Week 2 clears some things up
The only European to ever win both the Euroleague and NCAA titles, Jiri "George" Zidek has been a collaborator with Euroleague.net and Euroleague.TV since the 2006 Final Four in his native Czech Republic. Big George, who won the Euroleague with Zalgiris Kaunas in 1999, continues as a color analyst of Euroleague games for Czech TV, not to mention for Euroleague.TV, where he has worked the last three Final Fours. In his new blog, he'll offer post-game analysis from an ex-champ's point of view on what games and players are impressing him most!
Partizan mt:s Belgrade 72-68 Khimki Moscow Region
The magic remains. It has been established that the home crowd has been a huge and crucial advantage for Partizan in recent seasons.
The energy and confidence that home crowd gives the team and the pressure it exerts on visiting teams has been the decisive factor in games in the past. Maybe I questioned a bit how many people were going to turn out and how intensely after started 2-2 in the Adriatic League, but I was wrong. The crowd was again phenomenal and boosted the home team when it got down few times in the game.
Both teams played a bit too individualistically during the game. On Partizan's side, Oliver Lafayete is still getting used to the European style of basketball. It's his first time in Europe and maybe he tried to take on too much scoring responsibility at times. He's 5 for 25 combined shooting in the first two games. Partizan needs him to distribute the ball better, to be a floor general first, scorer second. However, down the stretch he made some crucial plays that swung the game to the side of the home team.
Nathan Jawai had an impressive premiere in his home Euroleague debut. He's a great fit in the Partizan lineup, a physically dominant player who makes the most of his minutes. Most importantly for his team, and that Partizan crowd, he plays hard and with lots of emotion. I believe it would help him to lose some weight in order to run the the floor better and have better stamina. It would also enable him to get more vertical lift, which would cause more trouble for defenders on his finishes. Jawai was very aggressive on Wednesday and was one of the keys to Partizan's victory, getting Khimki's big men in trouble. It's hard to believe he shot only one free throw in 28 minutes! But in him, Partizan certainly has a dominant inside player, keeping a tradition after Nikola Pekovic and Aleks Maric. Opponents will have to double-team him if he continues to play like yesterday. Keep an eye on Nathan Jawai.
I expected better teamwork from Khimki. They rellied too much on the individual play of Keith Langford and Zoran Planinic. Only 6 assists for a whole team in 40 minutes tells the story of one player attacking and four standing around. Raul Lopez shot well with 2 three-pointers and his usual smart play, but he needs to direct the team more when he comes off the bench.
Finally, it was a great win for a young Euroleague coach, Vladimir Jovanovic, with an assist from the Partizan crowd.
Brose Baskets Bamberg 73-61 Olympiacos Piraeus
Brose sprung the biggest surprise of Week 2 at the expense of one of the Euroleague title contenders. Bamberg is another place where fans can be a big factor. Though not as fanatic as in Belgrade, the Bamberg fans are always behind their team, regardless of the score. Olympiacos needed to take firm command of the game as early as possible but they let Brose hang around. All heavyweight visitors need to take the home crowd out of the game early and leave no doubt who will be in charge. I expected Olympiacos to take better advantage of their big men - Rasha Nesterovic and Ioannis Bourusis. Their height and experience should have caused major trouble to Brose.
Bamberg got very good guard play, which is not a surprise, except that those guards were playing against a trio of the Euroleague's best in Theo Papaloukas, Milos Teodosic and Vassilis Spanouls. Instead of them, the player who stood out most was Brian Roberts. He had a great offensive night and, what's more important, a gutsy one, taking key shots in the last seconds of either possessions or quarters. Anton Gavel showed again he is a scrappy and tough player who leads by example. John Goldsberry, coming off an injury, made a solid debut, controlling the tempo and making no mistakes, and even Karsten Tada was a valuable hustler off the bench. The first three of them combining for 34 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists means they played the Olympiacos superstar trio (35-7-11) almost even.
The momentum shifted with energizing shots that all came from Bamberg's side, twice by Roberts, at the end of the second and third quarters, and then Kyle Hines driving the lane to dunk on Bourusis. These shots gave huge energy to home team and great confidence. There were no shots like this for Olympiacos. In a similar vein, all the diving on the floor to recover loose balls was done by Bamberg, which also got smart, heady play from a couple veterans. Casey Jacobsen on offense was patient and highly efficient, while on defense, Predrag Suput did a great job of reading the opponent's plays, stepping into passing lanes and getting deflections.
In general, I expected more from the core players of Olympiacos. Teodosic had a tough shooting night from downtown, Spanoulis suffered 4 turnovers. And as a team Olympiacos did not score over 20 points in any quarter. It's safe to say that Olympiacos learned a tried and true Euroleague lesson, which is not to take any team lightly, particularly not one that plays defense like Bamberg. Credit another great crowd and another new Euroleague coach, Chris Flemming, for making it happen.
Panathinaikos Athens 74-60 CSKA Moscow
As one would expect from teams coached by Zeljko Obradovic and Dusko Vujosevic, it was going to
be a tactical, defensive battle. CSKA was in tough spot after losing last week to Milano at home. In the first half against Panathinaikos, the visitors executed well on offense, established players took shots from the right positions, and everyone sacrificed their bodies defensively. At least in that first quarter, big man Boban Marjanovic fit better in the lineup. Panathinaikos started a bit slow, perhaps due to lack of official games and also because of the new faces on roster. They tried to establish Batiste in the post and ran their usual pick-and-rolls, but Marjanovic clogged the middle well and Jamont Gordon put good pressure on the ball.
Panathinaikos struggled from long distance but stayed in the game by turning the ball over only once in the first half. The tie scored at halftime was an exact reflection of the chess match that was taking place on the court. CSKA, already missing Viktor Khryapa and Sasha Kaun, then saw Ramunas Siskauskas leave the game early, never to return. His versatility and experience was needed to affect CSKA's chances of surprising Panathinaikos. Gordon played a very good game but could not manage it all himself.
The addition of Aleks Maric to the Panathinaikos lineup in the second half was interesting. After sitting the first half, it was clear that
he was hungry and played extremely hard around the basket for the Greens. On the perimeter, Romain Sato and Dimitris Diamantidis finally started hitting shots for Panathinaikos, and that opened up the game. Despite all that, it was still a close game with around 5 minutes to play when a pair of crucial, back-to-back turnovers buried CSKA. The final score made it look like an easy win for Panathinaikos, but it was nothing of the sort.
JIRI ZIDEK - PRAGUE
Friday, October 29, 2010