Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 20, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
Even more excitement!
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 offers analysis from an ex-champ's point of view on what games and players are impressing him most!
Game 3 of the Playoffs gave us four more great games played with incredible energy, urgency and concentration as each team tried its best to get into position to have a match ball on Thursday to reach the Final Four. All the home teams enjoyed immense support from frenetic fans who created memorable atmosphere in every arena. I am sure that all teams that are ahead at the moment, especially the three home teams on Thursday, will try to do their best to punch their tickets to Final Four. But don't count anybody out, as this season has featured more than its share of surprises.
Maccabi Electra 2-1 Caja Laboral
It is almost a custom to expect and get an early killer onslaught by Maccabi in the opening minutes of any game at Nokia Arena. Caja Laboral withstood the initial pressure in Game 3 and was able to keep pace offensively throughout the whole first quarter. The effect on the series of a serious injury early in the second quarter to all-around Maccabi star Doron Perkins remains to be seen, but right after it happened, it seemed to infuse his teammates with extra resolve. Star of the game Jeremy Pargo and his long-distance shooting were main propellers of the subsequent run that opened a comfortable lead for Maccabi. Where Pargo started, David Blu picked up, as his three-pointers soon after halftime enabled Maccabi to sit firmly in the driver's seat for the remainder of the game. Praise goes to the whole Maccabi squad, all players did their part. Sofoklis Schortsanitis showed maturity by passing the ball when his shots could not find the mark. The duo of Guy Pnini and Tal Burstein stepped in well for their fallen mate Perkins and fulfilled their role perfectly, with 7 assists combined between them. Milan Macvan logged his first good outing of the series, looking at ease offensively. On the other side, Laboral could not sustain its offensive effectiveness after the first quarter. I don't think trying to outscore Maccabi on their home court is a wise strategy anyway, and Laboral head coach Dusko Ivanovic was rightfully upset with his players' soft defense. Quick fouls to Stanko Barac and a less-than-fluid performance from Esteban Batista made it difficult the visitors to get their big men involved, both offensively and, as a consequence, defensively.
I am sure most pre-Game 4 analyses will concentrate on the effects of Perkins being out. It would be naïve to state that he will be easily replaced. His all-around skills and his never-quit attitude has made him a pivotal player for Maccabi this season. Maccabi's doesn’t lack of scoring potential without Perkins, but his assists, rebounds and defense will be difficult to spread among other players. Pargo, Chuck Eidson and the sniper Blu will have to come out mentally tough and stay focused during all of Game 4. Laboral must improve its defense, especially in one-on-one situations. Players got beat too easily on the perimeter in Game 3 and the help-side defense reacted too slow. Laboral plays its best defense when it's anchored by the size of Barac or by the hustle and toughness of Batista. They need to be on the court, in rhythm, not in and out due to foul trouble. Offensively in Game 3, Laboral shot a lowly 22% from the three-point line: it's clear the visitors need to do a lot better in Game 4 to have a chance.
Power Electronics Valencia 1-2 Real Madrid
The series between the playoffs teams that know each other best recorded another possession-for-possession game on Tuesday – for 30 minutes. Valencia, welcomed by a crowd dressed in orange and ready to feast on another paper favorite, started with a little less focus than in previous games. So did Madrid, as unnecessary errors plagued the early going. Valencia tried to get some easy baskets by pushing the ball upcourt while Madrid successfully focused on proper execution of pick-and-roll situations that brought put Ante Tomic easy baskets. Omar Cook was spectacular with his superb passes for 6 assists in the first half. Rafa Martinez shot the ball well from long distance and Florent Pietrus provided an unexpected contribution off the Valencia bench. Madrid hung tough and did not panic while falling behind by 11 points and closed the gap to 3 at the end of the first half. A little off rhythm after the break, Valencia fell behind initially, but slowly took the reins of the game into its hands, mainly thanks to Cook, who now started to shoot the ball well, too. Valencia seemed very much in control, running a disciplined offense and dictating the tempo of the game. However, the momentum changed rather quickly. A complete Valencia lapse translated into 0-13 run for Madrid, proving again that no team aspiring to win can afford such hollow minutes. Madrid went ahead in the beginning of last quarter and never looked back. Valencia head coach Svetislav Pesic tried to wake up his team during timeouts, but besides Dusko Savanovic, no players responded. Madrid looked impressive as it showed great team basketball, with players passing up shots to look for a better-positioned teammate. Sergio Llull distributed the ball with great precision in key moments, Felipe Reyes showed a lot of poise and unselfishness, while D'or Fischer was the effective finisher.
With injuries to Victor Claver and James Augustine giving it a considerably shorter rotation, Valencia is in no easy situation to face a loaded Madrid squad. Nonetheless, so far, its players have executed a very disciplined game plan with tough, physical defense both inside and on the perimeter. Offensively, accurate outside shooting that opened up the middle later on in the game for Valencia has been the key factor. Another big concern for Valencia is whether it has the energy to rejuvenate itself in time for Game 4, as it must feel a big letdown after completely coming apart in the final 10 minutes of Game 3. Fischer's intent to book the ticket to Final Four was clearly heard in Madrid's celebration huddle after Tuesday's game. It will be interesting to see whether satisfaction over winning Game 3 away, assuring home comforts in a potential Game 5, will now serve as a lullaby for Madrid in Game 4. I expect Madrid to again attack the depleted Valencia interior in Game 4 in an effort to fully exploit its size superiority. Pablo Prigioni and Lull must control the tempo of the game and distribute the ball well, without too many turnovers. However, regardless of all the basketball talk, the hungrier team will come out on top in Game 4.
Panathinaikos 2-1 Regal FC Barcelona
Game 3 of this amazing series featured a packed house of 19,000 fans at OAKA in Athens, and they were treated to a level of basketball that would do any league proud. The first thing you noticed was Ricky Rubio coming out super-charged for Barcelona, taking advantage of the shots Panathinaikos had been daring him to shoot all series. Meantime, the Panathinaikos defense continued to handcuff Juan Carlos Navarro at all costs, and the Greens took their first lead of 7 points early. Terence Morris, who like Rubio had been somewhat missing in action, fueled a 0-9 run for Barcelona's first lead in the second quarter. Panathinaikos re-grouped to lead again by 7 before Jaka Lakovic saved the visitors with a three-pointer to end the first half. For all the depth and contributions on both teams, the story remained one of Dimitris Diamantidis serving as the orchestra conductor for the Greens, while Barcelona's star, Navarro, was reduced to a bit part by the Panathinaikos defense. To everyone's surprise, Rubio got hot from downtown after halftime, with back-to-back three-pointers as Barcelona vaulted into the lead. Despite Rubio hitting another triple, the Greens pulled away with Drew Nicholas and Romain Sato's points to another seven-point lead late in the third. Yet another Rubio triple and one by Lakovic allowed Barcelona to re-take the lead midway through the final quarter. Soon, however, Diamantidis took control and Barcelona started to make some mistakes, leaving Sato open for a three that hurt. Navarro battled to make it a one-point difference entering the final minute, and you could almost cut the tension with a knife at OAKA. But while Diamantidis made all his free throws after that, Fran Vazquez blew a close-in shot opportunity for Barcelona, and then Anderson, with his team down by 3 points, took an open layup with 4 seconds left instead of passing outside for a three-point try. If it can't win Game 4, Barcelona will likely think back on some of those Game 3 mistakes at the end, because they could have won it.
In Game 4, I expect Panathinaikos to stick with what has worked so far, but remember that the losers in all three games so far had three-point tries to win at the end. That's how close this series has been, with well-played basketball and both teams staying true to form. Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic is using mixed defenses more than ever in his career, and that is out of respect for Navarro. Barcelona may have a star-studded team, but it's clear who their leader is. It is hard to win without him. I am surprised not to see Barcelona running its offense inside-out more through Erazem Lorbek in the low post, as we saw a lot last year. They have to find something in Game 4 to let Navarro be Navarro, who has incredible percentages but very few shots in this series. Of course, Barcelona only failed to win due to small details, with its 11-for-18 free throw shooting another example. The biggest personality amid all this great basketball continues to be Diamantidis, who has shown amazing intensity on both ends of the floor. As long as he commands the floor as he has so far, Panathinaikos will have a good chance of closing out. Even so, we are taking here about possibly the two best teams to date, and certainly the two most recent champions, and both have shown why in this series. Either could have won all three game so far. Basketball lovers should just sit back and enjoy this series while it lasts: it could still go either way.
Montepaschi Siena 2-1 Olympiacos
The tables turned once in this series, with a 65-point swing between the first two games, so Game 3, the first in Siena, loomed as one that would tell where things really stand. Olympiacos got good news when Milos Teodosic, last year's MVP, came out in the starting lineup after recent back problems. That news didn't turn out great, however, as he looked a step slow against Siena's hyper defense and played only 9 minutes. Although Olympiacos jumped ahead early, it was a tie game when the re-born Marco Jaric entered and picked up where he had left off in Greece, scoring the last 7 points of the first quarter. He and David Moss, who seems to play a lot better at home for Siena, kept up the disruptive defense that consistently hurt Olympiacos, especially when it came to ball movement. You saw Theo Papaloukas throwing the ball away, which is very rare, and the Olympiacos big men unable to make things happen when getting double-teamed in the post. Olympaicos stayed right in it, nonetheless, but when Vassilis Spanoulis stepped out of bounds with the last possession before halftime, letting Siena break a tie on the buzzer, it was another mental mistake. Matt Nielsen’s triple put the Reds ahead right after halftime, but Siena seemed in control still, and soon proved it. Rimantas Kaukenas and Ksistof Lavrinovic boosted Siena with triples, and Jaric gave the hosts a double-digit lead after 3 quarters. Against an inspired Siena, and due to its own continuing mistakes and defensive lapses, Olympiacos couldn't sustain an attack long enough to make up that difference.
Their 20 turnovers in Game 3 pretty much doomed the Reds, and if they don't get that number under control, it's hard to expect them to survive Game 4. Their problem is that Siena has a lot of confidence now and is playing very much mistake-free by comparison, with an average of 7.5 fewer turnovers than Olympiacos in its two victories. The 48-point loss by Siena in Game 1 is a distant memory. It would be a surprise to see Siena let down now, so Olympiacos will have to raise its game, for sure. Three-point shooting is another concern for the Reds, as they've made just 25% of those in the last two games. Most of Siena's players are coming on the court and making something happen. Andrea Michelori played only 5 minutes in Game 3, but was a factor in all of them on the offensive glass. And of course, there is Jaric. Siena didn't even have to try Bo McCalebb in Game 3, and their Game 2 star Malik Hairston had only 2 points, but they still won easy. Olympiacos has been living and dying on its pick-and-roll, but the Siena defense is well-schooled and has been crowding it far from the basket. The more Siena can maintain its disruption of the Olympiacos ball flow, the better defense the Reds will have to play themselves. There were times in Game 3 when Siena's scorers waltzed to the basket. Most of all the Reds need to match Siena's mental fortitude from tipoff to buzzer, which should give them a chance to play for the win that they need to save their season.
JIRI ZIDEK - PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Send to a Friend
The waiting game
A tug of war until the end
Even more excitement!
Everybody's got a hungry heart
One battle down, second on the way
Looking for Lady Luck
I can't wait!
A week that's unique
Nothing lost, nor won, so far
Turn up the heat to Week 2!
Feel the momentum building!
Here we go again!
A pair of strong finishes
Surviving on the road
Taking it to the Turks
Fighting for the Top 16 dream!
A pair of contenders step up strong
A pair of true road warriors
When giants roamed the court
Week 2 clears some things up
Trio of gems tips off the season