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Euroleague Recaps, Finishing The Regular Season

The Euroleague Regular Season came to an end this week as we begin to move into the Top-16 stage.

Group A Action

SLUC Nancy went down to Olympiacos by a final score of 74-79 in a close game that could have gone either way. Nancy made a number of third and fourth quarter runs, bringing Olympiacos’ lead down to the slimmest of margins, but like all great teams, they responded with tough makes.

Olympiacos went up by seven on a three-pointer by big man Pero Antic, but a put back and two at the line by Adrien Moerman cut the margin to five points. Nancy gave up too many offensive boards in the final three minutes and were seemingly given chance after chance at a game-tying three point attempt but the French side simply couldn’t convert.

Jamal Shuler was fantastic for Nancy with 18 points and nine rebounds. For Olympaicos, Antic finished with 20 and Georgios Printezis contributed 18 points.

In a do or die game, Gescrap BB took a 77-72 win over Caja Laboral, a win that eliminated their opponents and propelled the Spanish team into their first ever Top 16 appearance.

It was a three point game for the final few minutes, but Gescrap was able to finish their opponents off at the free-throw line.

Gescrap’s Marko Banic led all scorers with 18 points (7-10 shooting from the field).

Fenerbahce Ulker held on to defeat Bennet Cantu 83-76 behind 21 points from Oguz Savas and 19 from NBA prospect Bojan Bogdanovic.

The win put Fenerbahce on top of Group A, but even the loss, Cantu was still able to maintain third position in the group and advance to next stage.

Group B Action

An exciting night in Group B action, CSKA Moscow kicked things of by solidifying their top overall ranking by defeating third seed Unicaja 91-83. While CSKA finished the tournament’s regular season as the only undefeated side, the loss for Unicaja dropped them down a position on the group table and out of the competition.

Former tournament MVP, Milos Teodosic returned to his best form and posted a very impressive 18 points and 10 assists. Nenad Krstic had another fine game and finished with 14 points and six rebounds while drawing seven fouls on the Unicaja defenders.

The Spanish side received a number of impressive performances in their loss. Joel Freeland, Hrvoje Peric (7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Gerald Fitch (6 rebounds, 5 assists) all scored 16 for Unicaja, however it was not enough to compete with the size and depth of the Russian powerhouse.

Panathinaikos’ 71-66 victory of Brose Baskets knocked the German side out of consideration while allowing for Zalgiris Kaunas to sneak into Top 16 as the third seed in the group.

Brose took a late fourth quarter lead but were unable to pull it together. The win was Panathinaikos’ third in a row and certified their position as the group’s second seed. The Greek team’s size controlled the boards with four players collecting over six rebounds. Kaimakoglou was the stand out as he registered 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Bamberg’s only two real big men, Tibor Pleiss and Marcus Slaughter, were decent, but not enough to steal a win.

Zalgiris Kaunas won 87-76 at home against KK Zagreb and moved into the Top 16. Not a competitive game, Sonny Weems led Zalgiris with 20 points while Marko Popovic contributed 17 of his own.

The win marked a fantastic string of games for Zalgiris and after a very average early season start they have compiled three wins from the last four games, enough to sneak into the next stage of the tournament.

Group C Action

What turned out to be the game of round featured two teams competing against each other for the group’s final place in the Top 16. Partizan entered the game needing to lose by no less than three points while EA7 Emporio Armani Milan found themselves needing to win by four or more points.

An extremely low scoring first half saw Milan only crack the 30 point barrier two minutes into the third term, but they used the early stages of the quarter to reduce Partizan’s double digit lead to just four points. Things continued to go wrong for the Serbian team as Milan used a 14-8 run to end the quarter and take a one point lead.

The Italian side controlled the game from that point on. With a chance to cut Milan’s lead to four points, Acie Law missed one of two free throws in the final minutes that severely damaged Partizan’s chances of reaching that three point mark. Luckily for Law, some poor efforts by Milan’s star players in the final minutes (including two missed gimme buckets by Malik Hairston in the paint with 20 seconds remaining) took a bit of pressure of the choke job.

A shocked Partizan home crowd saw Milan close the game out at the line, winning 72-66 and advancing to the Top 16.

Milan’s Malik Hairston led all scorers with 18 and played an efficient game. He also hit a clutch three late in the game off an assist from Omar Cook. His presence for Milan was vital in the second half even though he played the majority of that time with four fouls.

Cook, a former NBA reserve, was also brilliant. He was deadly in transition, nailed a couple of three point baskets, was very aggressive drawing fouls and hunting for loose rebounds and added six assists to his 17 points.

For the losers, Malik Macvan had another solid game in what was a fantastic tournament for the 22-year-old. He finished with 13 (only two second half points), but grabbed 11 boards and handed out four assists. Macvan has a very solid future ahead of him and it was great to see a young guy succeed as he used his high levels of basketball IQ and hustle combined with his size and talent to dominate the competition this year.

Law had another forgettable performance shooting 2-6 (six points), but registered five assists. While he did make a couple of nice passes that led to buckets late in the fourth, he had a couple of really weak attempts at the basket, some of which hurt his team went the ball went the other way.

Real Madrid turned in a dominant second half to route Anadolu Efes 75-66. Up by as much as 17 in the second term, Efes was able to bring the deficit under ten points, but lost all their momentum as the third quarter began.

Kyle Singler started again and was solid with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, but Real’s top player was NBA prospect Nikola Mirotic who finished with 16 points on 6-9 from the field.

Dusko Savanovic was a beast for the losing side. He tallied 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

A six consecutive win, Real finished a strong regular season campaign with an 8-2 record and finished first in the group. The loss had little impact on Efes’ standing in the group as they finished third with a place in the Top 16.

Belgacom Spirou were already out of contention for the Top 16, but still lost in embarrassing fashion as they were blown out 86-69 by Maccabi Electra. The win pushed Maccabi into second position.

Keith Langford had a season-high 20 points and contribute five rebounds while David Blu also had 15 and five.

Group D Action

Barcelona Regal destroyed Galatasaray 79-50 and finished their regular season campaign with a 9-1 win loss record and top spot in the group.

Former L.A Clipper Boniface N’Dong led Barca in the blowout with 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks while Australian international Joe Ingles also had a solid night out. The versatile swingman contributed eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes of action.

Montepaschi could advance no further than second position in Group D but won regardless, defeating the lowly Asseco Prokom, 79-53. Pietro Aradori was the top scorer for the Italian side with a game-high 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He was also their only player to reach double figures.

Unics went into their matchup with Union Olimpija with hope of stealing second position in the group, but even with their 13 points victory, Montepaschi’s own victory meant Unics had to settle for third position and a trip to the Top 16.  Not a bad result for the Russian side making their Euroleague debut.

American guard Henry Domercant led Unics with 16 points and nabbed five rebounds as well.

Follow Robert on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr

Euroleague Round 8 Analysis: CSKA Moscow/KK Zagreb

Withstanding an epic third quarter comeback, CSKA Moscow used a dominant final term to crush KK Zagreb of Croatia in Euroleague action. Missing one superstar and with two others having quiet nights, CSKA’s efforts proved they are the team to beat in this year’s competition. 

After seeing a double-digit lead turn into a late third quarter deficit, Moscow turned in a team effort to put Zagreb away, going up by as many as 17 points and eventually winning 87-74. Without Andrei Kirilenko and with near no show performances from Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic, CSKA turned to their role players who performed admirably admirably against the dwindling Croatian side.

Leading the way for the first three quarters was Jamont Gordon, a shooting guard who came into the game averaging only five points per contest. His average shooting performance the previous week against Bamberg had clearly been forgotten as Gordon dropped nine first quarter points and pressure Zagreb’s defense with his penetration and passing abilities. Gordon did most of his damage on pull-up long distanced twos but was also a threat off the dribble, scoring some points at the ring, making the highlight dunk of the night in transition, and hitting open team-mates off the dribble. Gordon finished with 18 points on 6-7 shooting inside the arc and 2-for-5 from outside. He also managed two rebounds and three assists while keeping Moscow competitive during the first three quarters.

Nenad Krstic, a no show through the first three quarters, finally produced in the fourth where he scored the majority of his 14 points and led the charge that put Zagreb to bed. Krstic doesn’t have an NBA out and will remain in Moscow for the entire season, something Moscow fans would surely have no gripes about. When Krstic is on his game, and he has been throughout the Euroleague (Krstic was awarded with the Euroleague MVP for November prior to the game), he is one of the best players of Euroleague. An elite post talent, Krstic has an offensive arsenal that is unmatched at this level and combined with size and ability, he is just about unstoppable. He used his talents in the low block to punish the Zagreb defenders and also caused problems with his outside jumper. It was a second straight ‘quiet’ game for Krstic though he still finished with 14 points and nine boards (four offensive), numbers that would put him in the elite upper echelon of Euroleague big man on most days anyway.

Last week’s hero, Milos Teodosic, was a complete mystery. He scored his only three points in opening term and contributed little else other than a whole lot of sulking in his 13 minutes of action. I am unsure why one of the competitions best point guards wasn’t really given much of an opportunity but luckily CSKA received some valuable contributions from some of their role guys. Sammy Mejia (Dominican Republic) had 13 points as he attacked and slashed his way into the heart of Zagreb defense and Andrey Vorontsevich was also helpful with 10 first half points on 5-5 shooting before disappearing to the rooms early in the second half with a suspected knee injury.

For the visitors, there weren’t really too many bright spots. Their two patches of good play (the first five minutes of the first quarter and the last seven of the third) were brilliant but the rest of the performance was pretty miserable. Zagreb’s best player was easily American, Josh Heytvelt, the athletic, sweet shooting forward out of Gonzaga. His 14 point third quarter (19 in total) actually brought Zagreb in front for a brief moment late in third as he nailed triple after triple. There’s a lot to like about Heytvelt, not only does shoot at an elite level, but he hits the glass hard and can help out of defense. He had an angry help side rejection, pinning a layup attempt off the glass, and showed a lot of defensive ability. He is still relatively young I expect big things from him in the future.

Krunoslav Simon was also good for Zagreb and finished with a game high 21 points. The guard out of Croatia showed a decent long distance jumper, making two early threes to start the game, but he went cold from long distance after that point and missed his only four other attempts. Averaging almost 15 points a game, Simon is a solid all-round contributor with nice ball handling ability, but he showed made some unintelligent decisions in this one and contributed turnovers and poor quality attempts throughout. One of the Euroleague’s top scorers, Simon has hit double figures in seven of the first eight games, but his decisions and turnovers are somewhat worrying. He’s averaging three turnovers a game with two outings already having featured five turnovers and another with four.

Speaking of the good and the bad, it’s about time we mentioned Sean May. Winner of the Most Outstanding Player of the 2005 NCAA tournament, the year his North Carolina squad won the national champion, May was once upon a time a lottery pick of the Charlotte Bobcats. The big bodied forward never made a real impact in the NBA and now finds himself playing in Croatia where he is third in rebounds and averages a solid 12 points per game. His offensive game was pretty decent in this one; he scored 13 points and missed only two shots inside the arc, but it was his ridiculous amount of confidence in his outside game that had me stunned. Going 1-6 from three point land, May kept firing away, even though he couldn’t be stopped when he ventured inside the paint and kept his back to the basket. What appeared to be an injured ankle (or it could be the extra weight he continues to carry around) noticeably slowed him down, but he made too many sloppy mistakes, especially failing to box out which led to CSKA gabbing offensive rebounds on multiple occasions, and was a liability on both ends at various points.

Zagreb didn’t have enough to keep up with CSKA and their loss effectively eliminates them from contention for the Round of 16. CSKA, on the other hand, are primed to make a run at the championship, and along with Barcelona, are looking to be the top team when it’s all said and done.

You can follow Robert on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr

Catching Up With Barcelona, Real Madrid

Here is an in-depth look at how a couple of Spanish teams are faring early on in Euroleague, including one that is about to feel the effects of the NBA lockout resolution.

Having played six games, FC Barcelona Regal is one of only two teams that remain undefeated and feature a roster with some of Europe’s best talent. Among them is Juan Carlos Navarro who was recently became the all-time Euroleague leading scorer. As a matter of course, most teams good enough to play in the Euroleague don’t give out more than 25 minutes per game, even to their star players, due to the heavy schedules of not only this competition but their domestic and cup leagues. That is why it is rare to see inflated stats that can be accumulated in the less competitive leagues. Navarro has continued his superb form from EuroBasket 2011 and is averaging 12.5 points per outing.

Navarro is one star remaining for Barcelona’s 2009-10 Euroleague championship and he is also accompanied by the likes of veterans Fran Vazquez, Boniface N’Dong and Pete Mickeal, three guys with NBA ties.

Vazquez, a power forward the Orlando Magic were hoping to team with Dwight Howard, is most famous for being made the 11th pick in the 2005 NBA. He never made it over to the States with some speculating he only entered the draft in order to raise his stocks in contract negotiations with European clubs. Never having been a stats monster, Vazquez possesses decent big man skills and valuable size, averaging only five points per along with some Ben Wallacesque free throw shooting percentages.

N’Dong is a long, active center and is having a nice Euroleague season and an even better one in the Spanish ACB. He was 28 in 2005-06 when he made his NBA debut for the Clippers. He didn’t show enough to stick around the NBA despite his physical abilities and has since made a solid career for himself in Europe, one that could have seen him return to the States in a backup role he had desired.

Despite never playing a game for either Dallas or New York after coming out Cincinnati, Pete Mickeal has developed into a do-it-all wing player in Europe. An athletic player with the ability to score from the perimeter or with his strength down low, Mickeal is surprisingly having a better Euroleague season than in domestic competition despite playing less minutes. Third on the team in scoring with an average of nearly 11 points per game, Mickeal is also good for four rebounds and a shade under two assists in less than 20 minutes of action a night.

Rounding out the team is Slovenian national Erazem Lorbek who played college ball at Michigan State University and had a cup of tea with the Indiana Pacers. He leads the team in scoring with over 14 points a game in spite of attempting only four free throws in six games. Brazilian point guard Marcelinho Huertas is also having a solid season averaging 11 points and six assists while shooting an incredible 73% from inside the arc.

Real Madrid, another Spanish team, is also enjoying some Euroleague success in Group C, having won four of their first six games. Both losses amounted to a total of seven points, including a one point loss to Partizan.

Real’s best player has easily been Jaycee Don Carroll who is averaging 18.2 points per game (fourth in Euroleague scoring). In only 22 minutes per night, Carroll has scorched the competition, shooting nearly 52% on two point attempts and a shade under 59% on threes. After an excellent career at Utah State University, in which he propelled himself up some of the NCAA all-time scoring charts but nevertheless went undrafted, NBA Summer League never provided him with a ticket to the league. At a height that is generally considered too small for a shooting guard by NBA standards (6 ft 2), Carroll has proven to be more than adequate in Europe where he has carved out a niche as a scoring guard capable of hauling in big numbers.

Real will be affected heavily by the departures of two notable NBA players that were having great Euroleague seasons. Rudy Fernandez is about to try his luck out with the Dallas Mavericks and steal the starting two guard position and will leave a big dent in the team’s production. The leading minute man through six games, Fernandez was also second in points (13 ppg) while contributing three rebounds and two assists per outing. His ability to light it up from outside and provide nice athletic plays around the ring will undoubtedly be missed. Serge Ibaka, the young rising power forward from Oklahoma City, was also providing a big spark off the bench. In just 13 minutes of action since his late signing by the club, Ibaka was grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots an outing to go along with five points per.

Real features a host of other guys contributing solid numbers, some with NBA ties. Sergio Rodriquez had a few moments in the NBA but he played best when given the opportunity after the trade that brought Tracy McGrady to the Big Apple. He averaged seven points per game in New York, the highest of his short NBA career. Known for his slick passing, Rodriquez is averaging a team-high six assists as a part-time starter at the point. Sergio Llull and Ante Tomic are also having nice Euroleague seasons. Nikola Mirotic, the 20-year-old naturalized Spanish national player (and Houston’s pick at number 23 in the most recent NBA Draft) is having a nice season at the power forward position and is one of the many guys hovering just under 10 points per game in Real’s balanced offensive attack.

Both Spanish teams are having spectacular Euroleague seasons, dominating their respective groups, and have a chance to take home the hardware when it’s all said and done. The question marks surrounding Real’s roster due to their NBA departures might see them slip a bit but both teams are deep enough to go far in Europe’s most prestigious club basketball tournament.

 

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