Euroleague Power Rankings: Russia’s Return To Power

RANKTEAMTHE RUNDOWNLAST
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CSKA Moscow (2-0; 11-1)

LAST WEEK: Won 75-57 at Alba Berlin
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Bamberg

After a 2011-12 regular season devoid of single-digit scoring performances, we were taken aback to see Nenad Krstic depositing threes and sixes into the box score early on. It was safe to say Nenad was just fine after finishing this year’s initial phase at 13.8 ppg on 63 percent shooting. For an encore, he’s decided to post 18.5 ppg on 84.6 percent in his first two Top 16 games.
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Khimki Moscow(2-0; 8-4)

LAST WEEK: Won 78-65 vs. Barcelona
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Montepaschi

Their offense is more than just pointless motion; it’s a series of calculated cuts and rolls and picks and cuts that Zoran Planinic sees, understands and reacts to comfortably and with conviction. And as Khimki steadily drips oil into Rimas Kurtinaitis’ machine, the rest of the league can’t seem to get their footing.
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3Real Madrid(2-0; 9-3)LAST WEEK: Won 82-67 at Bamberg
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Zalgiris

Real Madrid missed the playoffs last season with seven of the same guys and Pablo Laso on the bench. They swapped out Ante Tomic for Marcus Slaughter, got Rudy Fernandez back for good, and let Nikola Mirotic and Sergio Llull take their next steps together under the same coach.  Real Madrid finally has a plan. The pay off: no way in Hell they miss the playoffs this season. Final Four-bound? Yes, I think so.
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4Olympiacos(1-1; 9-3)LAST WEEK: Won 77-64 vs. Besiktas
THIS WEEK: Friday at Barcelona

While we still await the evasive Giorgi Shermadini debut, my eyes are on Kostas Sloukas, the 22-year-old point guard whose stellar Top 16 play last season was an integral part in the Reds’ unlikely run to the cup. After a DNP last week, Kostas saw a season-high 21 minutes this past week and responded with nine points. Mantzaris doesn’t present quite the scoring threat that the southpaw Sloukas does; if they can specialize and succeed alongside Vassilis Spanoulis and Acie Law up top, then Olympiacos could once again count ‘perimeter depth’ as their most outstanding asset.
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5Zalgiris (1-1; 9-3)LAST WEEK: Won 75-63 vs. Unicaja
THIS WEEK: Friday at Real Madrid
Joan Plaza’s offense was on full display against Unicaja, who could only shuffle and slap at the endless supply of attackers Zalgiris sent at the rim. Ten people played.  Nine people had multiple boards, to help push the rebounding margin to +8. Eight of them got to the line, where Zalgiris was 25-of-30.
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6Barcelona (1-1; 10-2)LAST WEEK: Lost 78-65 to Khimki
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Olympiacos
Barcelona’s defense has given up exactly 78 points in each of their last three games–two of them losses–after leading the league at 62 PPG allowed over their first nine. This week against Khimki, Barcelona’s stay-at-home defense proved too immobile to keep up with the perpetual Moscovian movement. The first signs of cracking: this Ante Tomic pout-burst after Khimki runs circles around Barca and comes away with a bonus three.
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7Caja Laboral (2-0; 6-6)LAST WEEK: Won 71-70 at Maccabi
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Besiktas

Before week seven, Caja Laboral had allowed every opponent to score 76+ on them. In the five games since, only Anadolu Efes reached that number, and it was in a 15-point (91-76) win for Baskonia. Caja Laboral has the Istnabul portion of their schedule coming up, with back-to-back games against Besiktas and then at Fenerbahce Ulker before hosting Barcelona and Khimki in weeks 15 and 16. No place like home to re-solidify your status as a contender.
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8Panathinaikos(1-1; 7-5)LAST WEEK: Lost 78-64 at Anadolu Efes
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Unicaja

Sofoklis Schorstanitis played as well as anyone could have hoped coming back from a foot injury (4-of-9, 7-of-9 from the free throw line, 15 points), but Anadolu Efes’ guards feasted on the Panathinaikos backcourt with Dimitris Diamantidis hurt.  It turns out Jason Kapono (3-of-12) might not be able to keep up that point-per-minute pace, either.
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9Montepaschi Siena(2-0; 7-5)LAST WEEK: Won 98-92 at Fenerbahce Ulker
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Khimki
Bobby Brown tied the modern Euroleague scoring record this week with 41 points. But he could score the air out of the ball and wouldn’t even get half a nod from the All-Euroleague voters if Siena weren’t winning. Bobby’s figured out a way to shoot often and win enough, and that’s rare.
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10Unicaja (1-1; 9-3)LAST WEEK: Lost 75-63 at Zalgiris
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Panathinaikos
Andy Panko dissolved into thin air in his second Euroleague outing with Malaga: 1-of-3 for two points, no boards, no dimes and a turnover in 19 minutes. Zalgiris wore down not only Panko, but the entire defensive frontline of Unicaja, and skewed the margin with a 23-12 fourth quarter.
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11Maccabi Tel Aviv(0-2; 8-4)LAST WEEK: Lost 71-70 vs. Caja Laboral
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Fenerbahce Ulker
Maccabi’s last six wins have come against three teams: Alba Berlin twice, Asseco Prokom twice, and Elan-Chalon twice. That trio has combined for a Euroleague record of 9-23.  We warned you about getting too high off of Group B success; Maccabi’s having one vicious comedown.
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12Anadolu Efes(1-1; 6-6)LAST WEEK: Won 78-64 vs. Panathinaikos
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Alba Berlin
While I appreciate Jordan Farmar’s clear willingness to share the ball in the Efes offense, it’s in the club’s best interest for Jordan to be as selfish as he was in the season’s opening weeks, when Farmar was taking 13 shots per game and Efes was 3-1. And it’s not as if he has to sacrifice sharing to get his: Farmar’s three highest assist totals (9, 9 and 6) came in games in which he also attempted the most shots: 15, 14 and 18. Tempo, tempo, tempo.
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13Bamberg(0-2; 3-9)LAST WEEK: Lost 82-67 vs. Real Madrid
THIS WEEK: Thursday at CSKA Moscow

Bamberg won’t get Jeremiah Massey until week eight of the Top 16, which means CSKA Moscow will gobble up Bamberg’s bigs like Madrid’s did last week (42 to 32 on the boards) and turn unfocused offense into points. But after moving to an inevitable 0-3, Bamberg will head for the schedule’s soft spot: hosting Anadolu Efes, and then a trip to Deutschland’s capital to play Basketball Bundesliga rivals Berlin.
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14Besiktas(0-2; 5-7)LAST WEEK: Lost 77-64 at Olympiacos
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Caja Laboral

Besiktas is on the verge of becoming Group F’s whipping boy if they can’t turn around a league-worst .88 assist/turnover ratio or their pathetic 65.8 percent from the free throw line. Living on guts and floor burns can get you to the Top 16, but getting wins here requires more talent than they’ve assembled.
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15Fenerbahce Ulker(0-2; 5-7)LAST WEEK: Lost 98-92 vs. Montepaschi Siena
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Maccabi Electra

Lost in Bobby Brown Day were Bojan Bogdanovic’s 31 points, the most he’s ever scored in 54 career EL games.  Emir Preldzic also did his part to help Fenerbahce put up a big number, netting 15 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds against the league’s worst defense.  But it was Fenerbahce, who are now giving up 99 points per game in the Top 16, who seem to be challenging Siena for that dubious points-allowed title.
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16ALBA Berlin (0-2; 4-8)LAST WEEK: Lost 75-57 vs. CSKA Moscow
THIS WEEK: Friday at Anadolu Efes

Looks like my weekly challenge will be coming up with new ways to explain why Berlin doesn’t belong here. I’d even be willing to give them a pass on a horrendous showing against this list’s No. 1 team, but all I can think about is how badly Jordan Farmar and Jamon Lucas are going to trash Berlin’s depleted backcourt this Friday in Istanbul.
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Nick Gibson, editor of EuroleagueAdventures.com, covers Euroleague and other international basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His Power Rankings come out every week. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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