating the offensive glass (36 ORB%), Barça walked away with a 17-point first quarter lead but played poorly for the remaining 30 minutes. Their offense has clearly benefitted in creativity from the additions of Ante Tomic and Sarunas Jasikevicius, but at some point they have to start making outside shots: Went 4/21 (Valladolid), 5/25 (Bilbao) and 3/15 (Brose) from range in their first three games.
- For all the (justified) talk about his inability to replace Fran Vazquez & Boniface N’Dong on the defensive end of the floor, Ante Tomic has been phenomenal on offense: 14 and 10 vs. Valladolid, 16 and 7 vs. Bilbao, 12, 9 and 4 assists vs. Brose.
- Barça dropped 20 points in 7 minutes on Brose with the Lorbek/Tomic tandem on the floor, arguably two of Europe’s top three post players.
- The Brose offense ran like a well-oiled machine last season, often taking no more than half a dozen shots from the outside-paint inside-three-point-arc low-percentage area and thrashing opponents with an offensive rating of 120 points per 100 possessions, better than the dominant ALBA Berlin sides of the late 1990’s (1999/2000: 118.6; 1998/99: 118.2). Their 40 percent three point shooting through 54 BBL & Euroleague games was good enough for 2nd in the whole RealGM database. Such marvellous execution led them to a 44% two-year Pythagorean Win Percentage, one that would be near impossible to repeat, were they drawn into a better group this year.
- Fleming used six different formations on the four/five but everything not evolving Nachbar is unlikely to fulfill spacing needs. Unless Sharrod Ford starts making the three point shot at a 33-plus percent clip, that is.
- Latavious Williams had a fine debut with 8 points 5 rebounds in just 13 1/2 minutes, but he appears to fit far better in a Kyle Hines/center role than attacking from the perimeter.
Besiktas vs. Partizan
|Key Data||6,100||68||81 – 65||60.2 – 48.2||16 – 26.1||0.2 – 0.27||24.1 – 35.5|
- A well-coached effort by Besiktas, highlighted by Patrick Christopher’s 25 points explosion. Projected to finish as Euroleague topscorer, so no out-of-character performance here. Partizan is far & away the youngest team in the tournament, playing at a weighted age of 22.4 years, with 48 percent of their minutes on Friday coming from athletes younger than 22. The last team this young, Cibona 2010/11, went 0-10. That is where we should locate our expectations. Personally don’t see them at 0-10, but 2-8 is as far as I will go.
- They also appear to have a structural problem on the four. 32 power forward minutes on Friday were played by inside players. Drew Gordon had never been a three point threat in college and neither does he appear to be comfortable with handoff-roll plays. The Gagic/Musli tandem that Vujosevic started with grinded all throughout, but to little effect.
- Besiktas’ frontcourt rotation is a depth chart nightmare. So here is what we learned: The most-used tandem was Markota-Vidmar at 8 minutes, followed by Markota-Falker (7), Markota-Hersek (6), Dasic-Falker (5), Özer-Vidmar (5), Dasic-Vidmar (2) and Dasic-Hersek (1). Dasic played 7 of his 15 minutes on small forward.
- The Tutku-Jerrells combo appeared for just 5 minutes while Cetin & Güler both fit in nicely on the two guard spot, combining for 7 assists.
Montepaschi vs. ALBA Berlin
|Key Data||3,112||70||82 – 92||52.7 – 60.5||16.6 – 16.8||0.5 – 0.46||29 – 35.7|
- If past performance of teams Bobby Brown played point guard for is any indication, Siena fans are in for a long season. There is no development curve, no visible adjustment to European ball, no improvement in pick and roll play. He carried one of the lowest A/FGA-to-Usage rates in the league in 2010/11. Nothing has changed since.
- ALBA’s convincing Friday performance goes well in line with their BBL opener versus Quakenbrück. They pressure full court, play two pick and roll ballhandlers simultaneously at all times and have good passers on every position, which makes for an entertaining mix.
- Obradovic has options to go small and tall. From Friday’s lineup data we understand the following bits: Zach Morley (who filled up the boxscore with 8-6-6) played all but 4 of his 25 minutes on small forward. Deon Thompson played 24 of his 31 1/2 minutes on power forward (ALBA dropped 61 points on Siena – conceded 44 – during the span). Point guards Schaffartzik, Avdalovic & Wood (Dedovic played just 3 minutes on two guard) fill almost the entire backcourt rotation. Distribution: Avdalovic-Wood (15 minutes), Avdalovic-Schaffartzik (11), Schaffartzik-Wood (11).
- ALBA’s Week #1 minute-weighted height of 1.96 meters is in the league’s bottom three. Since both spot 4 rivals (Chalon, Prokom) play either with two point guards on the 1/2 or use an undersized two, however, height on the guard positions (which is where they’re undersized) doesn’t look like a difference maker at this point.
EA7 Milano vs. Anadolu Efes
|Key Data||4,000||74||80 – 75||56.8 – 57||20.9 – 25.3||0.24 – 0.3||15.6 – 31|
- A difficult opening win for Milano in a group where nobody can afford any hiccups. You do wonder, though, when the next 15 for 28 long range shooting night is coming.
- Of ten players Scariolo used on Friday, nine scored at least one three pointer. Only Richard Hendrix didn’t. Hendrix, by the way, played all of his minutes on the five.
- There is a sharp structure in Milano’s lineups, with little-to-no overlap: PG: Cook, Stipcevic; SG: Langford, Basile; SF: Hairston, Gentile; PF: Fotsis, Melli; C: Bourousis, Hendrix.
- Efes were without floor general Tunceri. I do believe Farmar’s score-first tendency (on Friday: 17 possession finished himself vs. 2 assists) is more effective when placed next to a pure point guard.
- The Erden-Barac center tandem had a nightmare performance (2/8 FG, 2/8 FT, 7 turnovers in 18 minutes). Mahmuti turned to Ermal Kuqo to play 16 1/2 minutes.
Real Madrid vs. Panathinaikos
|Key Data||10,930||75||85 – 78||50 – 60.9||21.9 – 29.8||0.51 – 0.24||44.1 – 26.9|
- A wild, irregular game where Real Madrid took an early 19-6 lead on, fittingly, a banked-in triple by Llull. Real dominated the boards (44.1 ORB%), shot 18 more free throws and had plenty of extra possessions on Panathinaikos’ 23 turnovers.
- Panathinaikos was outscored 2-19 during Hilton Armstrong’s 6 1/2 minutes on the floor, an accurate mirror of his performance through 11 offensive and 10 defensive possessions, spread over four short sub-in-sub-out sequences.
- Schortsanitis’ eyes lit up when realizing he was going to be faced with single coverage, or at least late help for most of the night. Though committing 6 turnovers, he scored 23 points on 18 finished possessions and led Panathinaikos to a 48-36 (+12) score during his oncourt time. Sofo had a usage percentage of 46, which means he finished nearly every second Panathinaikos possession while on the floor.
- Panathinaikos looked for the post up early and often, with Diamantidis, Ukic, Bramos & Maciulis all taking turns.
- Rudy burned Maciulis with 10 points in the opening phase. Laso played his three key players – Llull, Rudy, Mirotic – for 30-plus minutes in their Euroleague season opener.
- Mirotic’s ability to play through physical contact, draw fouls and deal with the increased attention he is getting on defense are among the key improvements he’s made recently. He’s also making long strides in his post game, which is equally encouraging.
- Draper, who recorded 5 steals in limited playing time, played 9 of his 12 minutes with Llull in the backcourt, 3 with Sergio Rodriguez. Should Draper continue to produce, the playing time situation for Carroll, Pocius and – shifting upwards – Suarez is going to get tense.