Thursday’s four games saw three winning teams overcome significant deficits and two teams set club records along the way. The EuroLeague Gurus watched it all and are happy to share their insights from those Round 6 results.
De Colo shows no mercy
How do you turn a 6-17 deficit on your home court into a 20-point blowout in 25 minutes or less? Well, first you call Nando De Colo off the bench. Last round's MVP looked every bit that part again in a magical 20 minutes of play for CSKA Moscow on Thursday. De Colo was playing against his old team, Valencia Basket, for the first time since he left the club in 2012. But once he walked on the floor, De Colo treated the men in orange like mortal enemies. He scored on his first touch to start a 14-2 run that put the lead back in CSKA'S hands, 20-19, when he finished the first quarter with one of his unstoppable drives to the basket. Valencia would hit a couple baskets to start the second quarter and take the lead back, and while De Colo sat a while it remained a tight game, 35-34 at the time he returned. He promptly made 2 more baskets in as many minutes to give CSKA a 43-38 halftime lead. Having not attempted any three-pointers until then, De Colo tried three of them in the third quarter, each one seemingly launched further from the basket. He made all three, and by the time they had fallen, CSKA led 66-48 and De Colo's job was done. It amounted to 23 points in 20 minutes of play, 5-for-7 shooting on two-pointers, 3-for-3 from long distance and 4-for-4 at the free throw line. We have become accustomed to De Colo taking over games, but what was fascinating about this one was how easy he made it look against no less an opponent than Valencia. When CSKA needed to show its defensive teeth or risk falling further behind, he made 2 steals in that first-quarter comeback. When Valencia played him to drive, he stepped out and hit three-pointers after halftime. When nothing else was available, he drew fouls and, of course, hit his free throws, as no one before him has ever done in the EuroLeague. If De Colo felt any mercy towards the team he played three seasons for and won the 2010 EuroCup with, it was very hard to tell. "I played for Valencia, but from that time, only one player remains and that is Rafa Martinez," he said after. "I think it was something special [tonight], but I think it will be more special when we go there." If De Colo is any more special when they visit Valencia, the locals will be crying orange-juice tears.
Rebounding dominance gives Maccabi the win
The main reason Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv was able to beat Real Madrid was obvious to everyone: rebounds. The box score shows it, the record books show it and both head coaches spoke about it. Maccabi outrebounded Madrid 53-33. Those 53 rebounds are a club record. Of the 45 shots missed on Maccabi’s half of the court, the hosts grabbed nearly half. Those 22 offensive boards also marked a club record. There are reasons for these big numbers from both teams. On the one side, Maccabi entered the game as the league’s best rebounding team with an average of 39.6 per game. This is by design: “That’s the effort,” explained Coach Spahija. “One day you can make shots, one day you miss shots, but the effort has got to be there. That is the idea, to pressure the offensive rebounds with such athleticism. And we are going to do it.” The Maccabi effort was not one or two players, but eight different guys with at least 4 rebounds.
On the other side, Madrid, which entered the game as an average rebounding team (34.2 rpg.), is missing starting center Gustavo Ayon and already lost another key rebounder for the season (Ognjen Kuzmic). When Felipe Reyes went to the bench with 2 early fouls, it looked like Madrid was going to have a problem on the glass. And that was indeed the case. Coach Laso said afterwards: “For us, it is very simple: if you lose 22 rebounds in your basket and you shoot twenty-something percent from the three-point line, most of them open jumpers, it is very difficult to win.”
Zalgiris’s 13-minute masterpiece
It was the club’s 163rd road game in the EuroLeaugue this century, and it was a memorable one for Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday night in Milan. For the first time this century, Zalgiris won on the road by at least 30 points. This 62-94 drubbing of AX Milan topped the previous record win, a 58-81 decision over London Towers from the 2001-02 season. The final results itself probably speaks enough of the dominance Zalgiris showcased. The deciding part of the game was a span of 13 minutes late in the first and early in the second quarter that broke the game open. Interestingly, Milan scored 14 points in the first 3 minutes and 57 seconds, which is when Zalgiris head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius called a timeout. And afterwards, everything changed. The visitors allowed only 6 points from the free throw line the rest of the first quarter, and only two field goals in the first 7 minutes of the second. Defensively, during that 13-minute span, Zalgiris dominated, forcing Milan into near-impossible shot attempts, taking away penetration, then staying close to the players on perimeter as the shot-clock was running out. Even more impressively, Zalgiris did not force many turnovers considering how big the run was (only 4 during those 13 minutes) and did not run on fast breaks. Its offense often used high-low passing, and baseline penetration which led to some mismatches in the low post, as well as to some easy layups for the frontcourt duo of Brandon Davies and Paulius Jankunas. Those close-range baskets opened more room on the perimeter where Kevin Pangos and Arturas Milaknis were merciless from behind the arc. The star of the show, however, was Edgaras Ulanovas who scored all of his 10 points, including both of his three-point attempts, during that game-breaking 4-31 run, and also dished 3 assists. All in all, after Milan’s 20-16 lead, Zalgiris went on a big run that turned the minimal deficit into a 24-47 lead. There were still 23 minutes to play, but there was no coming back for the hosts who registered one of the most comfortable road wins in the competition.
Efes’s triple threat delivers rare road win
FC Barcelona Lassa hoped to live up to its tradition when Anadolu Efes Istanbul showed up at Palau Blaugrana. Every time Barcelona has faced Efes at home, it won the game - five visits, five losses for Efes, until tonight. A great first half put Efes in a good position to win the game. Efes outrebounded Barcelona 4-13, hit 4 of 6 three-point shots and had three times more performance index rating (36 to Barcelona's 12) than its opponent at the end of its excellent first quarter. Barcelona improved a bit in the second quarter, but Efes kept dominating the game through an unstoppable Ricky Ledo, who reached the break with 15 points. Bryant Dunston and Vladimir Stimac combined for 11 first-half rebounds, as much as the whole Barcelona squad. Efes had double the Barcelona rebounds after the first 20 minutes (22 to 11 rebounding advantage) and only Barcelona's assist-to-turnover numbers (11 assists, 4 turnovers compared to Efes' 6 assists and 7 turnovers) kept the hosts in the game. Efes not only never relinquished its advantage, but when Errick McCollum joined the scoring show, hitting a triple late in the third quarter, then 2 more midway through the fourth, the margin went up to as much as 15-points. While keeping the balance in rebounding, and finishing with three players scoring more than 20 points – Stimac had 22, while Ledo and McCollum 21 apiece – Efes kept control on defensive end as well, and cruised until the final minute. Only Barcelona scoring the final 10 points of the game, all in the final minute, made the final score look like it was a close game, which in reality, it was not. “The end of the game was a little weird, but we played well enough for long enough today to get a win”, said big man Bryant Dunston who controlled the glass with 9 rebounds, but enjoyed seeing his teammates lead the way offensively. “Offensively I think we are really talented, we have a lot of scorers. It will always going to be someone different every night, but we need to pay attention to defensive end, and that is what we did.”