Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 25, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
There is no tomorrow!
The only European player ever to 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 was held 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. As George returns for the 2011-12 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, expect more great insights from an ex-champ's point of view!
The last four teams standing and the last four games of the season - that’s what lies ahead of us this weekend in Istanbul in the special settings of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four at the beautiful Sinan Erden Arena. I would not say there is one heavy favorite when teams of highest quality, tradition and experience clash with only 40 minutes to decide their fates. As you well know, the Final Four format doesn’t give you any second chances; there is no room to save anything for tomorrow. With the season on the line, detailed preparation, strategy and past experience come into light more than ever. Players and fans alike must steady their nerves and peak in form to survive the thrills, pressure and emotional highs and lows that only the Final Four can deliver. It goes without saying that there will be only one winner at the end of the day with the remaining three teams waiting for another chance next season. It has been a privilege to follow the Euroleague up close all season long and to witness four special teams on their way to the grand finale. I wish all the participants the best of luck while knowing that the best basketball on the continent will played this weekend in Istanbul.
CSKA vs. Panathinaikos
Both teams are very keen on maintaining offensive balance. CSKA likes to get out, dictate and maintain an uptempo game that allows Coach Jonas Kazlauskas to take advantage of his athletic players in the open court and of his deep bench. Panathinaikos feels more comfortable in a half-court offense that features pick-and-roll or penetrate-and-kick situations that are run with precision. When the going gets tough, Kirilenko and Diamantidis will be called upon to create in one-on-one situations, which they have done with great efficiency all season long.
CSKA uses the individual qualities of its players and their understanding of the game on defense, while deriving most of its defensive zest from leader by example, Viktor Khryapa. Khryapa is a game changer and can spark his team’s offensive runs with his brilliant defensive plays. CSKA needs to stay very alert as a team and not lose its perimeter defensive assignments, since shot blocking has not been the team’s biggest asset. Panathinaikos thrives on its in-your-face defense as Coach Zeljko Obradovic brings the most out of his players in this aspect of the game. The Greens’ defense starts with Diamantidis’s on-the-ball pressure and transfers to all other positions. Panathinaikos has the athletes, mindset and roster depth to aggressively overplay the lanes on the perimeter and play physical basketball to the limit in the paint all game long.
On the interior CSKA relies heavily on Nenad Krstic to keep the offensive balance in the game. His low-post, back-to-the-basket play has steadily improved throughout the season. The Serbian center has battled some health issues lately and his state of health could play a very important role. Panathinaikos has Mike Batiste, one of the most dominant low post players in Euroleague history. Both are dominant finishers with Krstic using more of direct post up situations, while Batiste gets himself involved after pick-and-roll situations. Khryapa, Darjus Lavrinovic and Sasha Kaun for CSKA and Steven Smith, Kostas Tsartsaris and Ian Vougioukas for Panathinaikos give both clubs plenty of different looks and ways to score on both sides.
Panathinaikos runs its offense through Dimitris Diamantidis, whose game knowledge, great pick-and-roll reading and leadership have taken the Greens back to the Final Four. Nick Calathes always steps up in big games and the fact that Sarunas Jasikevicius looks for his fifth Euroleague title says it all about his experience and winning mentality. Milos Teodosic will be hungrier than ever to finally win the Euroleague. Alexey Shved faces a tough challenge – to give Diamantidis trouble at both ends. Ramunas Siskauskas will use his one-on-one skills and knowhow to try to make the difference for CSKA.
Both teams have coaches and players that have been there, done that. All of them understand how difficult it is to get to this point and take the last step towards the ultimate goal. Panathinaikos takes advantage of the experienced and mature guard trio of Diamantidis, Jasikevicius and Calathes. At the moment I believe that this threesome has the utmost confidence of Coach Obradovic with versatile scoring ace Kostas Kaimakouglu up the coach’s sleeve. CSKA has been able to benefit from offensive prowess of Teodosic, who has done solid job at point guard and, of course, from the all-around skills of Andrei Kirilenko. Many times this season, however, veteran Lithuanian legend Ramunas Siskauskas has taken care of business in tough moments for CSKA; he should never be underestimated for a split second.
The team that dictates the tempo will have the edge in the game. CSKA favors a fast-paced game while Panathinaikos wants to slow it down, take care of the ball and make CSKA play defense.
Kirilenko will do anything and everything in his power to crown his return to the Euroleague with the title. At the same time, these clubs have met twice this season with CSKA victorious in both cases. Can you imagine a club coached by Obradovic and as experienced as Panathinaikos dropping three straight to the same club in one season? It will be a dog fight for every square inch of the parquet and the true test of both teams’ character.
Olympiacos Piraeus vs. FC Barcelona Regal
Olympiacos relies offensively on Vassilis Spanoulis. He has the ball in his hands the most, even though – especially in the playoffs – Acie Law and Kostas Sloukas filled in nicely. Nonetheless, in the crucial games of the Final Four, you can expect Spanoulis to be the main distributor, offensive weapon and a tactician. Just the same, I expect Olympiacos to be relentless on the offensive boards and to try to get as many second chance points off these situations. Barcelona likes to feed off the turnovers that result from its stifling defense, while looking to utilize its superb athletes in the open court. In the half court, Barcelona has many players that have set plays run for them: off-the-ball picks for Navarro, post ups for Lorbek and slice cuts or clear outs for Eidson or Mickeal, to name a few.
Olympiacos has accepted the coaching philosophy of Coach Duda Ivkovic and each player brings his own pride to the table in regard to team defense. No cutters get through without being bumped, the ball is pressured and heavy blows are dealt and taken on the interior. There is a lot of urgency and pride in the defensive efforts of the Reds. Barcelona takes advantage of its athleticism by understanding the game just as much as understanding each other to produce one of the best defense in Euroleague history. Both teams are high-quality defenders, albeit in different ways, and it will be interesting to watch which style of defense prevails.
What Olympiacos doesn’t possess in height it more than makes up with heart and dedication. Frequent injuries throughout the season to true big man Papadapoulos turned out not to be an issue as the tenacity of Kyle Hines and Joey Dorsey together with quickness of Georgios Printezis have transformed Olympiacos’s frontline into a force to be reckoned with. Barcelona has Erazem Lorbek whose footwork sets him apart from others. His fantastic finishing abilities mesh beautifully with centers Boni NDong, Fran Vasquez and Kosta Perovic.
Spanoulis is the foundation of the Olympiacos pyramid in the backcourt. His ability to read the opponents’ defense and get rid of the ball in time will play a crucial role for other players’ involvement in the game. Marty Gecevicius is due for a good game and his long-distance shooting could just be the X-factor for Olympiacos. Barcelona has serious skills, potential and experience in its back court with the lightning-quick Huertas, scoring ace Navarro and versatile Eidson and Pete Mickael; all these players need is the patience to allow the game to come to them.
The Reds are a very young team by all means due to their extensive offseason roster rebuilding process, while on contrary Barcelona has been fine tuning its roster for the last few seasons, making only subtle player changes in that period.
Both teams know exactly what their coaches are looking for. Duda Ivkovic is more set in his ways, but has a young group of overachievers that must completely trust his systems by now even though they have been together for a relatively short period of time. I expect that Coach Ivkovic will focus on trying to take away as much of the pressure from his players as possible while preaching the same defensive-minded game. Coaxh Xavi Pascual has a wide range of players at his disposal. I believe that his main objective will be to take advantage of his players’ offensive potential and to stay away from a slowdown, possession for possession tug of war.
The bottom line:
Barcelona has the edge in experience, size and greater offensive variety. To win Barcelona has to control the tempo of the game, use its experience in do-or-die games and be physically ready to match Olympiacos’s tenacious style of play. Olympiacos holds the edge in not having anything to lose and its physical style of play. The Reds must do their best to duplicate their playoffs intensity, limit turnovers and hold their own against bigger and longer Spanish players.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
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There is no tomorrow!
Final Four fever!
Diamantidis defense or Ohayomania
Blood, sweat and tears
May the best prevail!
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Money time is always at the end
Time for extra urgency
Get ready for dogfights!
Top 16 serving up the highest quality
The Top 16 is open for business!
The Top 16: Hard to separate the favorites, probables and outsiders
Tests of character
Home courts, strategy and baskets
Rockin' on arrival
Rolling to the second half of the regular season
Chemistry and Devotion
It's a guards game now
Ready to see the offenses flow!
Play hard or be humbled
Reason to cheer!
Aito Garcia Reneses