Last week, we preached the early success of the Russian league teams competing in Euroleague. Khimki Moscow, CSKA Moscow and Kuban Krasnodar had one loss between them, and all looked like potential title contenders. Naturally, all three Russian squads lost, the best example of the total chaos that was week 5 of the tournament.
Strasbourg got the madness started by beating Real Madrid, 93-86. Real was able to get 32 trips to the free throw line but hit just 26.9 percent from 3, allowing Strasbourg to jump out to an insurmountable 78-63 lead after three quarters. Former Buffalo guard Louis Campbell had one of the best games of his career, going for 23 points on 9-11 shooting for Strasbourg, and Real’s guards struggled to keep pace through the game. The big news for Real Madrid was that former Charlotte Hornet Jeffery Taylor had his first major minutes of the tournament and posted 21 points and three rebounds, including this bonkers slam off a backdoor cut:
Madrid’s always had solid slashers in the backcourt, but they’ve been hurt by a lack of secondary options in their offense this season. Taylor’s an excellent cutter who can also hit 3s consistently. If he can break into their rotation, he’ll be a huge help as Madrid tries to stay afloat.
Fenerbahce took control of Group A with an 88-83 win over Khimki Moscow. Luigi Datome paced the Turkish squad with 19 points and Jan Vesely added 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as Khimki’s lack of size on the wing was exploited repeatedly by Fenerbahce’s pick-and-roll game. Alexey Shved looked strong for Khimki offensively, with a 19-point performance, but Khimki has now lost twice in group play. Not only that, both times they’ve given up 80+ points to a team with a strong pick-and-roll presence.
Crvena Zvezda got a superhuman performance from Stefan Jovic, as the Serbian point guard had one more assist than Bayern Munich did, setting a Euroleague record with 19 dimes in a 90-79 win. Bayern only gave seven minutes of play to Paul Zipser, which seemed to hurt them in the frontcourt, where Darius Miller (22 points) was the beneficiary of most of Jovic’s Steve Nash impersonation. Every win Crvena picks up without Luka Mitrovic is an important one, and while Jovic isn’t currently under an NBA contract, he still deserves a ton of praise for one of the best performances of the competition so far.
Group B’s chaos was best represented in the form of Cedevita’s 76-67 win over Laboral Kutxa. Cedevita took control of the game in the third quarter behind a 9-0 run by Jacob Pullen, who finished with 26 points in 23 minutes — a rather good day by most standards. Former Miami Heat guard Henry Walker also debuted for Cedevita with two points on 1-5 shooting. Laboral, for the most part, was done in by 8-33 shooting from 3. Despite 20 points from Jaka Blazic, they’re now sitting at a strange 3-2 with wins over Olympiacos and Anadolu Efes, but losses to Cedevita and Olimpia Milano.
Speaking of EA7, they had another classic 2015 EA7 performance: Alessandro Gentile scored 19 points on 20 shots and Milano couldn’t sustain any sort of offense in a 74-65 loss to Limoges. Forward Nobel Boungou-Colo paced Limoges with 18/5/5, as Milano’s lack of size hurt them again on the defensive end. More concerning, however, is the continued offensive stalling of Milano’s offense; they’ve got a ball-dominant guard who can score in Gentile, they’ve got shooters in Robbie Hummel and Krunoslav Simon, and they’ve got a decent interior presence in Jamel McLean. Depth is an issue, but this team should not be a bottom-five offense in this competition, which they have been so far.
Olympiacos had another strong win this week, beating Anadolu Efes 91-87. After receiving praise in this column last week, Patric Young was stifled by Efes’s defense, scoring just two points. Georgis Printezis and Othello Hunter picked up the slack, however, posting a combined 32/8 performance. Dario Saric looked awesome in this game, posting 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and Jayson Granger hulked out with 26 points on 9-15 shooting. Hunter was excellent in the extra period, though, and the Greek side took control of Group B heading into the second half of the round robin.
Kuban Krasnodar fell from the ranks of unbeatens, as Barcelona staged a small fourth-quarter comeback to knock off the Russian squad, 72-68. While Aleksandar Vezenkov got a DNP, three other NBA stash prospects led Barca, as Jazz prospect Ante Tomic had 16 points and seven assists, Wizards prospect Tomas Satoransky had 10/6/3, and Thunder prospect Alex Abrines chipped in nine points. Kuban Krasnodar only assisted on 14 of 27 made baskets in the game, and despite Malcolm Delaney‘s continued rampage (18 points on 6-12 shooting), Krasnodar couldn’t overcome the interior passing of Barca.
Still, they’re 4-1 and in prime position to advance comfortably.
Perhaps the most surprising result in the opposite direction from most of the big games this weekend came in Greece, where Panathinaikos rebounded from an embarrassing loss to Zielona Gora by destroying Zalgiris, 91-56. Pana was led by Miroslav Raduljica, who had 18 points, four rebounds and three steals in the win. Olivier Hanlan did have another nice game for Zalgiris, with seven points and three rebounds in mostly garbage time, but Zalgiris couldn’t get over shooting 35.3 percent from the field against a white-hot Panathinaikos.
Pinar Karsiyaka rebounded from a loss to Kuban Krasnodar by beating Zielona Gora, 77-66. Leading the way was Colton Iverson, who had 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the win, highlighted by this vicious early putback slam:
Much like Panathinaikos and Zalgiris, Pinar Karsiyaka alternates from looking like world beaters to moments of unreal struggle. Two weeks ago, Karsiyaka basically let Kuban Krasnodar play a perfect second half against them, but they also beat Barcelona on opening weekend. The bottom half of Group C may feature a finish as exciting as the top half of Group A.
If you missed it, Maccabi Tel Avivi fired their coach midweek, so it’s no surprise they looked a little out of sorts in a loss to Darussafaka. While they’re still sorting out their new coaching hire (reportedly it’ll be former Toronto Raptor center Zan Tabak), Dragan Bender took another DNP and Maccabi’s defense was ghastly, allowing 75.8 percent shooting inside the 3-point line. Darussafaka was led by a surprise Manuchar Markoishvili outburst of 22 points, but the bigger news for our purposes is that former Philadelphia 76er Furkan Aldemir made his debut for the Turkish side, posting two points and three rebounds in four minutes of play.
Aldemir joins a crowded frontcourt for Darussafaka, but I expect him to fill a hole as a rebounder and rim protector next to Luke Harangody.
Brose Baskets came away from Dinamo Sassari with a 90-73 win, led by an explosion from Nicolo Melli. Melli has been a consistent producer for the Bamberg side, but he went off for 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists, going 3-3 from 3-point range and pushing Bamberg to close out the game in the fourth quarter. Christian Eyenga had 14 points for Sassari, but they’re our only winless team right now and they probably have no chance of getting to the next round.
The game of the week was the clash of the undefeateds. Unicaja Malaga was down for most of the game against CSKA Moscow, but they went on a 13-5 run to end the game fueled by Edwin Jackson and won 86-78 on the road. Nemanja Nedovic hit a clutch dagger to cap Malaga’s run and finished with five points and six assists in a strong contest. Cory Higgins led CSKA with 17 points while Nando De Colo added 14, but CSKA missed several 3s down the stretch as Malaga locked the perimeter down and stayed undefeated.
Prospect of the Week: Colton Iverson, Pinar Karsiyaka
Iverson gets the nod here because he’s had potentially the most unique MVP case for the tournament so far. The former Colorado State center has draft rights from the Boston Celtics and he’s made a mark in Europe as an efficient rebounder and post-up threat. Iverson’s been instrumental in Karsiyaka’s victories so far, going for 16/8 in the win over Barcelona and posting 15/6/2 on Friday. But in between, Iverson had poor performances against Zalgiris (six points in eight minutes) and Panathinaikos (5 points in 16 minutes) — two pretty disappointing Karsiyaka losses.
Iverson, when on, is a force inside mainly thanks to his touch and crisp footwork on the low block:
His defense is still a little ugly at times and he’s not a great athlete, but there’s definitely talent there, particularly as he continues to develop in the pick-and-roll. If he can get more consistency, it’ll be great news for Karsiyaka and his NBA hopes, which so far have been … unspectacular.
This weekend features rematches of Round 1 games, with more clarity involved this time. Group A’s big game is Bayern Munich playing at Fenerbahce, while Khimki Moscow plays Real Madrid again. Group B is headlined by Cedevita hosting Olympiacos, with Cedevita trying to further throw a wrench into the works of the group and avenge a 76-61 Olympiacos victory. Pinar Karsiyaka will try to upend Barcelona for a second time in Group C and Brose Baskets will try in their second attempt to hand Unicaja their first loss.