As we head into the home stretch of group play, we are no closer to clarity on which teams will advance to the Round of 16 behind the five or six title contenders. Only one team has been eliminated from advancing and there are teams who looked like shoe-ins to advance in the first few weeks that are now are in the thick of the elimination race.
From a prospect perspective, several players had great performances this time around, but everything was overshadowed by an incredible performance by the player who might be the best in Europe.
The game of the week without a doubt came on Wednesday night when Khimki Moscow and Real Madrid played another fantastic contest in what was yet another wild weekend for Group A.
Khimki led for most of the game and was able to open up a 10-point first half lead and an 8-point second half lead, but the defending champions would not go quietly, equalizing within minutes both times. Khimki was led by Tyrese Rice’s 18 points and eight assists, and despite a 2-10 shooting performance, Alexey Shved was still able to get 10 trips to the line and add 13 points. For Madrid, it was former New Orleans Hornet Gustavo Ayon who shined, putting up 14 points and 15 rebounds and keeping Willy Hernangomez on the bench for the entire game. Madrid is now 2-4, and while they’re in danger of not advancing to the Round of 16, they have a fairly easy schedule left.
I wouldn’t worry about the defending champions just yet.
Bayern Munich, however, may not have such an easy time. The German team lost to Fenerbahce 84-67, and got pounded off the dribble by Bobby Dixon, who had 25/4/5. Bogdan Bogdanovic received a DNP in this game, but Luigi Datome picked up the slack with a 17-point effort for the Turkish side as they opened up a 30-10 lead in the first quarter that was never relinquished. However, the early deficit did get Paul Zipser of Bayern plenty of playing time and he performed well, with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes. Sixers prospect Vasilije Micic also got 15 minutes of playing time, his first of the competition, but didn’t really do much of note.
To wrap up Group A, Strasbourg overcame a 52-34 halftime deficit to beat Crvena Zvezda 78-75. Jeremy Leloup scored 24 points to lead the charge for Strasbourg, a huge win for the surprisingly 3-3 French side. Quincy Miller continues to look impressive for Crvena Zvezda — he poured in 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks — but only scored six points in the second half when Strasbourg’s defense tightened down.
Strasbourg still has to play Khimki Moscow and Fenerbahce again, so advancing is still going to be difficult for them, but they’ve been perhaps the tournament’s biggest surprise so far.
It was a typical week in Group B; Olympiacos won, Olimpia Milano lost despite 24 points from Alessandro Gentile and Anadolu Efes shot well from 3 in a win.
Olympiacos was very short-handed in their win over Cedevita, but it didn’t seem to matter as they cruised to a 83-70 victory. Playing without Georgis Printezis and Patric Young didn’t appear to be too much of a bother for the Greek team — they just plugged in Spurs prospect Nikola Milutinov and Hawks prospect Dimitris Agravanis, both of whom played well. Agravanis had 11 points and four rebounds in a solid outing, and while Milutinov didn’t get much time, he flashed a strong defensive effort with three steals and signs of a post game on his lone basket, something the pick-and-roll prospect hasn’t displayed much consistency with before.
Jacob Pullen had 13 points for Cedevita, but they were outrebounded 42-27 and couldn’t find consistency from 3-point range in the loss.
Laboral Kutxa was able to beat Olimpia Milano, 94-82. Milano’s offense looked better this week, but their defense failed by allowing Laboral to hit 52 percent from 3. The white-hot Fabien Causeur led Laboral with 22 points, shooting 6-9 from the field, and Laboral was able to ride a 28-19 first quarter for a nice win. Milano actually looked fairly cohesive on offense, with Croatian center Stanko Barac scoring 16 points and Jamel McLean chipping in 13. Alessandro Gentile had 24 to pace the team, but it came on 9-19 shooting and he had two shots blocked late in the game as Milano furiously attempted to come back. Milano likely now needs to win out to advance to the next round.
After a strange first half of group play that saw them start 2-3, Anadolu Efes looked like a team to reckon with again in a 92-74 win over Limoges. This was a team effort from Efes, who got scoring from Thomas Huertel and Derrick Brown (41 combined points), a bizarre near-triple double by Bryant Dunston (12/11/7) and excellent efforts from Dario Saric (10 points on 3-6 shooting) and Cedi Osman (seven points and three steals). Limoges’s notable performance was former Denver Nuggets great Yakhouba Diawara going for 17 points, but they just looked outmatched by an Efes team firing on all cylinders.
Barcelona’s lone loss this season was to Pinar Karsiyaka on the opening weekend. They unleashed a vicious correction for that loss with a 107-79 win over Karsiyaka this weekend.
Barca hit 76.3 percent of their 2-point attempts and had 26 assists in the game, and never gave Karsiyaka a chance. Ante Tomic had the most impressive performance of the day for Barca, posting 16 points and seven rebounds, while Tomas Satoransky had seven points, six assists and three steals in an impressive performance. Former Wichita State guard Joe Ragland had a surprising 26 points for Karsiyaka, but he was about the only player for them to have a good day.
Kuban Krasnodar also continued to add to the win column by beating Panathinaikos 77-71. Malcolm Delaney continued his case for Euroleague MVP with a 23/5/5 performance for Kuban Krasnodar, and he was Stephen Curry levels of on fire in the third quarter, helping Lokomotiv pull away with an 18-point supernova. And supernova is not hyperbole, because he was unconscious.
Miroslav Raduljica had 11 points and five rebounds for Panathinaikos, but it didn’t really matter what kind of offense Panathinaikos mustered because the second half belonged to Delaney.
In the final game, Zalgiris beat Zielona Gora in what was a mostly forgettable contest. Olivier Hanlan had another solid performance for Zalgiris, posting 11 points on 3-5 shooting from 3 to go along with eight rebounds. Zalgiris remains in the thick of the Group C race at 3-3, a bit of a surprise given the talent here, and this was a big win as they try to hold off Pinar Karsiyaka and Panathinaikos for the final spot.
CSKA Moscow became the first team to clinch a birth in the Round of 16 with a 88-82 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Milos Teodosic scored 25 points on 7-13 shooting to pace CSKA, and Nando De Colo added 15 points. Maccabi Tel Aviv looked decent in their first game under new head coach Zan Tabak, but they just don’t have the same amount of talent that CSKA brings to the table. Also, Dragan Bender played just two minutes, so it appears that a new coach won’t open any opportunities for him just yet.
Brose Baskets scored the biggest upset of the weekend, knocking off Unicaja Malaga from the ranks of the undefeateds in a surprising 73-53 victory. Malaga had maybe the worst shooting performance of any team in the tournament so far, shooting 29.6 percent from the field. This was a game that was on the borderline of unwatchable, but it opens things up for the rest of Group D ever so slightly.
Darussafaka knocked off Dinamo Sassari 68-60 behind a Luke Harangody explosion of 26 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. This was the most spirited game Sassari’s had in weeks. They stormed back into the game in the fourth quarter after being down 15 after 3, but Darussafaka was able to stave them off by pounding the small Italian squad inside with Harangody and Semih Erden.
As CSKA Moscow clinched a spot, this also means Sassari is the first team eliminated from the competition.
Prospect of the Week – Malcolm Delaney, Kuban Krasnodar
We’re flipping the script a little this week. Instead of highlighting a young NBA prospect, we’ll make a case for the next Bo McCalebb to get a look in the NBA.
Someone needs to give Malcolm Delaney a shot. The former Virginia Tech shooting guard has been lighting up everyone this season for Kuban Krasnodar, taking a huge leap to lead the surprising 5-1 Group C favorites. He peaked this week with his 18-point fireball, but that was more the culmination of a season of excellent play. He’s averaging 19.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists through six Euroleague games, and shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from 3-point range. He’s become a dynamite pick-and-roll scorer, and even though he’s undersized as a shooting guard, he’s not afraid to shoot against length. He can do a fair amount of damage off the ball, too.
Delaney is never going to be a strong defender, but he’s at least quick enough to hound guards in the pick-and-roll and he’s well-rounded enough offensively that he could get away with being a strong shooter off the bench, even if he’s a defensive liability.
Delaney has never really sniffed the NBA thanks to ugly buy-outs and questions about his size. He played in the 2013 NBA Summer League with the Detroit Pistons, but has mostly been a European player. He is interested in coming back to the NBA when he gets a chance, though, and he definitely is proving this year that he deserves a shot. He could be a Mo Williams or Rodney Stuckey type player off the bench for a team, and he’s just 26 years old. He even is a free agent this summer.
Someone go get Malcolm Delaney.
In Group A, Strasbourg attempts to continue their good fortune against Fenerbahce. Olympiacos and Laboral Kutxa will battle for control of Group B, while Cedevita and Anadolu Efes attempt to knock off Limoges and Olimpia Milano to all but clinch down the group’s four advancees. Group C has two interesting games, with Panathinaikos and Pinar Karsiyaka battling for fourth place in the group, and a fun Malcolm Delaney/Olivier Hanlan showdown in Kuban Krasnodar vs. Zalgiris. Finally in group D, Darussafaka and Brose Baskets is by far the most intriguing game unless Dragan Bender gets some run against Unicaja Malaga.