Yarone Arbel Next year, maybe the teams that finish first in their Top 16 groups should get a homecourt disadvantage in the Playoffs. Three teams made it the Final Four already in exactly the same sequence. They all started their series on the road, all lost the first game, all stole homecourt advantage in Game 2 and all won back-to-back in front of their home fans to clinch a spot in the Final Four. In the only undecided series left, we already saw two road wins. With all due respect to that single series going to Game 5, this week the focus is on the other three. Too many thoughts and happenings took place on Euroleague courts this week, while next week is all about Real Madrid and Power Electronics Valencia. In the meantime here's how Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena and Panathinaikos Athens made their fans spend Thursday night partying.

From the shadows

The comeback of the box-and-one defense used to stop Juan Carlos Navarro by Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic, a system we rarely see in modern basketball, will probably be a popular discussion topic for the upcoming students in the Mastermind Coaching Clinic - where both Xavi Pascual and Obradovic will share their thoughts with the students. Yes, Dimitris Diamantidis is written all over the big wins of Panathinaikos against the champs from Barcelona. But to give an angle on this battle of giants, allow me to focus on the actions of one player, for less than a minute in Game 3. Let's go back to the last minutes in OAKA on Tuesday night and give credits where it's due to one of the most underrated stars of the Euroleague: 33-year-old center Mike Batiste. Down 72-69 inside the last 90 seconds of Game 3, Barcelona started a possession and Navarro attacked the rim in a... more
POSTED BY Yarone Arbel - Tel Aviv
DATE: April 1, 2011
Yarone Arbel Pleas·ure [plezh-er] – a noun meaning...

1. The state or feeling of being pleased.
2. Enjoyment or satisfaction derived from what is to one's liking; gratification; delight.
3. Worldly or frivolous enjoyment: the pursuit of pleasure.
4. Recreation or amusement; diversion; enjoyment: Are you traveling on business or for pleasure?
5. Sensual gratification.

The eight games we have witnessed so far in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs were nothing less than pure pleasure. We had thrillers, comebacks, buzzer-beaters, records, expected heroes and unsung ones, humiliation, a stunning recovery and backup players stepping up with perfect timing. Sure, some of you might still have the guts to bet on the which teams will qualify to the 2011 Final Four, but following Thursday night, "The Euroleague - where anything can happen" is the unofficial slogan for this year's playoffs. Meanwhile, four big question marks still stand in for the identities of the teams that will step on the floor of the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on May 6.

Four home wins on Tuesday night, four road wins on Thursday night and, for the second year in a row, all four playoffs series going to at least four games. Half of the winners this week scored between 81 and 83 points; in three series combined, the biggest single margin of victory was 6 points; the other two teams produced two of the most unexpected results in recent years.

Ladies and gentleman, let us all join hands and pray that all these battles reach five games, as each and every one of them is nothing but...pleasure.

Choose your poison

Maccabi Electra picked up six road wins this season so far. Three of them... more
POSTED BY Yarone Arbel - Tel Aviv
DATE: March 25, 2011
Yarone Arbel Last week, Omar Cook of Valencia tied the record for most assists in a Top 16 game with 12. This week, he tickled that record once more with 11, making him the player to deliver the most assists ever, 23, in back-to-back Top 16 games. Even more sweet was the fact that those two performances helped push Valencia to the next phase. Last week, you could read here how painful his assists and their timing was for the opponent. Here's this week's story: FB Ulker was trying to protect a two-point win from its victory over Valencia in Istanbul. After 37 minutes on Thursday, Valencia's lead had dwindled to just 6 points, with Darjus Lavrinovic of FB Ulker standing on the foul line. He missed a chance to cut the difference by another point. The visitors then saw Cook shoot down their hopes. His first arrow was an assist on a three-point shot by Rafa Martinez. After Emir Preldzic scored a layup for FB Ulker, Cook and Martinez did it again from long range. Suddenly, the gap was now 10 10 points with little more than a minute to play. That was already too much for the guests to convert, but before the buzzer Cook added two more assists. No less than 4 assists, more than one-third of his total, in the last 2:30 minutes of the game. Good enough for 10 points. Points that made the whole difference. Again.

Closer and closer

After thee weeks in the Top 16 the joint record of Fenerbache Ulker and Efes Pilsen was 5-1, with the single loss being the latter's very tight three-point road defeat in overtime against Real Madrid. The second half of the Top 16 was more unkind than the first half was nice. Efes and FB Ulker registered a combined record of 0-6 after the break and shockingly finished out of the... more
POSTED BY Yarone Arbel - Tel Aviv
DATE: March 4, 2011
Yarone Arbel Week 5 of the Top 16 showed just how open the Euroleague race is in 2010-11. No less than six road wins reshuffled some cards and proved it's not over till it's over: the huge Lietuvos Rytas win in Athens nobody expected (but them), the buzzer-beater three-pointer off the board that bestowed upon Olympiacos the top spot in its group, déjà vu in Tel Aviv and Montepaschi getting the quarterfinals playoffs ticket after being "99% eliminated".

Better than a scorer, a winner

Theo Papaloukas set a new mark by stepping on a Euroleague court more times than any other player in the history of the competition on Thursday night in Istanbul. It's easy to connect such record with experience and to go from there to the big shot Theo hit to win Group H for Olympiacos, but let's not use overstate experience, because Papaloukas had his unique mix of maturity, smartness, experience and winning mentality even half-a-decade ago. Olympiacos needed to erase a 14-point loss and found itself up by 12 with the last ball. Following an offensive rebound he got the ball on the arc, and his instinct was to drive, but before it was too late he stopped and took a step back to hit the winning three-pointer. To make it even more unorthodox, he used the help of the backboard from the top of the arc. That was a perfect example of what a huge winner he is. Papaloukas had missed his previous 9 three-point attempts over the last four games. Actually, the last time he scored from long distance was in the previous game against FB Ulker, and that was only his fourth three pointer in the entire season. To make these shots - which could decide the entire season - you don't need the best scorers. You need the best winners.

Unsung heroes more
POSTED BY Yarone Arbel - Tel Aviv
DATE: February 25, 2011