Let’s reverse that flight pattern: Brandon Jennings played sparingly and averaged just seven points for Lottomatica Roma in what would have been his freshman year as an Arizona Wildcat. In his seventh game as an NBA rookie a year later, the Bucks’ Jennings scored 55 points against the Warriors — and all of that came in the game’s final three quarters.
Not even Juan Carlos Navarro, the Euroleague’s ‘all-time’ leading scorer and one of the all-time European greats (pocket the air quotes for that last one), has scored 40. In fact, La Bomba has only scored 30-plus three times in a Euroleague game, topping out at 32 in a Top 16 win over Zalgiris back in 2006.
But Brown’s record-tying performance doesn’t need to stand on the shoulders of my excuses and exceptions to grab its place in history, just as Brown’s MVP candidacy can no longer be questioned in the wake of Siena’s ability to grow around and feed off the yet-unrivaled personal brilliance of their leader.
Baskonia Goes Back Tabak
The Basque giants were a horrendous 1-5 when management showed coach Dusko Ivanovic the door. Ivanovic’s replacement in Vitoria, Zan Tabak, lost his debut to drop Caja Laboral to an even more hopeless 1-6 with just three regular season games remaining.
Then out of nowhere, Tabak led Andres Nocioni and Fernando San Emeterio to three straight must-win wins with Baskonia to sneak into the Top 16, where they took their opener against the defending champions, Olympiacos. By the time they outlasted Maccabi 71-70 this past week for the club’s fifth straight EL win, all of Europe had been put on notice: Forget what you saw in the season’s first seven weeks.
Nemanja Bjelica hit five threes and Fernando San Emeterio won it for Caja Laboral in the game’s last minute with an uncomfortable looking floater off a downhill run at the rim that had FSE’s initials all over it. But what really stood out were the defensive highlights that weren’t there in weeks one through seven: Omar Cook intercepting a skip pass to the corner late in the fourth quarter; San Emeterio tracing Cook’s footsteps for a nearly identical steal a minute later; Tibor Pleiss boxing people out and putting his arms between his attackers and an available rim in a second quarter that saw just nine Maccabi points.
And yes, Caja Laboral only scored six themselves in the third, making the game interesting down the stretch. Now that Tabak has turned defense into a point of pride as opposed to a 24-second countdown until Caja Laboral could rush another shot, Baskonia can afford these momentary, even quarter-long lapses in offensive virility.
Milos Teodosic’s Assist That Almost Wasn’t
The Euroleague assist is an elusive beast. Even if your entry pass leads to a bucket down low, a single dribble, a pair of seconds or a half-a-hesitation can be enough to keep your name out of the box score. This past week, for example, the high for assists was Emir Preldzic’s eight, who had one more than Bobby Brown’s seven. For the season, Brown leads the way with just 5.9 per game.
Yet Berlin’s scorekeepers sent the credit-stripping bar screaming to new heights this past week when Milos Teodosic’s one-handed worm burner found a streaking Anton Ponkrashov for a fast break lay-up in CSKA Moscow’s 75-57 stomping of the German club.
Hell of a pass. We can all agree there. But it turns out that the Euroleague.net Assist of the Night wasn’t an assist at all at the time the video was released. At least, not according to the original box score, which listed a zero in Teodosic’s assists column.
It would have been the first assist-less game of the year for the Serbian guard had the problem not been remedied more than 24 hours after the buzzer, and one is left to wonder if it would have been tallied at all had Teodosic’s pass not been spectacular enough to warrant its ironic superlative.