Euroleague Weekly Preview
Bo McCalebb vs. Ricky Rubio vs. History.
by Nick Gibson
Week 1 of the Top 16 was decent to me. A 5-3 record brought me to 81-35 on the season, and I’ll need to keep batting .500 if I want to hit that century mark before this six-game set comes to an end. A disclaimer before we begin: I fully expect to inaccurately predict every single game in Group F during this stage of play. All 12. Thanks for understanding.
Partizan (1-0) vs. Regal Barcelona (1-0) – This game will be perfect. For the NBA fan: Can Ricky Rubio play in front of Europe’s toughest crowd? Can he keep Bo McCalebb—perhaps the closest thing he’ll see to Deron Williams—out of the lane and away from the rim? For the Eurohoops junkie: Can Coach Dusko Vujosevic design and implement a defensive scheme to neutralize a team with great shooters, strong perimeter players and balanced post play? For the history enthusiasts: can the 11-0 Barcelona bunch challenge CSKA’s 18-0 mark to start the ’06-07 season? And finally, for anyone who owns ‘Rudy’ or season tickets to the Florida Marlins: can Partizan—they of the 3 million Euro budget—knock history off course and put Goliath on his ass? I won’t feign impartiality. Partizan.
Maroussi BC (0-1) vs. Panathinaikos (0-1) – They see a path to the basket and think jumper. They see a secondary break and they pull it back out. The champs look lazy. Maybe it’ll help that they get to stay in Greece for their “road” game? Panathinaikos.
Efes Pilsen (0-1) vs. Montepaschi (1-0) – Bojan Popovic’s Efes debut was no fairy tale. The Euroleague’s leader in steals coming in had none. Ranked fourth in assists, he dished out only one. And they lost. Now that Bojan’s had time to go bowling with the guys and trade funny stories, the Efes family should come together a bit. Montepaschi is going to advance out of this group, but Efes will find a way to eke out a win or three this round, and there’s no place like home. Efes Pilsen.
Maccabi Electra (0-1) vs. Real Madrid (1-0) –My Maccabi Final Four pick is looking fairly shaky, but their problems are correctable and they originate at the top. For whatever reason, Coach Pini Gershon has opted to give Yaniv Green more minutes down low rather than playing D’Or Fischer and Stephane Lasme together. Maybe you lose some shooting with my proposed duo, but you’d also turn the Maccabi paint into the scariest no-floater zone in the Euroleague (Barca’s Fran Vazquez and Boniface N’Dong might object). Also, I question Pini’s swelling affection for point guard Doron Perkins while Andrew Wisniewski rides the bench in key situations. Perkins is clearly the more dynamic athlete, but Alan Anderson and/or Chuck Eidson will be have the ball late in the game anyways, so you might as well play someone who’s committed to getting it to them. Maccabi.
Zalgiris (0-1) vs. CSKA Moscow (1-0) – CSKA only needed Pops Mensah-Bonsu for 7 minutes in their Top 16 opener, but that gave him enough time to swat a shot and dunk all over Joel Freeland. Mirza Begic is the lone starter-quality big man left healthy for Zalgiris, and he’ll need to leap until his knees hurt if he wants to keep Pops and Viktor Khryapa off the boards. That is, if there are boards to be had; Ramunas Siskauskas is hitting 59 percent of his 2s and 61 percent of his 3s this season. Read that again. CSKA Moscow.
Unicaja (0-1) vs. Asseco Prokom (1-0) – Juan Dixon dropped 17 points in his first 31 minutes for Unicaja. The (expected) ricochet effect: Omar Cook scored 2 points and turned it over 5 times. We saw Cook’s inability to produce without the ball last year when he platooned the point with Carlos Cabezas, and now it looks like Dixon’s going to shove him out of his safety bubble this season. Daniel Ewing and David Logan have faced similar problems in the past, but Prokom’s success didn’t arrive until Ewing decided he was more valuable as a pass-first PG who scored selectively. Asseco Prokom.
Olympiacos (1-0) vs. BC Khimki (1-0) – Linas Kleiza continues to prove that he’s the most complete scorer in all of Europe, Josh Childress is playing better defense than anybody in the game, and Milos Teodosic just picked up January MVP honors with averages of 13 points, 9 assists, 2.3 steals and only 1 turnover in 34 minutes a game. And the luxury that Milos provides goes beyond the raw stats; Euroleague assist leader Theo Papaloukas gets to save his aging knees for the playoffs and beyond. Olympiacos.
Cibona (0-1) vs. Caja Laboral (0-1) – Uh-oh. Tiago Splitter is out for at least two weeks. Panic time in Vittoria. Playing Cibona is the equivalent of a grace period, so Caja Laboral should consider themselves lucky and start sketching up a gameplan for their next game at Khimki. Caja Laboral.
Nick Gibson is the co-creator and producer of Slam and Freaknick’s Euroleague Adventures, which features a blog, podcast, prospect watch and a closer look at Americans playing overseas. Gibson is a broadcast journalism student at Syracuse University and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.