Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Euroleague First Round Week 3 Recap: Maccabi-Real; Caja-Olympiacos

In this recap post we'll focus on the best games of Week 3, Maccabi vs. Real Madrid and Caja Laboral vs. Olympiacos.
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In the premier matchup of Week 3, Maccabi handed Real their first loss of the Euroleague season in Tel Aviv, 88-82. This game was filled with players with ties to the NBA. Jordan Farmar (Maccabi) and Rudy Fernandez (Real) were the featured performers while Serge Ibaka also suited up for Real. Players with their rights held by NBA teams included Lior Eliyahu (Rockets) and Sofo Schortsantis (Clips) for Maccabi, and Ante Tomic (Jazz), Sergio Llull (Rockets) and Nikola Mirotic (Bulls) for Real.

Jordan Farmar used his athletic advantage to great effect vs. Real. Was able to blow by his defender multiple times to finish at the rim. Did a nice job of adjusting his shot at the basket. Farmar has done a good job finishing near the rim this season.

Besides Farmar's solid EL play, he has fared well in Maccabi's Adriatic League games. In four games, he has put up 12.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.8 TOpg and 77% on FGA (38% 3PA). Isolation action has been a big part of Farmar's offensive arsenal early in this season.

Thought Sofo Schortsanitis had a big positive impact on this game, scoring around the rim (16 pts in 21 mins) or drawing fouls at will (drew eight). His nimble footwork was on display as he pulled off a few sweet moves in the post. Gave Real major problems on the block. Was the main reason Ante Tomic picked up three fouls in eight minutes. Converted two buckets in transition where he made nice catch & finished on the move, including a nifty spin move. Sofo set up two short hook shots by drop-stepping one way, then reversing direction. Big Sofo even dove on the floor a few times. Great effort overall.

Most of David Blu's 16 pts came on jumpers, either behind the arc or around the 17-18 foot range. Former Virginia Cav Devin Smith banged home some shots of his own for 15 pts. Maccabi's defense did a nice job challenging shots and forced Real deep into the shot clock multiple times (held Real to 40% overall).

Rudy Fernandez had a subpar performance as he chucked up some questionable shots, as he's wont to do sometimes. Though he had to toss up some looks because Maccabi forced Real late in the shot clock. Rudy still managed 13 pts and has played pretty well so far in the EL and Spain.

When Rudy last played in the ACB in 2008, he was one of the best in the league and so far, he has regained his standout status: 16.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 spg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 TOpg, 76% (2PA) and 42% (3PA) in 24 mins/game. Rudy's touches are much more frequent in Spain than back in the NBA and he seems more energized.

Recent Chicago Bull draftee Nikola Mirotic had another lackluster EL performance with only two points vs. Maccabi. Though, he did have a few quality defensive sequences against Lior Eliyahu. The multi-talented forward has looked somewhat out of sync through his first three games partly due to foul trouble. However, the young Montenegrin has been more reliable in ACB play with 10.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 54.5% (2PA) and 46% (3PA) in 21 mins/game.

Serge Ibaka airballed a few shots but did pitch in with nine points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes. All of Serge's three field goals came on put-backs--one impressive follow slam in transition.

Jaycee Carroll helped keep Real in the game with his usual dose of deft shooting--4-for-5 on 3PA. Felipe Reyes scored most of his 15 points on mid-range jumpers. While Sergio Llull had little impact in this game, former NBAer Sergio Rodriguez picked up the slack with seven points, eight assists and two steals.

No surprise that Ante Tomic was a non-factor in this game as he was physically overwhelmed by Big Sofo. Tomic has been decent scoring on rolls or cuts this season, but questions still persist about his lack of strength and agressiveness.

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Caja Laboral improved to 3-0 in Group A with a 81-79 win over Olympiacos. Pablo Prigioni hit a short step-back jumper with time running out to secure the win.

Caja's starting frontline of Mirza Teletovic and Kevin Seraphin led the way and continues to be one of best PF-C combos through first three weeks of Euroleague play. Teletovic's accuracy was off (4-for-16) vs. Oly, but he still managed his third straight game of at least 20 pts, thanks to drawing fouls around the rim (11-for-13 FTA). Teletovic even added in three impressive blocks.

6-9 Teletovic is playing as well as anyone in Europe right now. Teletovic currently leads the EL in scoring at 21.7 ppg. He's carried over his strong play to the ACB, where through six games he's averaging 19.5 ppg (2nd in ACB), 8.5 rpg (2.8 off.), 52% on 2PA and 48& on 3PA in 31 mins/game.

It seems that Caja's main offensive objective this season is to establish Teletovic on the block. Now that Tiago Spliiter and Stanko Barac are no longer with Caja, Teletovic's post touches have increased over the last few years. Post game is not terribly refined, but he can hit turnarounds and draw fouls.

Think Mirza could be a solid rotation NBAer and the 26-year-old Teletovic is available to any NBA team as he was never drafted. Probably doesn't have the goods to start but could be a viable floor-spreading PF off the bench. Has proven he can be a lethal shooter spotting, coming off screens or off a few quick dribbles. Similar to Peja, he can drill shots from deep with defenders right in his face.

Good enough athlete and fairly strong build where he shouldn't overwhelmed physically by NBA forwards. Would definitely have some issues defensively in the NBA, but don't think he would get torched. Mirza is currently the 3rd-best rebounder in the ACB, though this could be an aberration as he tends to a be subpar rebounder for his size.

Kevin Seraphin missed only one of his eight shots for 15 pts. The Washington Wiz was effective as the roll man either knocking down two fluid mid-range pop jumpers or finishing in traffic multiple times. Seraphin did a nice job adjusting his shot at the rim all game. Encouraging sign that Seraphin has been showing a reliable touch on his jumpers so far.

'10-11 Euroleague First-Teamer Fernando San Emeterio finally came alive with 15 points after two previous subpar games with 15 points combined. The crafty SF used his sneaky driving ability to keep Olympiacos off balance.

Olympiacos played a pretty good game on the road and tied the game on a Vassilis Spanoulis 3pt. with just under ten seconds left. But Olympicos its their chances in the long run by shooting only 16-for-23 on the FT line.

Spanoulis was a factor pushing the ball in transition and doing his usual damage scoring or getting fouled off penetration. Spanoulis finished with 19 pts, seven assists and only had one turnover.

Olympiacos got good minutes from their PFs. Undersized 4-man Kyle Hines scored most of his 14 points off of smart cuts to rim. And Daily Dime Live fave Pero Antic tossed in 14 points as well.

The lumbering Lazaros Papadopoulos did a fine job scoring off a few nifty post moves and deftly found the open man when he was doubled (found Marko Keselj on the opposite a couple times for open jumpers).

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Games of Week 4:

Panathinaikos vs. CSKA (Thursday):
Two of the most talented teams meet in Athens in a possible Final Four matchup preview. Both teams come into this game 3-0 and both teams have won each of their games in Group B convincingly. Andrei Kirilenko has been an all-around terror so far and he's ably supported by the likes of Milos Teodosic, Alexey Shved, Vik Khryapa and Nenad Krstic. Reigning Euroleague MVP Dimis Diamantidis has been terrific so far and Nick Calathes has played solid ball each game as well. Tough to pick the fave in this game--CSKA has unlimited depth but PAO is playing at home.

Barcelona vs. Siena (Thursday): The other main event of Week 4. Both teams come in 3-0 and like CKSA and PAO, both teams have had very few difficulties so far in group play. Siena is really good but think Barca is probably a level above them and could see Barca winning by double-digits at home.

Efes vs. Maccabi (Thursday): No let up in Group C play as both teams go from playing one tough opponent to the next. Closely matched 2-1 teams that feature plenty of players with NBA ties. We mentioned some of Maccabi players above, while Efes features Ersan Ilyasova (playing very well), Tarence Kinsey (also playing well).

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