Euroleague Preview, Week 6
Igor Rakocevic is thankful for the Sinan Erdem Dome.
by Nick Gibson / @euro_adventures
Halfway through the Euroleague’s season an we’ve had plenty of surprises: Union Olimpija has already accumulated four wins, one more than they earned in the last two EL seasons combined; the legendary Dusko Vujosevic has led CSKA Moscow to its worst EL start ever in Trajan Langdon’s last season; Bojan Bogdanovic is playing himself into the first round of the NBA Draft; Stanko Barac is making people in Vitoria forget about Tiago Splitter; and just last week, Sarunas Jasikevicius made his return to Lietuvos Rytas, the first team that ever signed him. Apparently the Euroleague offices in Barcelona do not observe Thanksgiving and have tilted the 12-game schedule heavily in Thursday’s favor, so I’ll be forced to sneak peeks at those eight games between mouthfuls of stuffing and cranberry sauce. If you get a moment, log on to the old interwebs and be thankful for illegal streams.
Now it’s on to the picks. Last week: 7-5. Overall: 31-17.
Asseco Prokom (0-5) vs. BC Khimki (2-3)
Some look at Keith Langford’s zero turnovers last week and think it’s a good thing. Nonsense. He should be forcing the offense enough to be coughing it up at least twice per game. And another thing: coming into last week’s game, Langford was the best at making opponents hack him at 7.8 fouls drawn per game, yet he only drew two thanks to a reserved approach from the usually assertive Jayhawk. As the offense has drifted away from Langford, Khimki has struggled. Keith and Co. should be licking their chops knowing that the concept of defense has escaped Tomas Pacesas and his Prokommers entirely. BC Khimki.
Partizan (3-2) vs. Zalgiris (4-1)
Pionir Arena is back to devouring any opponent who dares scuff sneaker bottoms on its hardwood floors. Zalgiris’ recklessly wonderful guard duo of Mantas Kalnietis and Martynas Pocius need to attack early and force James Gist and Nathan Jawai into foul trouble. If they can’t, Mirza Begic and Paulius Jankunas will have a difficult time keeping them in check. Partizan.
Maccabi Electra (4-1) vs. Caja Laboral (2-3)
Since losing to Caja Laboral 94-78 in week one, Maccabi has rolled to four straight victories with a stout defense that’s allowed only 64 PPG. Maccabi’s mistake in their first meeting was to ignore the distinct advantage they had—and still have—over the Spaniards: strength. By swapping Chuck Eidson and Sofoklis Schortsanitis into their starting line up in place of Guy Pnini and Richard Hendrix, Maccabi now wins the arm wrestling contest at all five spots. Perhaps the most narrowly shouldered Maccabi starter is Lior Eliyahu, who has motivation all his own after spending last season with Caja in a role most felt was far too limited. He’ll want to show them what they’re missing. Maccabi Electra.
Real Madrid (3-2) vs. Olympiacos (4-1)
The absence of a legend can never be called a “good” thing, but Theo Papaloukas’ injury the past two weeks has opened the door for Milos Teodosic and Vassilis Spanoulis to develop quite the rapport with one another. One guy they count on to turn the average entry pass into an assist is Ioannis Bourousis, who is averaging 11.8 and 7.2 in only 18 minutes per game. And as for Real Madrid’s 67-49 loss to the winless Spirou Charleroi, I really don’t know what the hell that was. Madrid grabbed 16 more offensive rebounds than Spirou, but those sorts of margins happen when you miss 53 shots (17/70) and the team you’re playing only misses 26. Olympiacos.
Spirou Charleroi (1-4) vs. Uncaja (3-2)
As I alluded to, Spirou was heavy on the boards in last week’s win, but Unicaja has stabilized since Saul Blanco returned from injury to control the offense in Terrell McIntyre’s stead. Another plus is Augusto Cesar Lima, the 19-year-old Brazilian big and perhaps my favorite prospect in the Euroleague, who sidled up beside Joel Freeland to solidify the paint, snagging 8 boards and rejecting 3 shots in 19 minutes. Since I know how volatile Unicaja can be, I won’t say they’ve “figured it out” just yet, but I do think they’re getting closer. Unicaja.
Brose Baskets (2-3) vs. Virtus Roma
Oklahoma City Thunder fans should rejoice knowing that their investment is accruing value overseas, as 31st pick Tibor Pleiss pulled down 10 rebounds in 20 minutes against Lima and Unicaja. If Tibor keeps it going like this, then he and Kyle Hines would become a beautifully balanced tandem in the Bamberg post with Hines providing the offense. At this point, Roma would just like any kind of consistent production from the post outside of Andrea Crosariol. Josh Heytvelt scored 13 last week (doubling his season total in the process), so maybe he’s on his way toward week-to-week contributions. I’ll have to see it to believe it. Brose Baskets.