Euroleague Final Four LIVE Blog
Rubio and record-setting Barcelona take on Khryapa and CSKA Moscow.
By: Nick Gibson/@euro_adventures
Tomorrow I’ll go the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa. Always heard it’s kind of overrated. Tonight, I’ll find out if the same is true of a particular Spanish point guard. No offense to Leo DaVinci, but I have my priorities. Russians with beers are more fun than stuffy ‘cultured’ folk. It’s Regal Barcelona vs. CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague semis. If everyone would please locate the ‘Refresh’ button in their browser windows and make sure their Euroleague Player Rankings are handy, we can begin. Now, let’s get it.
Barcelona jumps out to the 2-0 lead courtesy of two free throws by Pete Mickeal, the favorite son of Indian Hills Community College.
Rubio picks the pocket of Siskauskas, who was under the impression fullcourt press was not allowed.
If I don’t get me some Boniface N’Dong soon, there might not be a ‘second quarter’ section to this thing. I’ll strike.
Juan Carlos Navarro clearly not getting the calls he wants. I haven’t seen him show this much post-whistle emotion since…ever. But I think I like it.
After being down 9-4, Barcelona takes the lead 12-11 into the break. Rubio/Navarro with 2 each and Mickeal has 8. Erazem Lorbek and Terence Morris have 3 rebounds apiece and Gianluca Basile accumulated zeroes across the board in 1:48 if you care. Didn’t think you would.
When Jaka Lakovic pulled up for his last triple (popped the net) I was sure his stroke was quicker than its ever been. I quickly remembered that I had just watched him dribbling for 4 seconds and all things are relative.
OK, Boniface N’Dong time. The game can officially start in my head now.
Matjaz Smodis checks out after 6 minutes of action. The All-Euroleaguer was not expected to play this season yet here he is, subbed in the first quarter and playing on into the second. They totally missed an ‘emotional check-in- moment by subbing him in off a timeout though. Might be a game changer…
Cheerleader outfit count: Now up to three. This one a glittery skirt thing and sweet rollerblading kneepads, tastefully choreographed to some Boom Boom Pow.
Sasha Kaun just out-of-my-seat beasted Boni N’Dong with the double-fisted yam. They swear this is the same guy who played at Kansas. I’m not so sure. Eight points for him now, tied with Mickeal for the game high.
Speaking of Mickeal: 6/6 from the line in the first, so what’s the approach in the second? Yup. Settling for threes. They’ll never see it coming. Brilliant.
Barcelona 29-21 CSKA Moscow at the half.
As Ryne duly noted in the comments below, losing Viktor Khryapa with three fouls early in the second killed them. It was 17-17 at that point, 12-4 since. That’s why he was the Defensive Player of the Year.
I’ve made my disdain for Lorbek perfectly clear in past posts, but I’d like to show you a stat that might help you see it my way:
Lorbek: 18 minutes, 0/1, 0 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 8 rkg
Vazquez/N’Dong: 15 minutes, 4/4, 11 points, 3 rebounds, o blocks, 13 rkg
I don’t think Xavi Pascual cares what I think though. Time for the third…
Rubio knifes in and just tosses it in the general vicinity of the rim. Vazquez takes it from there.
Corner three for Langdon. Truly a sight to see.
Thinking about changing thee subtitle of this article to “…and the Khryapa-less CSKA Moscow.” FOur fouls on him not even three minutes into the third. How do you say ‘ouch’ in Russian?
If ray Allen’s jumper is Jesus Shuttlesworth, Trajan’s is Moses Mugglesworth. Part human but mostly just holy. And wet.
Siskauskas hits the triple. That’s 4 this quarter from CSKA’s 30+ branch.
Rubio crossover. More elbow-y than smooth, but enough to get to the rim and spin it in southpaw.
Cheerleader outfit count: four. They could probably afford a back-up forward for half the season if they paid him in sequins.
I hope the folks form NBA Live 2012 stuck those little ball-thingys to Rubio on that last pass. Wouldn’t mind using that move on my PS3 when I’m out of college and jobless in two years. That and some Coco Puffs? Set.
49-41 at the end of the third. Yes. it’s already the end of the third.
So including timeouts and halftime those first three quarters ate up an entire one hour and fifteen minutes. And the Partizan-Olympiacos game isn’t scheduled to start until 9:00 over here (3 EST)? Maybe I’ll go grab a Belgian beer between buzzers. In Belgium.
After Sasha Kaun swats an N’Dong dunk attempt, CSKA is down 49-44 with 6 minutes left in the biggest game of the season. They swing the ball to Anton Ponkrahsov who brings it up, clears it out, and misses a layup. Would Phil Jackson call for the Mbenga iso with 6 to go in the finals? Well, probably, so I guess that’s a bad example.
Cheerleader outfit count: five. Well, four and a half. Not sure if the 7.5 square inches of fabric on each of their bodies constitute an ‘outfit’. What would Kelly Clarkson say if she knew her music was the driving force behind this lewd behavior?
Rubio to Vazquez for their 1,239th alley-oop of the year. If David Kahn wanted Rubio in Minnesota next year, he would add a Fran Vazquez Timberwolves contract as an incentive in Ricky’s contract. Assists would spike, rims would bend.
Rubio: dribble, dribble, dribble. Screen, dribble. Triple. Money. Nail penetrates coffin.
Hold your hammers. Ramunas Siskauskas buries one from the wing and it’s 54-62, Barcelona’s up. We’re under a minute though, so don’t stow the toolbox just yet.
Sorry for the whole toolbox analogy thing. Just re-read it and instantly regretted hitting the ‘Update Post’ button. Very lame and unfunny on my part.
You know why I love European basketball? No technicals for hanging on the rim, celebrations, etc. The anti-NoFunLeague. Why do I bring this up? Because Fran Vazquez just two-handed one through the rim, pulled up and slapped the boards, clinching a trip to the Euroleague Finals. 64-54, and the near-perfect season is 48 hours and one win closer.
Barca leading scorers: Vazquez (5/6, 11 points), Rubio (3/6, 10 points and 8 assists), JC Navarro (4/13, 10 points), N’Dong (3/4, 9 points). Not fair that Navarro can play so poorly and get away with it. I feel bad for whomever he faces in the finals. (Plug: I will also be blogging live from that game. So after you click through SLAM for an hour or so, come back and join me.)
CSKA top performers: Siskauskas (8-16, 19 points), Langdon (4/10, 12 points), Kaun (4/7, 9 points 10 rebounds)
As much as I’m loving the Double-Dutch jumprope action with Ke$ha on repeat, I think I’ll go see if I can ask a few questions to Spain’s most precious natural resource. Or at least get my hands on some pudding. Remember, you’re all cordially invited to Part Deux, featuring Partizan’s Jan Vesely and Olympiacos’s Wilt incarnate, Andreas Glyniadakis.
Partizan Belgrade vs. Olympiacos Piraeus
If Discovery Channel has ever had a special on giraffe-elephant interaction, I no longer need to see it. Slavko Vranes and Sofoklis Schortsanitis at center court for the tip.
Seconds later, the ball finds Sofo’s hands in the paint and his dunk is…stuffed by Slavko. The NBA folks here won’t like that very much. And which team in the Association doesn’t have a 7’6″ Serbian manning the paint? Sofo will never make it.
Bo McCalebb throws it down on the break. McCalebb=Aaron Brooks-consistent jumper.
10-2 Partizan. Wow. This is insane. Olympiacos is lifeless.
Enter: Theo Papaloukas, the greatest bench player in European history. He was invented for these situations.
A few possessions later, Papaloukas goes coast-to-coast and lays it in after a wacky ball fake. Somewhere Bill Raftery is yelling about lingerie on the deck.
Olympiacos has it back to 17-12 with under :30 to go. Milos Teodosic nails one from the corner with 2.5 on the scoreboard. 17-15 Partizan at the quarter. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a ballgame.
What would you do if you confronted with a 7’6″ man in the paint with his arms up? Josh Childress would try to posterize him. That’s the aggressiveness Olympiacos needs. Two foul shots. Swish and swish.
Pat Beverley’s checks into the game and immediately picks up McCalebb with a foot across halfcourt. Knocks the ball off of Bo’s leg. That’s why he’ll be on next year’s NBA All-Rookie team.
A nice–and you won’t hear this often, so enjoy it–stepback three by 7-footer Ioannis Bourousis and we’re knotted up at 22.
This is what I was hoping for: a glimpse at what made Theo Papaloukas the best player in Europe in the mid 2000′s. Crosses up Petar Bozic, that same ball fake spins Maric around before he lays it in. And one. Money from the stripe. This makes me happy.
After a rough first quarter, Sofo went back to the bench and inhaled a few chicken legs. He’s ready to go now. Scoops one off the floor and banks it in as he sheds four tacklers. Olympiacos has the lead now, 26-31.
I’ve decided to hitch my journalistic wagon to Jan Vesely’s professional career. I’ll keep following Euro hoops another year, I guess. When he’s draftbound, though, I’m bouncing. No questions asked. Up and in on the baseline for a deuce.
Olympiacos up 33-28 at the half. Most people that let Partizan stick around don’t get to exhale at the buzzer. They’ll need to bury them early in the third if they want to breathe easily. Stats on the way…
Aleksander Rasic is 0/6 from the field in only 7 minutes. He completed half of his assignment. The first half is to take shots. I’ll let you take a wild guess on the second.
Vesely played 18:29 of 20 minutes in the first half, showing you the trust they have in this kid. He’s got 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 0 turnovers to show for it. Doing his job and then some.
Fittingly, the league’s leader in index rating is tops in the game with an 11 at the half. McCalebb leads the team with 8 tough points.
Papaloukas, Schortsanitis and Teodosic all have 8 at the half. Childress and Kleiza 4 apiece. Kleiza will give us double digits in the second, especially if it stays close.
The Slap-a-Sofo is working to perfection. He’s 0/4 from the line. Howsabout ‘The Mark Price Project: Shooting with Shaq and Sofo”? I’d like a cut of those earnings, NBA TV.
Remember the ‘double digits for Kleiza’ thing? He’s 20% there after the slash and the slam.
The sweaty, tattooed man leading the Olympiacos chants has shirted himself. If anyone was wondering.
Dusan Kecman and Jan Vesely must have gotten into a heated card game fight on the flight over here. DK won’t give him the rock.
And without warning, Kleiza had 11.
Bo drives in the lane and has his jamsession cut short by Ioannis Bourousis. Foul called on the play, replay showed it was clean. Vintage Adonal Foyle.
Bourousis gets the make-up call on the other end. All’s fair in love and basketball.
I wonder if Dusko Vujosevic gets his button-down white shirts from Belichick’s hoodie guy.
Sofo slams another one home. Whoever makes the Euroleague’s rims should use the highlights of this game as their promotional video, and Sofo as their spokesman. “He’s a chameleon.”
The Partizan fans should find hope in the recent turn of events: Sofoklis Schortsanitis has hit a free throw. See guys? Miracles do happen.
Aleks Maric! Send it in, Big Man! We got 52′s at the end of quarter number three.
McCalebb still sitting out after his thunderous dunk gave him a mean calf cramp. I hate when my thunderous dunks do that.
Maric with three the old-fashioned way and Partizan has themselves a 55-52 lead. These next 8:41 might be the most fun I’ll ever have watching basketball.
Kleiza has 11 in the second half. Feeling validated, we head back to the action…
McCalebb back in and he’s off to the races again. He swaps thunder for a light drizzle and tries laying it in softly. No dice, but he goes to the line and sinks half a pair.
Sofo’s down on the floor and play is halted. Jan Vesely trots back about 30 feet to lift him up off the ground. Not only does that show supreme sportsmanship, but also world class bicep strength. Scouts are undoubtedly busy on their Blackberries.
OK it’s 60-54 Partizan with 6:11 remaining. This is ridiculous. Prediction time: Kleiza goes off for 8 more and Olympiacos sneaks it out in overtime. Or maybe I just want to find a way to hypothetically extend this talent show.
Olympiacos has their bug guns out there: Papaloukas, Childress, Teodosic, Kleiza, Sofo.
The first tow on that list just notched back-to-back hoops. Two points separate these guys right now. As usual, Dusko Vujosevic is winning the coaching battle, but Oly’s got the bodies to make up for it.
And 1:07 later, the 6-point lead has withered to a mere point.
Vesely with the hammer off the McCalebb miss! Other end…Vesely with the rebound! My boy.
Kleiza’s trying to make my 8-point dream come true, but those airballs sure ain’t helping.
Lawrence Roberts seems to have caught whatever Sofo has. Misses them both from the line. Then turns it over.
Childress to the cup and Olympiacos has the lead 63-62. I legitimately would contribute Euros toward each of your ticket purchases if you can get here by Sunday. This atmosphere is unreal.
Dusan Kecman hits one from deep and it’s knotted at 65, then a loose ball is picked up by Maric, scooped on up to McCalebb who takes it to the rim and drops it in with 6.8 seconds to go! Who does Olympiacos go to coming out of a timeout?
It needs to start with Theo. Milos in the corner. Josh/Linas crashing. Let’s see…
In to Chil, back to Theo who dishes to Milos who puts one up that misses everything but Josh is there to slam it home! Lorenzo Charles lives in Paris! Wow. 2.6 seconds left.
McCalebb misses the shot as time expires and we are going to overtime. Would I have had it any other way? You bet your ass I wouldn’t have. I’ve thrown all media etiquette rules out the window at this point. Yelling, jumping, anything this suit and tie will allow in tight quarters. Luckily, my associates have joined in. Props to all of them for remembering how much fun it is to be a fan.
Back to that last play, that’s what happens when you switch to a 2-3 zone; free lanes to run at the basket. Nobody ever put a body on Childress. Rarely does Dusko Vujosevic get outcoached.
Dusan Kecman has fouled out. A salute to the team leader who tied it up at 65′s. He ended with 15 points on 3/5 shooting, all 3′s. He’s currently the only player in this Final Four with a chance to repeat after winning with Panathinaikos last year.
Now Bozic has fouled out as well and Olympiacos is up by 5 with under 3:00 to go. Come on Partizan. Don’t roll over just yet.
Vesely’s double-double has to have scouts’ mouths watering. It’s unheard of for two players–Rubio and Vesely–to be handed the keys to such esteemed organizations like Barcelona and Partizan. And in the Final Four? This is Carmelo 2003 stuff.
Vesely heard me typing, obviously. Cleans up a sloppy Partizan possession with a kiss off the window and the foul. Don’t even ask me if he made the free throw. 77-75 with 1:18 remaining.
Jan swats the hell out of the shot on the other end. Two inexcusable offensive rebounds later it’s all for nought. Bourousis hits half of his free throws. Rasic nails his first shot of the day and it’s a 1-point game again, but where’s the foul?! Finally they chase down Milos with 9.5 left. He makes the first, 80-78. The second…crisp. 81-78. Timeout. See what Dusko has up his sweated-through sleeves.
Vesely on the inbound. When they lost Kecman they lost their clutch shooter. Giannakis wisely opts to foul the shooter and rasic is on the line and hits both. The question which has been debated in my living room for years: did they foul too early? The answer to that question depends very heavily on whether they can inbound it to the right dude (Teodosic, Kleiza, Childress).
Teodosic receives the pass and McCalebb is on him like a quail dog. Now, as is customary with all overtime games, clock issues.
They’ve decided to put 5.2 on the clock. And Teodosic has decided to hit them both.
No timeout and we’re back the other way, Rasic with 15 feet to himself…is strong from the wing. Kleiza clutches it tightly, pumps his fist and an insanity-laced evening has finally reached its dramatic conclusion.
Now it’s time for my favorite European tradition: both team’s salute the fans who have been standing, beating drums and yelling their lungs dry all night. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, these Greek fans will go home with a t-shirt or two, a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower and a newfound respect for Partizan Belgrade and their fans, which are the best in the basketball universe.
Sorry for the delay. Looking on as Partizan had a 15-minute chant session with their devoted fans. I don’t know who makes lozenges strong enough to neutralize the effects of their habit.
Final Score: 83-80
Bo McCalebb: 7-13, 21 points, 4 steals, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 22 ranking in 40 minutes
Aleks Maric: 5-8, 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 30 ranking in 36 minutes.
Jan Vesely: 6-10, 13 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 22 ranking and barely 20 years lived in 40 minutes.
Linas Kleiza: 6-13, 19 points, 11 rebounds, 1 block, 0 turnovers in 40 minutes.
Josh Childress: 5-14, 17 points, 5 boards, 1 steal and an assist for a ranking of 14 in 38 minutes.
Sunday. Can’t wait ’til Sunday.
Nick Gibson is the creator of Euroleague Adventures, an American blog/podcast devoted to international basketball. He’s convinced Trajan Langdon is the next Chris Mullins and still thinks the Cavs will rue the day they passed on Darko. He is taking a year off of school to travel around Europe and track Nikoloz Tskitishvili’s development which, frighteningly, is far less expensive than a semester at Syracuse University. He can be reached at email@example.com.