Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EuroLeague First Round Week 4 Recap: CSKA-PAO, Nancy-Caja, Partizan-Real

CSKA-Panathinaikos:

The premier matchup of Week 4 went down to the wire with CSKA stealing a road win in OT, 78-76. Game was close, but not well-played. Rather sloppy affair with ill-advised shots and a combined 37 turnovers. PAO really hurt themselves down the stretch with plenty of bad decisions with the ball.

Wasn't Andrei Kirilenko best game on the offensive end--five TOs and a few failed finishes. But he continued to fill out the stat sheet in other ways--10 rebs, 5 blks (AK currently leads EL in rpg & bpg). Kirilenko had a big offensive rebound late and made a crucial on-ball block in OT.

As usual, AK and his forward counterpart, Vik Khryapa, combined to form a devastating help defensive tandem. Both guys roamed around the floor to snuff out or alter shots. Were a big reason PAO only shot 39.5% on 2PA. Khryapa had another strong all-around performance with 11 pts, 4 assts & 3 blks.

Nenad Krstic (13 pts/11 rebs) was solid again drawing fouls and getting on the offensive glass. Alexey Shved (10 pts) came through with some big plays late in the 4th to allow CSKA to tie the game. Shved did a nice job winding his way to the rim.

Euroleague vet Rimas Siskauskas (14 pts) started the game strong and capped off the game with a clutch 3pt. with a minute left in OT.

Dimis Diamantidis had a rather quiet game--six pts, four assts, three stls--and limited to 20 mins. before fouling out. Nick Calahtes continued his strong '11-'12 EL season with 11 pts, 6 rebs & 3 assts. Thought Calathes did a nice job getting into the lane (scored on floaters a few times) thanks to some nifty ball-handling (nice behind-the-back move).


Nancy-Caja Laboral:

Nancy pulled off a big upset by knocking off previously unbeaten Caja, 90-85, in Group A. Caja Laboral failed to close off the middle of the floor, often leaving wide range for Nancy to move through the painted area. Caja also had a hard time staying with the quicker perimeter players of Nancy. Caja let Nancy make 63% of their 2PA, 44% on 3PA. Caja was able to stick around because they pounded the offensive glass--20 off. rebs. to 24 def. rebs, for Nancy.

Next to Andrei Kirilenko, Nic Batum has been the best all-around player during the first four weeks. Nic paced Nancy with 21 pts, 9 rebs and 4 assts. Nancy loves to set up Batum off baseline screens, usually setting him up on the left block. Did a nice job scoring a few times or drawing fouls in the post.

Nicky Batts has also been handling the ball quite a bit for Nancy and has been sharp with his passes--Batum made a superb lob pass to Akin Akingbala. Batum is currently second in ppg (20.5), second in apg (6.5) and fifth in rpg (7.3). But is first in TOpg (5.0).

Batum got key support from former Clemson standout big, Akin Akingbala, who shredded the porous interior defense of Caja with 26 pts on 11-of-16. Akin finished a bunch of times on cuts, rolls or transition, but he also added a few nice post scores to the mix (faced-up then drove middle). Finished with a baby hook multiple times. Akingbala has been one of top players through four games--he's fifth in ppg (20), third in rpg (7.7 rpg) and is shooting 68%.

Caja's Mirza Teletovic (24 pts, 13 rbs, 3 assts) had been primarily seeing most of his touches in the post in the first three game, but he did damage facing up vs. Nancy. Mirza hit five 3PA either spotting up or drilling with a defender in his face in isolation. Mirza has scored at least 20 points in all four EL games and leads the EL in ppg at 22.3. Encouraging to see him improving his rebounding this year--rebounding well in ACB play.

Kevin Seraphin had another impressive game with 12 pts on 6-of-10. Scored mostly off cuts or rolls, but also threw in a terrific post move where he finished with a powerful slam off a quick spin move. Also threw down a dunk off a nice drop-step on a roll as well.

Fernando San Emeterio started the El season a little slow but he had his second strong showing in a row with 19 pts, 7 rebs, 6 assts, 8-of-12 shooting and 3-for-5 on 3PA.


Partizan-Real Madrid:

Hard to call this game an upset as Partizan was playing in front of their raucous home crowd, but they definitely prevailed over a much deeper and talented Real club, 80-79. Sergio Llull's last-second chuck from the corner rimmed-off to seal the one-point victory for Partizan. Real could not keep Partizan off the FT line--28/32 on FTs to 14/17 for Real.

Partizan's frontcourt tandem of Nikola Pekovic and Milan Macvan were strong once again. Pek made a killing on the right block going over his left shoulder. Either would score with a hook or carve out deep position to score on lay-ins. Deep position got him some scores on the left block as well, including a plus-one vs. Serge Ibaka. Also added a nice put-back dunk in transition. Pek finished with 20 pts on 8-of-14, plus 7 drawn fouls--currently averaging 18 ppg in 25 mins/game. Though, his defensive rebounding continues to be subpar.

Recent Cavs draftee Macvan was great again with 16pts/12 rebs and made heady plays on both ends of the court as usual--couple crucial off. rebounds in the 4th. Macvan has been one of the top players in the EL so far--15 ppg, 7.8 rpg (2nd best), 70% shooting. All of Acie Law's (14 points, 5 assts, 3 stls) came on lay-ups either in transitions or on a couple blow-bys in the half-court.

Like in Week 3, Rudy Fernandez (13 pts) made some dubious plays (careless passes off the dribble) but tempered those poor decisions by making some tough shots, including a step-back 3pt. to give Real a two-point lead with a minute left. Rudy's biggest mistake was when he fouled Acie Law in the backcourt with the score tied at 78 under 24 secs left. Though, not sure if the coach requested that foul as this is not uncommon in Europe. Rudy also might have been frustrated he did not get the foul call on a drive attempt on the previous play (Pekovic looked like he clobbered Rudy).

Thought Sergio Llull had one of his better games this year--13 pts, 5 assts, 3 stls-- and did a good job aggressively taking the ball to the rim either in transition or in half-court. Though, Llull did miss the second of two FTs that would have tied the game at 80 with five secs left.

Serge Ibaka did not have much impact as he was limited to 13 minutes because of four fouls; had trouble handling Pekovic. For the third game in a row, sharpshooter Jaycee Carroll led Real in scoring (21 pts on 8-of-12), but he did more than his usual catch-n-shoot vs. Partizan. He mixed in some drives to rim and a couple of floaters to go along with his usual spot or off screen jumpers. Carroll leads Real in scoring at 18.5 ppg in only 21 mins/game.

Bulls draftee Nikola Mirotic (9 pts, 4 rebs) was so-so once again and mishandled the ball a few times. Ante Tomic (Jazz own rights) was a non-factor once again.

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Games of the Week:

Fenerbahce Ulker vs. Bennet Cantu (Wed.):
Fenerbahce is definitely the more talented team on paper but the 3-1 Cantu team has been playing good ball. Cantu has gotten good play from their frontcourt rotation (G. Shermadini, M. Leunen, D. Marconato). Ulker hope to get another strong outing from Bojan Bogdanovic after a breakout performance in the last game.

Real Madrid vs. Efes (Thurs.): No off weeks in Group C as two very talented teams take the floor in Madrid. Both teams come into the game 2-2. Plenty of players with NBA ties either current (Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka, Ersan Ilyasova) former (Tarence Kinsey, Sasha Vujacic, Sergio Rodriguez) or possible future (Sergio Llull, Nikola Mirotic, Ante Tomic). Real could really use a win at home after two close losses in a row.

Armani Milano vs. Partizan (Thurs.): Another matchup of 2-2 teams in Group C. Partizan is coming off a great win over Real and will try to knock off Milano on the road. Interesting matchup between Nikola Pekovic and Milano's Giannis Bourousis, two of the better centers in Europe. Milano definitely has the edge on the wings with Danilo Gallinari and Malik Hairston.

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