The 51st week of 2019 was a double-week in EuroLeague. Between December 16 and December 20, a total of 18 games have been played in the competition. Each round was over in two days. So, regular season Round 14 and Round 15 are now behind us, as a result of tight EuroLeague schedule. The third double-week in EuroLeague brought a lot of moments where joy, disappointment, victory, and defeat intertwined with one another.
A rarity happened at the very beginning of Round 14. EuroLeague Basketball, the executive branch of EuroLeague, deemed that Panathinaikos Athens shall play its next home game behind closed doors, for the failure to adopt the necessary security measures, the lighting of flares and fireworks inside the arena, committing acts that show a lack of respect, on occasion of its home game against Olympiacos Piraeus in Round 12. So, Panathinaikos was without its fans against Fenerbahce Beko in Round 14. Without passionate Panathinaikos fans in OAKA, arguably the toughest arena in basketball, the game was a bit bland. What made it worthy of a mention is a no-call in the last possession of the game.
? @NandoDeColo & @ReseRice4
? @paobcgr ? @FBBasketbol
➡️ Last play of the game. Fener wants foul of Rice in the 3-point shot of De Colo (the score was 81-78).#EuroLeague #paobc #PAOFNB pic.twitter.com/S3KCp80Ebs
— Stefanos Marolachakis (@marolas30) December 17, 2019
While the score was at 81-78, Nando De Colo caught a live ball with 3.3 seconds left. He attempted a game-tying three-pointer to complete the 13-point Fenerbahçe comeback in the last eight minutes of the game. He missed it, but Tyrese Rice’s contest sparked a lot of controversies. Many believed the referees should have awarded three free throws to De Colo. They did not, but the next day, EuroLeague Basketball issued a statement, admitting this was an incorrect no-call. A no-call with no spectators might have cost a Fenerbahçe a win.
Fenerbahçe Beko possesses one of the best rosters of the competition and is the underperformer of the season so far. A lot of this stems from its poor performances in the third quarter of the games. Fenerbahçe was behind in the third quarters of seven of its ten losses in 15 rounds. The average deficit in the third quarter in its last five losses is 10.2. The games against Panathinaikos and Zenit Saint-Petersburg in rounds 14 and 15 are the latest examples of this trend.
Turkish outfit managed to come back against Panathinaikos, albeit it eventually fell short. However, against the last-placed Zenit, things were far worse. No team could ice the game until the very last moments. Kostas Sloukas drained a three with six seconds to go, and he tied the game up at 81. On the next possession, Ahmet Düverioğlu couldn’t keep his assignment (Gustavo Ayón) in front of himself, and Sloukas left Andrew Albicy open for a corner three. Zenit dramatically won 84-81.
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) December 19, 2019
After that game, head coach Zeljko Obradovic did not take questions from the press. The phrase “… We need to think and make a decision about everything else. I hope you understand me. That’s it for me tonight,” gave away an implication that he’s going to step down in his seventh season at the helm. The club denied the rumors via an official statement. There are many things to fix for Fenerbahçe. Keeping the greatest coach in European basketball history on the job is crucial. Overall performances in especially third quarters have to get better, too.
How can you be the most influential player on the court even when you score zero points? Chris Singleton knows the answer. He displayed one of the weirdest performances of the season in Anadolu Efes’ 68-74 road win over Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 14. He missed all five shots from the floor but recorded ten rebounds, two assists, one block, four steals, including one clutch steal down the stretch. His effort on the defense was impeccable. Thus, he brought Anadolu Efes the victory on a day both Vasilije Micić and Shane Larkin were struggling. And he knew what he did was different.
— Sing (@C_SING31) December 17, 2019
Omri Casspi, Tarik Black, John DiBartolomeo, and Nate Wolters. If you add one more player, that would be a pretty impressive line-up, but in fact, it is the list of players who were missing through injury for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Despite that, Maccabi is on a five-game winning streak, beating the likes of CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos. The win over Panathinaikos in Round 15 was the most remarkable of them all.
Panathinaikos came up strong with a fluent offense led by floor general Nick Calathes. Greek team was also well-prepared on defense, thus had a 15-point lead midway into the second quarter. A smaller lineup able to pass the ball quickly helped Maccabi get more isolation chances and more points in the second half. The defense also became much stronger, as it had more time to settle after a made basket. Outcoached and outplayed, Rick Pitino’s Panathinaikos could not respond to its opponent. Maccabi erased the lead to win 88-79.
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) December 19, 2019
The likes of Scottie Wilbekin, Tyler Dorsey, and Quincy Acy stepped up big for Maccabi. And they will have Aaron Jackson on the roster soon. Maccabi overcame injuries and is still dangerous to any team in EuroLeague.
Upon the departures of De Colo, Sergio Rodriguez, Cory Higgins, and losing 2019 Final Four MVP Will Clyburn to ACL injury, many considered CSKA Moscow as weak. They were thought to miss the Final Four for the first time since 2011. The truth, though, cannot be farther from it. Powered by the offseason signings such as Mike James, Johannes Voigtmann, Janis Strelnieks, and Darrun Hilliard, CSKA Moscow proved that nobody should ignore the Russian outfit. After easily beating Red Star Belgrade on the home soil, the Round 15 clash against Anadolu Efes showed the solidity of CSKA.
In one of the most entertaining games of the season, Mike James had the last say. CSKA had an 11-point comeback in the last quarter, and James scored the go-ahead shot before Larkin missed a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer. He even made a full-court shot right after the buzzer.
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) December 20, 2019
Last season’s scoring champion, James, is as ruthless as it gets when he’s in the zone. He notched the Player of the Round honors in Round 14 and 15. He carries a resilient team on his shoulders. Do not rule them out.
On December 17, Real Madrid and Olimpia Milano played a tough, defensive-minded game. In the first half, Ettore Messina’s Milano dominated Real Madrid guards on the defense. Milano did not put the pressure down on Facundo Campazzo, Madrid’s primary playmaker. The absence of Sergio Llull due to a muscle injury did not help Madrid either. In the second half, though, tables have turned.
Real Madrid started the engines of its defense built around energetic Campazzo and Edy Tavares. Only five minutes of clogging all the lanes in pick-and-roll situations were enough for the Spanish powerhouse to shut down the opposition. Milano could score only 28 points in the last 20 minutes of the game. Madrid got its tenth win in a row and is now at the top of the standings in EuroLeague with 12 wins.
Baskonia is falling apart. To explain this collapse in the simplest terms, the deficits of Baskonia’s last five losses in a month are 30, 32, 25, 28, and 22. The 77-55 loss to Real Madrid in Round 15 marked the end of Velimir Perasovic’s third stint with the club.
Baskonia has won six games so far and is only two games away from the eighth and the last playoff spot. Baskonia could mathematically turn the situation around, but there seems to be no hope on the court. Baskonia has seemingly lost the edge that made the opponents watch them out. The ability to fight back has now gone, and despite all the quality the side boasts, the window for a playoff spot is about to get closed.
In Round 14, two games presented the EuroLeague spectators the thrill of a completed comeback. Olympiacos hosted Khimki Moscow on December 18. In a hard game, Khimki had a nine-point lead (87-96) with one minute to go, with a 12-4 rally. In the last minute, Georgios Printezis, Brandon Paul, and Vassilis Spanoulis each drained an incredible three-point shot to play five more minutes of basketball.
On the same day, ALBA Berlin and Bayern Munich clashed in a German derby. ALBA Berlin jumped out to a five-point lead (68-63) with one and a half minutes left in regulation, but Maodo Lo happened. The flashy German guard of Bayern Munich assisted on a three-pointer by Vladimir Lucic, then hit back-to-back triples to take the game to overtime. In the overtime, he hit the go-ahead free throws to win it.
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) December 18, 2019
Two incredible comebacks, two winners: Basketball is sometimes delightful to witness.
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