CSKA Moscow vs Brose Baskets
|Key Data||6,973||73||76 – 67||51.8 – 47.6||17.7 – 22||0.43 – 0.16||23.3 – 27.8|
- Both teams are performing well below expectations so far this season. CSKA’s Thursday performance goes well in line with tight wins over Rytas & Partizan, or their 8-point-win in Riga this past weekend. Brose decision-makers claim positive development based on yesterday’s 67-76 loss, but whether or not keeping pace with this CSKA carries much value deserves to be questioned. Clearly starting from scratch has been a struggle for both teams thus far.
- Against a team not particularly pick-and-roll heavy, Brose’s so-far main defensive flaw – the inability of their young center trio (L.Williams, Zirbes, Neumann) to deal with the 1/5 high pick and roll – was not fully exposed. The good news: Neither Rytas nor Partizan are showing signs of good pick and roll execution so far, or any solid offensive execution at all. Top16 is still well up for grabs.
- Fans of 21st century basketball will have marveled at the versatility of power forwards on either team, with both Viktor Khryapa and Boštjan Nachbar executing pick and rolls as ballhandlers. I for one don’t share the romantic views of 80′s an 90′s basketball that are so common these days. Players have never been more versatile and athletic than today. On both sides of the Atlantic that is.
- Ettore Messina claims the Weems/Micov combo to have made the difference in the fourth quarter:
In the fourth quarter I got a chance to use both our forwards together and it went better. I suppose we found our playing balance, kept working the proper way and won the game.
Lineup data suggests otherwise: While CSKA went 17-17 with both Weems and Micov on the floor simultaneously, they went on their decisive 8-0 run between the 35th and 37th minute with a more conventional Teodosic, Ponkrashov, Micov, Khryapa & Krstic lineup.
Lietuvos Rytas vs. Partizan
|Key Data||4,250||74||69 – 61||46.4 – 40.2||25.9 – 21.7||0.4 – 0.45||34.4 – 25|
- Crucial win for Rytas in a must-win home game. Rytas were down 13-19 in the first half before turning the game around via a 16-1 run. Were getting active performances from Predrag Samardziski & Dejan Ivanov this time, both combining for 7 offensive rebounds. Gaining extra possessions and making free throws is key for a team that lacks on-ball creativity.
- Nemanja Nedović continues to impress with super athleticism & activity on defense. Nedović shifted less between the guard positions this time, playing just 3 1/2 of his 21 1/2 minutes on shooting guard.
- Torey Thomas’ days at Partizan appear to be numbered after Duško Vujošević preferred his ballhandling 2′s and wing players to share point guard duties in the second half whenever Leo Westermann was taking a breather. Thomas did not play a minute after the interval.
- Dule may have to turn to his mobile small forwards Vladimir Lučić & Davis Bertans sooner or later to play the 4 for extended minutes, as the double big formation with either Drew Gordon or Musli/Gagic at power forward is producing nowhere near the desired output. An 89.0 offensive rating is not going to pave the way to Top16.
- Dule was eager to point out an officiating blunder in the first half, one that led to his technical foul and five points for Rytas on two free throws and a three on the following possession. He then patiently went on to explain how those five points, plus the potential 3 points on the Partizan possession that never happened due to the false turnover call, added up to the exact 8 point margin that the game finished on.
Fenerbahçe vs. Real Madrid
|Key Data||12,100||73||75 – 83||57.4 – 59.6||24.2 – 22.3||0.3 – 0.06||20 – 45.2|
- Nikola Mirotić’s potentially MVP-level performance will not matter if Rudy Fernandez keeps performing on his exceptional early-season level. Rudy is putting an exclamation mark behind his long-standing claim that he is best used in a ballhandling 2/3 role, flashing defense-breaking passes in side pick and roll and dancing his way to step-back jumpshots in isolation. At times Rudy was used as play-initiator in the middle, feeding either Jaycee Carroll or Sergio Rodriguez with passes, who were coming off baseline screens for the catch & shoot, curl or side pick and roll. When no pass was there, Rudy would go one-on-one or use the high pick.
- Real Madrid already led the league in offensive rebound percentage last year (35.4) and continue where they left off. Recovered almost half of their own misses versus Fener.
- Marcus Slaughter is a super ball thief for a center, currently ranking 2nd in the league in steal percentage. He won’t stay there, but his center-uncharacteristic steal numbers have been relatively consistent in recent years.
- Was originally skeptical about embedding Dontaye Draper, a subpar pick and roll player, in this high-octane Real Madrid offense, but little has it mattered so far: Draper is rarely running pick and roll as shot-creation duties rest on the shoulders of the 2/3′s (especially Carroll, Rudy) and Mirotić. Most importantly, he’s been super active on defense, leading the league in steal percentage thus far.
- Real Madrid held Bo McCalebb in check for most of the game, but they may eventually have benefitted from Bo’s ankle injury suffered last week in Ljubljana. Fener got a fine 12 point, 6 assist performance from Emir Preldžič, who served as one of the main pick and roll ballhandlers after playing off the ball – often in a stretch four role – for most of this season so far.
EA7 Milano vs. Caja Laboral
|Key Data||2,900||73||85 – 95||55.5 – 59.6||13.5 – 12.5||0.3 – 0.56||26.5 – 33.3|
- Baskonia quickly recovered from the shock of Andrés Nocioni’s freak injury (thankfully no neck bone is broken, say x-ray results), showing a strong character performance in an absolutely crucial Week 3 clash in Milan. From the moment El Chapu went down, Baskonia finished the game on a 45-30 score through 17 minutes of play.
- Down 5 and on the verge of dropping to 0-3, Baskonia got an outrageously gutsy performance from Fernando San Emeterio, who slashed past the Milano defense for 18 points and 6 assists. Nemanja Bjelica finished with 20 and 9 rebounds, including a couple of faith-breaking long range shots just when the Italians were about to rally back.
- With Milko Bjelica back in the 4/5 rotation, Nocioni played 7 of his 16 minutes on small forward prior to injury.
- Got my first extended look at Milano this year, who trigger their offense through plenty of isolations where other teams use pick and roll to force defensive rotation. Always dangerous when your 2/3 ballhandlers elect to look for their own shot more than traditional playmakers would. They keep shooting super well from long range so offensive output has not been a problem through 3 Euroleague games so far. It has been in 2 Serie A games, though, where they scored just 58 & 64 points when three point accuracy dropped below 30 percent.
- Sergio Scariolo questioned his team’s defensive effort after the game. Never a healthy sign, even less so in one of the regular season’s most important games.
- Milano got a productive (9-3) but way too short 2-minute-sequence out of a lineup where Alessandro Gentile, Nicolò Melli & David Chiotti were all out there together, creating high-percentage looks through unselfish passing, something the more indiviually-skilled lineup combinations clearly lack in.
Elan Chalon vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv
|Key Data||5,000||76||61 – 90||43.8 – 62.3||31.5 – 14.4||0.17 – 0.22||42.5 – 20.7|
- As Gregor Beugnot pointed out last week, Marcus Denmon cannot come back soon enough: In lineups where Brion Rush was at least on paper playing the one spot, Chalon were outscored 1-16 in 4 minutes.
- Maccabi were running a clinic in offensive execution, led by Yogev Ohayon’s playmaking. Ohayon finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds & 9 assists after a poor outing last week. This video of Maccabi’s offensive sequences shows Ohayon’s court vision and quick decision making. Is from head to toe pass-first oriented and should therefor sync well with Ricky Hickman & David Logan.
- Maccabi are running a play akin (but not identical) to the one Prigioni & Splitter were featuring in back in their Tau days: A horizontal hand off or screen and roll up high, with a baseline screen by a wing player (who then comes off on the other side) for the big man simultaneously. Looks beautiful when successful, like here & there.
- Don’t be surprised by Shawn James’ & Malcolm Thomas’ shotblocking and thunderous finishing, because that is what they do. James famously led the NCAA in shotblocking with 6.5 blocks per game in 2005/06 and he’s far & away the Euroleague’s best shot swatter. He’s far longer than his height may suggest, ranking at #35 in wingspan-to-height ratio in the Draftexpress pre-draft measurements database, and he’s extremely mobile and patient. Thomas has already delivered a couple of highlight-reel slams and is currently standing at 21 percent in offensive rebound percentage.
- David Blatt played a small-ball forward combination of Devin Smith & Guy Pnini for the first time this Euroleague season. Outscored Chalon 17-12 through 8 minutes.
FC Barcelona Regal vs. Beşiktaş
|Key Data||4,295||66||72 – 60||54.6 – 43.8||18.2 – 21.2||0.35 – 0.27||34.6 – 31.4|
- Once again Barça is leading the league in defensive rating, though “strength” of schedule is certainly playing a part. Held Brose to 60 points in their Euroleague opener, Rytas to 48 and now Beşiktaş, certainly the best of the lot, to 60 again. Maybe Pascual (“It is a tough to beat team with a slow tempo and good ball circulation”) was slapping on his own shoulder when granting Beşiktaş a well-deserved compliment. Pace (66 possessions) was well in Pascual’s comfort area.
- Barça’s shooting woes continue. Went 1 for 9 from long range and are now 8 for 42 this Euroleague season. Have already adjusted by simply going inside more and forcing close range shots even against double- and triple teams (Erazem Lorbek, Ante Tomić), but that is only going to be enough as long as the defense performs up to par. Offensive rating of 98.0 is way below league average.
- Navarro had a historical night of 0 points, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 18 minutes.
- Kunter played Tutku Açık & Curtis Jerrells together more than usual (9 minutes) while trying to find an additional creative source to break down the Barça defense.
Asseco Prokom vs. ALBA Berlin
|Key Data||3,000||65||77 – 66||61.5 – 45.8||21.7 – 9.1||0.31 – 0.25||34.6 – 18.2|
- Just like last week versus Unicaja, Jerel Blassingame & Lukasz Koszarek once again executed nicely in pick and roll, creating plenty of open looks for their stretch fours and off-ball 2/3′s. Prokom had 17 assists, 10 of those by Blassingame. Kemzura is not afraid to go small with swingmen Piotr Szczotka, Frank Robinson or Mateusz Ponitka playing the four and providing dangerous long range shooting. Are unlucky not to stand at 2-1 now, after last week’s 75-77 loss to Unicaja where they fell victim to Marcus Williams’ hot shooting.
- If you used optical tracking to scout dribble penetration, Blassingame would likely rank first in past-free-throw-line drives. Goes right to the heart of the defense before dropping it off to a cutter or flashing a pass out to the three point line.
- The 1993-born Pontika now averages 11 points and 3.7 boards in under 21 minutes a game. Is one of the top 2/3 athletes in this league and has shown a fine ability to play off the ball in this pick and roll heavy setting. Having good looks created for you by your teammates helps, though.
- ALBA’s two-big system is still under scrutiny and will remain so for a while. Went 3-19 from three point range in a loss to Ulm last weekend and finished with 4-16 long range shooting versus Prokom. When running pick and roll with the four outside rather than inside, their big men are often seen putting the ball on the floor when receiving a pass behind the three point arc, with mixed results. Have creative passers to still produce scoring opportunities in those situations, as well as a decent mid range shooter in Deon Thompson, but allows the defense to drop deeper and take longer to recover.
Olympiakos vs. Žalgiris
|Key Data||6,000||69||61 – 79||45.9 – 55.6||31.3 – 19.1||0.45 – 0.21||33.3 – 39.4|
- Oh where to start. The title holders began their 2012/13 campaign in typical “that was close but they’ll improve” fashion (85-81 over Caja Laboral), but what is happening right now cannot be repaired. They may bring in new pieces, though.
- Joey Dorsey is on his way out. After criticising his teammates for their lack of effort on defense, his coach for bringing own ideas differing from his iconic predecessor’s as well as limiting his own role on offense (Dorsey finished with 0 shot attempts in 13 1/2 minutes) and after finally not showing up for practice on Friday, there’s little chance he’ll be back.
- Whether Olympiacos’ defensive issues are of technical (the coach’s decision to play X type of defense) or structural nature (a general problem, like lack of effort), I think rather the latter. They still tend to switch on a large majority of pick and rolls, and all general issues aside, that was not a good fit with this Žalgiris roster. Plaza employs no outstanding pick and roll passer, but several decent-to-deadly off-the-dribble shooters, from Oliver Lafayette via Rimantas Kaukenas to Marko Popovic. Switching was taking little away but giving them quite a bit.
- More on Žalgiris: Did an outstanding job hedging aggressively & recovering quickly on defense. Since all their bigs are extremely mobile, the defense is quick on its heels and managed to break plenty of Spanoulis’ high pick and rolls yesterday.
- Jeff Foote is playing, and playing successfully. Žalgiris was 35-19 in Foote’s 12 1/2 minutes on the floor.
Anadolu Efes vs. Cedevita
|Key Data||3,297||73||85 – 66||52.3 – 52.4||11 – 22||0.36 – 0.06||26.3 – 22.6|
- Maljkovic (“We are playing our first season in the Euroleague and it was a difficult night for us.”) keeps playing the rookie card but you do wonder who he is kidding. For whatever reason – probably purely coincidental – Croatian Euroleague participants have too often had dysfunctional coach-player combinations. You can hardly blame a bloody young Cibona for going 0-10 in 2010/11, but last year’s KK Zagreb did have the individuals to compete, just as this year’s Cedevita does. Yet KK Zagreb & Cedevita combine for an offensive rating of 93.7 and a defensive rating of 116.4 through 13 games last- and this season, which makes for an expected winning percentage of 4.7 percent. They are not playing competitive basketball.
- Efes got another super 14-6-9 allround performance from Jordan Farmar. Farmar is currently at 20 assists on 2 turnovers. Mahmuti used the Tunceri/Farmar 1/2 combination for 10 minutes (17-10)
- Majkovic again played Gelabale on power forward for stretches (8 minutes, 12-20) and had yet again 4 1/2 minutes in store for 18-year-old Jusuf Nurkic, who swished a three point shot.
Mapporo Cantu vs. BC Khimki
|Key Data||3,779||65||67 – 54||49.1 – 47.1||22.1 – 16||0.38 – 0.24||35.3 – 12.5|
- Cantu added some much needed spice to Group A by edging Khimki 67-54. Khimki were without coach Kurtinaitis who had traveled to Lithuania due to the death of a family member. My condolences.
- Marko Scekic is back full time for Cantu, which means that Scekic, Alex Tyus & Marco Cusin are sharing minutes at center, according to lineup data, while Maarty Leunen & Jeff Brooks (who also plays the 3) keep sharing minutes at power forward. The excellent Leunen, certainly one of this team’s backbones and leaders-by-example, led the Italians in minutes (34 1/2).
- Khimki are a rare team that keeps producing good offense without a stretch four. On Friday, the Russians scored a so-so 39 points in 24 minutes with Augustine playing the 4 but completely fell apart during sequences when neither Augustine nor Sergey Monya – for example the Zhukanenko/Davis combination – were playing the power forward position. There’s still a massive task ahead for Kurtinaitis to define his big man rotation, similar to the situation around Repesa’s 4/5′s in Malaga, though I would claim that Khimki does have 2 quality power forwards who can effectively play the position, while Unicaja doesn’t. Kurtinaitis will therefor have to distribute 40 center minutes between Loncar, Davis and Zhukanenko.
Union Olimpija vs. Panathinaikos
|Key Data||7,900||73||67 – 85||46.4 – 62.5||16.4 – 21.8||0.44 – 0.33||15.2 – 36.4|
- Jonas Maciulis was entering the game with a clear physical advantage over Olimpija’s 2/3-line of Klemen Prepelic, Sasu Salin & Jaka Blazic, who had combined for all of Olimpija’s Euroleague SG/SF minutes prior to the tip off versus Panathinaikos. That is most likely the reason for Filipovski’s decision to play Dino Muric (plus: the absence of Salin), who had played exclusively on power forward so far, on the 3 for 21 1/2 minutes on Friday. Muric’s oncourt time matched almost perfectly with that of Maciulis during the first half, but to little effect: Maciulis finished the game with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists (plenty of those coming in post up situations), leading Panathinaikos to a 54-36 score during his 26 1/2 minutes oncourt time.
- Stephane Lasme provided the much needed 2nd center presence for Panathinaikos, swatting 5 shots, hauling down 8 rebounds and scoring 13 points in 21 1/2 minutes of play. Lasme’s super performance allowed Kostas Tsartsaris to play all but 5 of his 21 minutes on his native power forward position.
Unicaja Malaga vs. Montepaschi Siena
|Key Data||3,297||73||85 – 66||52.3 – 52.4||11 – 22||0.36 – 0.06||26.3 – 22.6|
- A wild and chaotic but incredibly tense game where Unicaja bounced back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to net their 2nd win of the Euroleague season. Both teams shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter, finishing with 12 and 14 three pointers, respectively.
- Unicaja still strikes me as a wildly irregular team with a strangely built roster, less so on the 2/3 but definitely on the 4/5. Just like in the case of Milano, three point shooting has worked wonders for them this Euroleague season, currently ranking #3 in three point percentage, at 46.8 percent, while taking 41 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. That won’t continue.
- Repesa gave his captain Fran Vazquez an earful during a late 3rd quarter timeout but stuck with him through Unicaja’s 4th quarter comeback. Fran played 10 (17-17) of his 26 minutes on power forward.
- Repesa again went to the Calloway/Williams backcourt combination extremely late, and again Unicaja rallied during this 8 minute stretch, outscoring Montepaschi 16-9.
- Viktor Sanikidze is now living up to his name (as one of the top Serie A rebounders last season), sitting at #4 in the league in total rebound percentage behind Mario Kasun, JBAM & Ioannis Bourousis.