EuroLeague Takeaways from Round 16

EuroLeague takeaways from Round 16

The last EuroLeague gameday of 2019 is now behind us. All eighteen teams stepped onto the courts all around Europe on either December 26 or December 27, 2019, and there were some interesting takeaways from round 16. The 2019-20 EuroLeague regular season has come and gone with plenty of thrill, delight, and frustration.

EuroLeague Round 16 Recap

What A Game by Anadolu Efes

One of the prettiest teams in EuroLeague in terms of the style of play, Anadolu Efes, displayed what we’re used to on Thursday night against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Maccabi started the game well in courtesy of its tough, contact-happy interior defense. Not long after, Efes found a weak spot in the Maccabi defense using Krunoslav Simon. The Croatian playmaker came off the bench and provided an immediate spark with nine first-quarter points. 

Maccabi, down 23-19 after the first, summoned the wunderkind Deni Avdija on the court to nullify Simon in the first half of the second quarter. An 18-year-old, 6’9’’ youngster with guard skills, Avdija dominated Simon on the low block on offense and brought balance to the Israeli outfit and the scoreline.

Efes found the solution to break the opposition pressure on the ball-handler above the break. Trapping the ball-handler with two players in the pick-and-roll went wrong when Efes brought the guns. Rodrigue Beaubois, along with Simon, started bombing catch-and-shoot threes on either wing, increasing the tempo and giving the Turks a cushion at half-time. (48-41)

 

The second half was a different show. Vasilije Micić joined Beaubois and Simon, Efes drained six three-pointers in the third quarter. The trio was enough to seal it. The game, throughout which Efes made 16 threes in 28 attempts, never returned to its competitive nature in the first half. Micic scored 23 points, along with two rebounds and five assists. Simon had had 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. Beaubois exited the game with 22 points and four steals.

A 99-79 win in Istanbul made everyone in the stands, and before their televisions say, “What a game!”.

 

This Time Its ALBA 

Upon terminating the contract of Velimir Perasovic on December 20, KIROLBET Baskonia brought another club legend back in Dusko Ivanovic in the hopes of getting wins, at least not losing by much. Ivanovic, who has been the head coach of Turkish outfit Beşiktaş Sompo Sigorta for one and a half seasons before getting sacked one day before he switched jobs, had coached Baskonia in two stints. He was previously at the helm from 2000 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2012. Ivanovic guided the club to two of its three Spanish League titles in 2002 and 2010, to the EuroLeague Finals in 2001, and the EuroLeague championship game in 2005. Even the winningest coach in club history could not make an immediate impact on the side bleeding out fast.

Against ALBA Berlin, the third-worst defense in the competition, Baskonia could only score 57 points and conceded 81. The Germans led on the scoreboard almost the whole game and never actually looked back. It is now the fifth time in a row Baskonia has seen 20 points or more deficit on the scoreline in a loss. Having lost its determination, Baskonia is the least efficient offense in EuroLeague, and defense is not looking good, either. Time will tell if Ivanovic can be able to turn the situation around.

Fear ASVEL in Astroballe

LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne is the most pleasant surprise of EuroLeague this season. It has won seven of nine games at home so far. It has beaten the likes of Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, KIROLBET Baskonia, CSKA Moscow at Astroballe, a 5,556-seat fortress ASVEL utilizes as a factory of surprises. The latest win there against Khimki proved how difficult to beat ASVEL in a familiar environment for the team.

On December 26, Khimki Moscow found itself in a hole against a feisty ASVEL. With 07:09 to go, ASVEL was up 78-61. That’s when Khimki coach Rimas Kurtinaitis unexpectedly subbed out his star, Alexey Shved. The number one scorer in the competition never returned to the game, as the lineup of Chris Kramer, Stefan Jovic, Jānis Timma, Anthony Gill, and Jeremy Evans played until the end.

They responded with a comeback. Against ASVEL, which boasts less quality than Khimki, those five guys trimmed the deficit down to one, with 01:41 left to go. In the remaining hundred-and-one seconds, Khimki has made only one of its five field goals. Kramer’s two missed free throws with nine seconds to play was the breaking point.

In the end, ASVEL survived to its eighth win of the season. And the owner, the legendary Tony Parker, is happy.

Real Madrid Beat PAO as Usual

Real Madrid has won the last nine games against Panathinaikos. The streak dated back to April 2018, when two teams faced each other in playoffs. Madrid eliminated PAO in four games and won the title that year. Their clash in Round 16 proved that Madrid’s recent success against Panathinaikos isn’t a coincidence.

The first talking point is how Real Madrid neutralized Nick Calathes. Pablo Laso’s team constantly went under Calathes’ screens in the pick-and-roll because of his inability to shoot from the deep. So, Real forced Calathes to finish it under the hoop in almost every pick-and-roll situation, over the defenders like Edy Tavares, Jordan Mickey, and Jeffery Taylor. Real nullified PAO’s pick-and-roll production, which is central to its style of play.

Plus, Real Madrid’s physical defenders gave no chance to PAO’s post players like Deshaun Thomas. Thomas brought a different threat to the court against most teams, but Madrid isn’t one of those teams. The physicality, especially at the five, helped Real Madrid move the ball better, as Mickey or Tavares’ gravity freed up the shooters like Anthony Randolph, Nicolás Laprovíttola, and Trey Thompkins.

Real Madrid has learned how to beat Panathinaikos, and, therefore, got the easy 75-87 win. Spanish giants also got significant contributions from Tavares, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Randolph, who poured in 22 points. It was just another day at the office.

Olimpia Milan’s Downfall

Olimpia Milan had a great start to the season, having won six out of its first seven games. However, since November 20, it has won only once. The downfall Milan is in showed itself when Milan clashed with CSKA Moscow away from home for the opening game of the round.

At the starting phase of the game, Milan established its compact defense pressuring the passing lanes, leading to early CSKA turnovers. The Russian outfit overcame the turnovers via its two guards’, Daniel Hackett and Mike James’, one-on-one skills. The duo was able to beat their men off the dribble all night, and it was just the beginning.

Milan regained the lead in the second quarter when Ettore Messina resorted to his skilled bigs on the block and the roll. Artūras Gudaitis, Kaleb Tarczewski, and 40-year-young Luis Scola dominated especially the left block, got Milan to play at a slower tempo. Due to this, Milan shot 6-for-10 from the paint in the second quarter, doubling CSKA (26-13) in points in the quarter.

Down 39-32 at halftime, CSKA unlocked the three-point area at the beginning of the second half with the help of Hackett burying two threes from the corner. James joined the Italian-American point guard with his assists and high-octane drives to the hoop. Meanwhile, Milan did not hold back its weapons, and now, offenses are in charge.

In the crunch time, CSKA prevailed thanks to having better playmakers in James and Hackett. Milan, whose three playmakers, Sergio Rodriguez, Vladimir Micov, and Michael Roll had a total of seven assists, is a good defensive team when they work collectively, but isolation defense and limited offensive output is what led to a downfall.

The One Where Nobody Scores

The sub-title is not from a Friends episode. It could be, though, if Friends ever shot an episode in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Zenit Saint Petersburg and Red Star Belgrade, on Friday night, had a half where nobody scores. Two teams scored a total of 49 points in the latter 20 minutes of the game.

In the third quarter, Zenit shot two for 12 from the field, while Red Star had five baskets in 16 attempts. The 14-7 score in the third quarter was only followed by another fruitless 10 minutes of basketball. Zenit made only one field goal in the last quarter. In an extremely inefficient offensive day for the Russians, whose scoring output (58) was the lowest of the season, Red Star got the win thanks to two of its players: Billy Baron and Lorenzo Brown.

 

Sharpshooter Baron scored a career-high 26 points on five for six from the three-point land, and without a miss in four two-point shots. A Toronto Raptors player during the last season, Brown ended the day with 18 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. The American duo provided a total of 53 of Red Star’s 65 points. Having won for the seventh time this season, Red Star owes a lot to Baron and Brown.

The Way Fenerbahçe Loses Makes No Sense Anymore 

One of the best rosters in EuroLeague is now at 5-11 and on a four-game losing streak. Fenerbahçe Beko went up against in-form Valencia on Friday night. An almost perfect (22/23) night from the line, in addition to a stellar performance by Nando De Colo, brought Fenerbahçe up 11 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Spanish visitors who were already dominating the offensive glass pulled down ten offensive rebounds in the last ten minutes of regulation. These boards translated to 12 second-chance points for Valencia.

While the deficit got slimmer and slimmer, with 0.4 seconds to go, Alberto Abalde followed up a missed layup to get the 84-82 lead. Zeljko Obradovic, as expected, came up with an ATO play to free De Colo up to tie the game. Valencia defense put too much pressure on Bobby Dixon’s cut above the break, thus left the best player on the court alone at the rim.

 

Fenerbahçe Beko could not put the game away at home against a lesser opposition for the second game in a row. The inexplicable happened. In the overtime, Fenerbahçe went up by five, 98-93, with 39 seconds left to play. Aaron Doornekamp’s and-one off another one of the 25 offensive rebounds for Valencia and a free throw by Abalde kept Valencia afloat.

Abalde missed his second free throw and somehow rebounded his miss. Jordan Loyd drove to the basket after several passes, got the and-one with eight seconds to go to get the 98-100 win for the Spanish outfit. The next day, EuroLeague Basketball announced that the defensive foul call on Leo Westermann was an incorrect call, which should have been called an offensive foul on Jordan Loyd resulting in the cancellation of the two-point field goal and possession for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.

Ejected and Given a Standing Ovation 

In the last game of the week, Barcelona hosted Olympiacos in a well-anticipated game. Barcelona possesses and brought too much quality to the floor compared to the opponent. It did not trail in the game after the 18th minute and had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter. It was a routine, 90-80 win for Barcelona against a struggling Olympiacos. They have now lost four of the last five games. 

However, the talking point of the game was none of these. It was Barcelona coach Svetislav Pesic. With 04:53 left to play in the third quarter, when Barcelona was on a 12-0 run to get a 13-point (56-43) lead, a personal foul called on Cory Higgins drove Pesic up the wall. Seemingly endless protests to the referee cost the 30-year-old two consecutive technical fouls. He got ejected from the game, and that’s when the fun starts. The home crowd at Blaugrana gave him a standing ovation.

 

Barcelona fans know how to make the best out of everything, for sure.

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