EuroLeague Takeaways from Round 17

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ATHENS, GREECE - JANUARY 02: Vasilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos becomes top scorer for all seasons after the Turkish Airlines Euroleague basketball match between Olympiacos Piraeus and Fenerbahce Beko at Piece and Friendship Stadium in Athens, Greece on January 02, 2020. (Photo by Andreas Papakonstantinou/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A brand-new decade kicked off in EuroLeague with the nine Round 17 games played on January 2nd and 3rd. The first half of the regular season is now over, and the last round of the first half will make its mark in the books with milestones, debuts, surprises, and redemption.

EuroLeague Round 17 Recap

Vassilis Spanoulis is the G.O.A.T.

Before Round 17, Vassilis Spanoulis was EuroLeague’s all-time leader in assists, index rating, minutes played, drawn fouls, and free throws made. In Round 17, he became EuroLeague’s all-time leader in points. He needed ten points to surpass the legendary Juan Carlos Navarro (4,152 career points) for the top spot before the home clash against Fenerbahçe Beko.

Spanoulis, the embodiment of a clutch-time player, scored ten of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. The moment when he got the crown could not be more Spanoulis-like: Sizing up a bigger guy beyond the three-point line, stepping to his right before shooting over him, draining it as usual.

There is no doubt anymore that naming Spanoulis the G.O.A.T of EuroLeague makes perfect sense.

Fener Draining Threes

Fenerbahçe Beko snapped its four-game losing streak with a 96-87 road win over Olympiacos on Thursday night. The focal point of the game is 16 threes made by Fener. Turkish outfit was on fire the whole game. Fener drained six threes apiece in the second and third quarters; made four threes in the first; knocked down two three-pointers in the fourth. Kostas Sloukas’ half-court buzzer-beater in the first quarter may be the most spectacular of them all.

Those 16 threes are the most Fenerbahçe Beko made this season in EuroLeague so far. Nando De Colo led the pack once again with five threes, Luigi Datome drained three treys, and three different players chipped in with two three-pointers. It was a team effort, and the strong showing in one of the toughest road arenas to play suggests that it may be the first step towards a better direction for the underperformed side.

Malcolm Thomas with a Good Debut

In addition to the long-range game, Fenerbahçe Beko had another reason to be hopeful based on what happened on January 2nd: Former Philadelphia 76er Malcolm Thomas joined Fenerbahçe for the remainder of the season after a three-game stint in China. His presence might bring Fener a frontcourt player who is quick and athletic enough to pressure the ball-handler above the break, go immediately back to the rim and roll to the paint on the offense.

And he showed what he’s capable of in his debut. In 20 minutes he played in Piraeus, he seemed to be adept at the defensive system Zeljko Obradovic asks from his players. Plus, Thomas did his duties on the defensive end and was not in discordance with his new teammates. This is probably what made coach Obradovic happy the most. In the absence of defending EuroLeague MVP Jan Vesely, a quick, athletic, smart player like Thomas was needed in the Anatolian side of Istanbul, and Thomas is about to bring Fenerbahçe what it needs.

Bayern Switches Off on the Road

Bayern Munich has won only once in eight road games so far this season. And the trend goes on in 2020. On January 2nd, Bayern clashed with a modest Red Star Belgrade side in Stark Arena. The Germans, similar to the other six road games they lost, were never there to compete. Powered by Lorenzo Brown and Dejan Davidovac, Red Star never trailed after the fourth minute and was up by as much as 36.

In the seven road losses this season, Bayern has seen an average deficit of 22.8 points. The team basically switches off on the road. The only time it does not was when Bayern went up against the lowly ALBA Berlin in Round 14. Maodo Lo saved that game for Bayern in overtime.

Its performances at home (six wins, three losses) has helped Bayern stay alive for the playoffs right before the second half of the season. If Bayern is not getting better on the road, its hopes will not last long.

Marko Jagodić-Kuridža: Remember the Name

Marko Jagodić-Kuridža might be EuroLeague’s Andre Ingram. He is 32, has had an unremarkable career, and has finally gotten a chance to show who he is on the big stage. Like Ingram, Jagodić-Kuridža benefits from the opportunity. In Red Star Belgrade’s 93-63 win over Bayern Munich, he played 24 minutes and recorded seven points, two blocks, along with some highlight-worthy moments.

In his only second EuroLeague game, Jagodić-Kuridža managed to get his name spoken out loud. We will see if we should remember his name for the possibility to brag about finding out who he is first.

P.S: Here’s how his name is pronounced.

Lekavicius Stunned Maccabi

Zalgiris Kaunas overcame a nine-game losing streak last week against Bayern Munich. It further got back to winning ways by stunning Maccabi Tel Aviv Thursday night. It happened thanks to a gutsy performance in the fourth quarter by Lukas Lekavicius.

After 30 minutes of basketball, teams were tied at 53. There would be a 10-minute game in Zalgirio Arena. That’s when Lekavicius, a 5’11” guard from Lithuania, stepped up. To start with, he scored 10 points in the third quarter to get his team to erase a 15-point lead in seven minutes. He continued damaging Maccabi with 11 points in the fourth quarter. He scored 21 in the second half on shooting (6/8) from the field. Four treys in six attempts (all in the second half) highlighted his excellent night in which he recorded 23 points, two assists, and two steals.

Thus, Zalgiris won 73-68 for its fifth win of the season. Downed by Lithuanian international point guard, Maccabi lost the second game in a row upon winning five consecutive games.

After the game, Zalgiris coach Saras Jasikevicius recapped the season for his team.

“All through the year, we deserved so much better things, and we didn’t get them,” Jasikevicius said. “I’m not sure we played good enough to win today, but you know sometimes during the long season you just take a W and you go home and you try to work on your stuff.”

Zalgiris Kaunas, as the coach admitted, needs to “just take a W” at this point of the season, and Lekavicius gave the team a valuable one.

What the Bask Happened?

KIROLBET Baskonia is becoming a friend of Takeaways. The way the team has been carrying itself on the court has been disappointing so far, but its clash against Barcelona last week proved there’s still life in Basque Country.

Baskonia shooters like Nik Stauskas and Matt Janning started bombing from beyond the three-point line soon after the tip-off. The likes of Pierria Henry and Shavon Shields joining them in the second quarter only furthered Baskonia’s lead. Barcelona’s unremarkable offense built by Svetislav Pesic helped the case, either.

Baskonia was thought to win it comfortably, but the Barcelona roster is just too good to let it happen. Barça never got a lead throughout the game but threatened the hosts due to composed performances of Kyle Kuric and Pierre Oriola. Two rotation players got Barcelona back in the game, and the score was tied at 74 with 56 seconds to go. From that point on, nobody in Fernando Buesa Arena could have prevented what was going to happen:

On the next possession, Tornike Shengelia had the ball at the right-wing, looking for a teammate to pass. He saw Nikola Mirotic guarding him and decided to drive the rack. A go-ahead, game-winning, left-handed dunk over Mirotic followed that decision. The drama wasn’t over, though.

Mirotic missed a two-pointer from the left block. The next Baskonia possession was interrupted by a personal foul and a Barcelona timeout. Shengelia turned the ball over after the timeout, giving Barcelona a chance to gain its first lead in the game, as well as a road win. Baskonia fans, players, and staff took deep breaths when Oriola missed a long three at the buzzer.

In the end, every single person watching the game must have said, “What the Bask happened?!”. Basketball happened, that’s the answer.

Calathes Paid His Dues

Nick Calathes, one of the premier perimeter defenders in the competition and the best passer his coach Rick Pitino has ever seen, had a redemption game against CSKA Moscow on Friday night. Last week against Real Madrid, he did well on the boxscore but was ineffective. The difference between the two opponents was the approach on Calathes’ shot. CSKA respected his shot too much, while Real aggressively ignored it. CSKA instructed its guards to fight through the screens on the pick-and-roll possessions Calathes ran. Therefore, he found a wider lane to display his passing skills and finish under the hoop.

PAO outmuscled CSKA in the paint, converted its chances from the area, thus had an 11-point (49-60) lead in the third quarter. However, CSKA still had something to say. Daniel Hackett caught fire from beyond the three-point line, and Panathinaikos’ defense could not come out to prevent its opponent from passing the ball to take wide-open shots. Mike James, Hackett’s partner in crime, showed how dangerous he is as a scorer in the fourth quarter, as CSKA rallied back.

James, though, trusted his jump shot too much down the stretch. Crucial misses by CSKA led to an incredible three-pointer to tie the game by Calathes. The non-shooter made it when it counts the most as he did last year.

Panathinaikos won 106-102 on the road in a vintage game. Calathes scored 22, to go along with six rebounds, and 17 assists. 17 is the highest mark of the season and one short of his career-high in assists. Florida University product paid his dues from last week with one of the greatest games of his career.

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