Spectacular Bogdanovic's actions speak louder than words
“I don’t like to talk about myself,” said Bogdan Bogdanovic after inspiring Fenerbahce Istanbul to a 75-80 victory at Panathinaikos Athens on Thursday night. Well, Bogdan, in that case we’ll have to talk about you instead. And there is plenty to say, because whenever his team needed him in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Olympic Sports Center in Athens, Bogdanovic came to the fore to ensure Fenerbahce became the first ever road team to take the first two games of a playoffs series. In fact, Bogdanovic’s statistics speak for themselves – loud and clear. The Serbian star connected on 5 of 7 two-point shots, 5 of 8 three-pointers, claimed 8 rebounds, dished 6 assists and blocked 1 shot to record a performance index rating of 35 for the second consecutive game, with the fact that he played 34 minutes and 54 seconds also a significant sign of his leadership. So it was a highly effective all-round performance, made even more impressive by the timing of Bogdanovic’s interventions because he always seemed to produce a play at the crucial moment.
He started off as he meant to continue, scoring the game’s first points. A few minutes later, after Panathinaikos had raced to a 10-point lead, he got Fenerbahce back on track by netting two three-pointers and delivering an assist for Pero Antic to sink another triple. Bogdanovic then broke the tie with the final points of the first quarter and assisted Ekpe Udoh for his team’s first basket of the second. And when Mike James threatened to take over for the home team, guess who was there to respond? Bogdanovic again, netting triples on consecutive possessions to give Fenerbahce a slender halftime lead.
Speaking to Euroleague TV’s Jiri Zidek at the interval, James identified his team’s biggest task, saying: “We’ve got to slow down Bogdanovic. 18 points from one person is too much.” And the hosts initially succeeded in that aim, holding Bogdanovic scoreless in the third quarter. But when crunch time came he was there again. With less than five minutes remaining and Panathinaikos leading by 3, Bogdanovic hit a floater for his team’s first points in nearly five minutes and soon he scored on two consecutive possessions to give Fenerbahce a 5-point lead inside the final two minutes. The home team could not come back, and when the game finished with James missing an attempted three-pointer, you’ll easily guess who was there to take the last rebound, ending the game with the ball in his hands: Bogdan Bogdanovic, the man who really didn’t need to say too much about how he played, because his performance did all the talking for him.
CSKA wins the battle of small details
One could imagine that if Coach Sito Alonso of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz was told prior to Game 2 that his team would outrebound host CSKA Moscow 29-36, keep the champs to 5 of 18 three-point shooting (27.8%) and have an overall edge on performance index rating (94-95), he would have been thrilled and expected to head home with a victory. Sadly for Baskonia, this is the crux of the old coaches’ saying: “Small details will decide the game.” Of course there were many other details that worked in CSKA’s favor, like its 25-for-29 free throw shooting (86.2%) or forcing Baskonia into 18 turnovers.
In the end, it was one small detail, Kyle Hines’s offensive rebound in the closing seconds, that made the ultimate difference. Hines was fouled and made the resulting 2 free throws to break a tie and give CSKA the victory after Baskonia had erased a 17-poin t deficit to tie the game on a Rodrigue Beaubois triple with 12 seconds remaining. Prior to that, the game had already seen several wild swing in momentum. Beaubois first heated up with 8 straight points in the second quarter to give the visitors a 28-33 edge, but CSKA went on a 12-0 tear before Beaubois drew Baskonia within 40-35 at the break. Milos Teodosic dominated the first five minutes of the third quarter, during which he scored 13 points, as the CSKA lead soared to 17. CSKA was still cruising comfortably at 75-63 following James Augustine free throws with four-plus minutes remaining. And then Baskonia came alive, using pressure on defense to frustrate the CSKA guards and got a pair of put backs from Johannes Voigtmann and Chase Budinger in its comeback.
After the game, CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis explained that CSKA can and must learn from this game. “With all due respect to [Baskonia], with the experience we have, with the guards we have, with the ball handlers we have, we should not come to such an end with so many sloppy plays against the press they chose, which was the right choice to come back after minus-14 or whatever,” Itoudis said. “Definitely we have to work on press situations, but as I said there are a lot of details we can talk about as a team from the film.”
In the other locker room, Baskonia coach Sito Alonso saluted his team’s character. “When they led by 14 points, we believed in our team, in the things we have done. We put on the court different players, secondary players, but believed in the things we have done. And we had the opportunity to beat them in the last minute,” Alonso said. “I think if we believe together, our supporters and our players, we will come back here [for a Game 5]. But we cannot forget that we compete against them and we want to win twice at home and come back here.”
After a pair of narrow losses in Moscow, Baskonia may have what it takes to win the next games at home, but it will need some more of those small details to go its way.