Youssoupha Fall did not need much time to leave a mark on TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz's victory over Khimki Moscow Region on Thursday night. In less than 2 minutes, he had won the opening tip, blocked a shot, scored twice and grabbed 2 rebounds. Baskonia started the game on a 0-9 tear thanks to his dominance and it seemed like the rest of the night might be easy.
Khimki roared back in the second quarter and an Egor Vialysev triple made it 35-36 with 3:20 remaining in the half. Again, it was Fall who stood tall for Baskonia. The center had 7 points, a block and 2 fouls drawn in a 2-11 Baskonia run to take a double-digit advantage at halftime.
In short, just about whenever Fall was on the court, good things happened for Baskonia. And conversely, bad things happened for Khimki, which in no small part due to the presence of Baskonia's 2.21-meter center. Fall finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks for a PIR of 21 in just 19 minutes.
The weight of Fall's 3 blocks was much more than just 3 missed Khimki shots. Fall's presence changed the way the Khimki offense worked to the point that the hosts made just 12 of 38 two-point shots. That 31.6% conversion rate was the second-lowest ever by a Khimki team in the EuroLeague.
Ultimately, basketball is a team game where the only thing that matters is how many points each team scores. In the 18:58 that Fall played against Khimki, the visitors dominated the game 22-43. And when Fall was resting, the score was much closer: 45-46.
This was not the first time Fall dominated in the Russian capital. He went for 19 points and 8 rebounds against CSKA the last time Baskonia visited, in Round 8 in November. Last season, he set a career-high in PIR with 30 after posting 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a January 2020 loss at CSKA.
Fall raised his season averages to 7.1 points on 63.3% shooting, 3.3 and 0.8 blocks this season. However, his true impact is seen in his per-minute averages; Fall is ranked third in the league this season with a PIR of 31.1 per 40 minutes. Only Nikola Mirotic (34.1) of FC Barcelona and Jalen Reynolds (31.8) of FC Bayern Munich have been better.
The 26-year-old Fall is quite a weapon for Baskonia, which Coach Ivanovic chooses when to deploy based on matchups. What all other teams now know is that when Ivanovic likes a matchup and sends his big fella into the paint, the rest of the league had best watch out.