|1||LAST WEEK: Won 81-75 at Union Olimpija
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Real Madrid
Luckily for Barcelona, the as-of-yet lone threat to their perfection—Partizan Belgrade—will be either watching at home or safely tucked away in Group F come the Top 16. Barcelona has won seven of their nine games by 12, 18, 12, 21, 20, 14 and 30; the average margin there is just a hair under 20. The Serbian side, on the other hand, lost in Barcelona by just three and forced Marcelinho Huertas to make two free throws in the final seconds of overtime in Belgrade’s jam-packed Pionir Arena, and Barca snuck away by a single point. Erazem Lorbek sat in Serbia, but played this weekend in the Spanish League, so expect to see him out there against his former team, CSKA, as Barca goes for an undefeated regular season.
|2||LAST WEEK: Won 84-62 at Cedevita Zagreb
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Olimpia Milano
After narrowly escaping a Caja Laboral team that turned out to be easily beatable in week one, the reigning champs lost by 26 to Anadolu Efes and 18 to Zalgiris in their follow-up performances, and topped it all off by squeaking past Cedevita Zagreb the next week by just two. Turns out that ugly win against Zagreb was the start of something drop-dead gorgeous in Piraeus, as Vassilis Spanoulis vaulted to the head of the MVP discussion and Kostas Papanikolaou drew neck-and-neck with Nikola Mirotic for the Rising Star trophy by hitting 59 percent of his threes and 100 percent of his free throws as Olympiacos won six straight. Oh, and they’re playing a little defense, too. What we were so worried about, again?
|LAST WEEK: Won 69-55 vs. Fenerbahce Ulker
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Khimki Moscow
Green Athenians don’t take too kindly to the folks in Red going on crazy winning streaks, so former-and-current-all-everything-point-forward-guard Dimitris Diamantidis decided to do something about it, amassing a league best 32 assists over Panathinaikos’ last four games, all wins. If he were playing his home games in TD Garden, there’s no telling how many dimes he would’ve handed out by now. Wrong shade of green on their clover, I guess.
|4||CSKA Moscow (8-1)||LAST WEEK: Won 87-72 vs. Besiktas
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Barcelona
Viktor Khryapa went 1-of-7 on two point shots—usually a death wish for an aspiring Euroleague index rater—and still ended up with a PIR of 22. Further proof that he’s rigged the system, just as his five assists and 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc gives further credence to my belief that there’s nobody more dangerous with the ball at the top of the key than the 6’9″ Khryapa, who could step onto any NBA floor tomorrow and make a positive impact on both sides of it. He’s so much smarter now than he ever was in Portland (2004-06) or Chicago (2006-08).
|5||Real Madrid (6-3)||LAST WEEK: Lost 76-70 at Cantu
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Union Olimpija
Cantu needed a win about 1,000 times more than Los Blancos last week in Italy, and it showed. Rudy Fernandez’s absence was likely precautionary and Pablo Laso appeared more concerned with the execution than the result, as Madrid is already safely through and seeding matters less, if any, in this year’s two-pod Top 16. In the season’s final test, look for the big Brazilian Rafael Hettsheimer to be given a shot at his first big Euroleague minutes while the 32-year-old Felipe Reyes is given a rest. If Rafael returns to his Zaragoza form of yesteryear, then we could be looking at the first 12-man rotation since church league.
|6||Zalgiris (7-2)||LAST WEEK: Won 67-65 at Olimpia Milano
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Anadolu Efes
Even though Spanoulis, Papanikolaou and even Josh Powell of Olympiacos got to the rim whenever they pleased in a 14-point Zalgiris loss two weeks ago, Zalgiris simply needs to beat the sleepwalking Anadolu Efes this week in Kaunas to complete their shocking courtship of Group C’s top spot.
|7||Unicaja (7-2)||LAST WEEK: Won at Berlin 63-74
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Elan-Chalon
You won’t find the answers you’re looking for in the statistics if the question is Why is Unicaja so much more reliable this year than last? They’re in the top half in most offensive categories—scoring, field goal percentage, threes made—but only Fenerbahce has let other teams crash the boards at a more alarming rate, usually the sign of a team that will struggle (Fenerbahce sure has). Their genius is in placement: as in, these guys were lucky to be placed in Group B, where the only team with legitimate Final Four aspirations coming into the season was Maccabi Tel Aviv, who has plenty of problems all their own. Still, Unicaja deserves to soak up some credit simply for not blowing it, which hasn’t always been their strong suit.
|8||Maccabi Tel Aviv (7-2)||LAST WEEK: Won 89-73 at Asseco Prokom
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Alba Berlin
Their two losses this season have come in their last four–granted, by merely two points apiece—to two of the only other three at-least-partially competent teams in Group B: Unicaja and Alba Berlin. And with Guy Pnini suspended, fined and demoted from his captaincy after a television camera caught him calling opponent Jonathan Skjoldebrand a Nazi, and wishing cancer upon Jonathan and his father in an Israeli League game, the good will surrounding their 5-0 start feels buried in the past.
|9||Khimki Moscow (5-4)||LAST WEEK: Lost 74-72 at Union Olimpija
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Panathinaikos
Much like Berlin and Besiktas, Khimki has done well to win early and rise above the bedlam beneath them, as Fenerbahce Ulker, Cantu and even Union Olimpija have tried to rudder their ways into the next round. Two things: all four of Khimki’s losses have come on the road, but they’ve won every game at home. They should pride themselves, however, in being the last team to leave Athens without a scratch; Panathinaikos hasn’t lost since these very Russians beat them 79-67 in Greece on November 9. The rematch is this Thursday in Moscow.
|10||Montepaschi Siena (5-4)||LAST WEEK: Lost at Elan-Chalon 108-103
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Asseco Prokom
It’s Bobby Brown’s prerogative to shoot, so shoot he shall. In Simon Jatsch’s advanced analysis of shots created among Euroleague point guards, that violent jut down and to the left you see here is Brown’s fidgety trigger finger, which has put up 115 shots this season, second only to Bamberg’s Boki Nachbar for tops in the EL. The stat measures unassisted field goals (excluding putbacks), plus assists per 70.6 possessions—which has been the Euroleague average this season—and is adjusted for pace and minutes played.
|11||Anadolu Efes (5-4)||LAST WEEK: Lost 91-76 vs. Caja Laboral
THIS WEEK: Friday at Zalgiris
They haven’t done anything recently to justify this spot, going 2-3 over their last five while falling short by an average of 17 in the failures. After posting double figures in his first five games, Jordan Farmar has only done it once in his last four, and he hasn’t had a steal in two straight after getting at least one (twice with two, once with four) in the season’s first seven weeks. His MVP candidacy has been temporarily revoked, but he’ll dip his toes back in the race during the longer, more intense Top 16.
|12||Besiktas (4-5)||LAST WEEK: Lost 87-72 at CSKA Moscow
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Lietuvos Rytas
It hasn’t been lovely since a 2-0 start hot-wired the bandwagon, but Besiktas deserves credit for climbing out of the ball pit, and the three-team fracas for Group D’s fourth spot between Partizan, Lietuvos Rytas and Brose Baskets Bamberg. Now they’ll add JJ Redick’s backcourt mate from Duke, Daniel Ewing, to the equation for the Top 16.
|13||Alba Berlin (4-5)||LAST WEEK: Lost 74-63 vs. Unicaja
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Maccabi Tel Aviv
It pays to do your work early in the 10-game regular season. Two wins off the bat and Berlin has coasted, if not stumbled, their way to the fourth position in the anemic Group B. Bad news for future returns, however, as point guard Vule Avdalovic will miss the rest of the year with a ruptured ligament in his left knee. More than ever, DaShaun Wood will have to carry the load if Berlin is to avoid absolute annihilation in the next phase.
|14||Cantu (3-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 76-70 vs. Real Madrid
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Fenerbahce Ulker
Jonathan Tabu has filled in for the injured ex-Lousiville Cardinal Jerry Smith masterfully, leading a—here comes the cliché—balanced Cantu attack that saw all eight players (two DNPs, as only 10 dressed for the game) play at least 16 minutes. All eight players grabbed at least four rebounds, while not a one had more than seven, as the home team out rebounded Real Madrid 45-30 in Cantu’s most important game of the season. That most important label will adhere to this week’s clash with Fenerbahce in Istanbul now, as the Italians have a shot to make back-to-back trips to the Top 16 with a win.
|15||Union Olimpija (3-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 74-72 vs. Khimki Moscow
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Real Madrid
With EuroBasket coming to Ljubljana’s Stozice Arena this summer, it’s very encouraging to see a vibrant basketball culture seep back into Slovenia’s capital after last season’s 1-9 horror show, in which their lone win came against Asseco Prokom and their roster featured a mix of dinosaurs (Goran Jagodnik), unproven post-prospecters unconvinced they should be limited to anything less than a starring role (Aleksandr Capin), signings that never stuck (Ben Woodside) and prospects who weren’t yet ready to contribute regularly (Davis Bertans). Oh, and Danny Green, whose face in the team picture tells you everything you need to know about his stay with Union Olimpija.
|16||Caja Laboral (3-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 91-76 at Anadolu Efes
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Cedevita Zagreb
Andres Nocioni’s return to Saski Baskonia can’t be going as well as he’d hoped. The fire is still undeniably there, as are the angry trips to the rim, but he simply can’t or won’t guard anyone, and the rest of Caja Laboral’s roster doesn’t appear keen on filling that void with any significant efforts of their own. After making the playoffs—not the Top 16, but the playoffs—for eight straight seasons, they are on the verge of missing the Top 16 for the second straight year. That’s a big deal for the franchise that brought you Nocioni, Luis Scola, Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, Tiago Splitter, and most recently delivered Pablo Prigioni and Mirza Teletovic into New York’s dual embrace.
|17||Partizan (2-7)||LAST WEEK: Lost 68-67 vs. Barcelona in OT
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Bamberg
Only Partizan has kept it close with the undefeated Barca, with an 85-82 loss on November 1 and a one-point OT thriller last week, in which a block by former Belgrader Nathan Jawai kept a Dejan Musli floater from falling home for a win that would have put Partizan in the Group D driver’s seat. They should find solace in the fact that they’ve kept within kicking distance of the EL’s alpha male twice, and that they’ve still got life after an 0-5 start. Only Barca and CSKA Moscow have taken them out since then, and a win in Bamberg this week seems manageable, and will be enough to advance so long as Besiktas closes out their home schedule with a win against Lietuvos Rytas.
|18||Bamberg (2-7)||LAST WEEK: Lost 67-62 at Lietuvos Rytas
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Fenerbahce Ulker
Brian Roberts left for the Hornets and Bamberg made no efforts to replace his scoring at the two via free agency. That’s because they trusted the Slovakian Anton Gavel to fill not only his shoes but his vacated stat line. Newcomer Bostjan Nachbar has also helped out, however, chipping in 16 ppg—eleventh best in the EL. Getting AJ Ogilvy his first minutes of the season this past week is a great sign after Thunder prospect Latavious Williams didn’t work out, but it will mean nothing if they can’t beat Partizan at home this week and advance to the Top 16.
|19||Lietuvos Rytas (2-7)||LAST WEEK: Won 67-62 vs. Bamberg
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Besiktas
They were so close to taking care of business, so close to beating the system, when a silly foul by Renaldas Seibuis and the subsequent lack of a box out doomed Rytas to the most disappointing five-point win I’ve ever witnessed in basketball. Hands on face, butts on floor, eyes either rolled, shut, or gazing longingly at the Heavens after they had allowed their fate to slip through their fingers and into the cruel crevasses between buttons in the Euroleague tiebreak calculator. Still, a team with bottom-three-or-four talent can stay alive if they win at Besiktas and Partizan—over whom they hold a tiebreak and, thus, would trump if they both finish with three wins—can beat Bamberg in Germany.
|20||Fenerbahce Ulker (4-5)|| WEEK: Lost 69-55 at Panathinaikos
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Cantu
I’m considering storing my formula for a head-shakingly frustrated Fenerbahce rant on my Stickies. You know…’frequently used text’. I think weekly use qualifies, no? After their embarrassingly soft-fought loss to Panathinaikos in Athens last week, they can still earn the chance to redeem themselves in the Top 16 with a win this week against Cantu in Istanbul. But right now, even listing them on an article with the word ‘Power’ in it seems utterly laughable.
|21||Olimpia Milano (3-6)||LAST WEEK: Lost 67-65 vs. Zalgiris
THIS WEEK: Friday at Olympiacos
Nothing new from Milano. They shot 54 percent from two (14-of-26) and 35 percent from three (8-of-23) against Zalgiris, numbers which should, theoretically, be sufficient for a W at home. Giving up 15 offensive rebounds and turning it over 19 times (remember: 40 minute game) are two fantastically effective ways to counteract that mildly efficient offense. So they lost by two, and now have positioned themselves squarely behind the 8(-of-23) Ball.
|22||Cedevita Zagreb (2-7)||LAST WEEK: Lost 84-62 vs. Olympiacos
THIS WEEK: Friday at Caja Laboral
With wins against Zalgiris and Caja Laboral (even if that feather’s rested in many a cap this season) to their credit and the consistent play of the Mickael Gelabale-Bracey Wright duo, it’s increasingly difficult to refer to this season as a failure. Bonus item: 23-year-old Miro Bilan has shown he’s worthy of wading in the Euroleague’s painted area.
|23||Elan Chalon (3-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 108-103 vs. Montepaschi Siena
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Unicaja
Shelden Williams is seventh in scoring and second in rebounding, yet mysteriously 28th in blocked shots. For as many free runs as Chalon’s opponents get at the rim and no defensive three second restriction to abide by, one might assume the former two-time NABC Defensive POY (that’s college) would have mustered more than the 0.67 big he currently averages.
|24||Asseco Prokom (1-8)||LAST WEEK: Lost 89-73 vs. Maccabi
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Montepaschi Siena
At the end of last season, there was speculation that the organization as a whole might fold. Yet here the Polish champs remained, and were rewarded with another embarrassingly long-feeling Euroleague regular season. One has to wonder whether they deserve an A License, which virtually makes them immune to relegation as long as they finish in the top half of a weak Polish League. But to all you Spurs fans out there: we’ve received visual confirmation of Ryan Richards’ existence, so that should be semi-encouraging.
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