Euroleague Power Rankings: Caja Laboral and Siena Making Moves

RANKTEAMTHE RUNDOWNLAST
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CSKA Moscow (3-0; 12-1)

LAST WEEK: Won 90-83 vs. Bamberg
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Zalgiris

Dionte Christmas ridiculous shooting percentage update: the Temple Owl made of four of his five attempts from deep this week to move to 58 percent on the season.  In the regular season, Christmas made 11 threes and took 11 twos. In the Top 16: eight threes made, eight twos attempted.  If only CSKA’s offense were so focused on sticking to a consistent plan of attack. But when you’ve got the match-up advantage at almost every position always against whomever you play, wringing a point or two out of a dying possession is a whole lot easier.
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Real Madrid(3-0; 10-3)

LAST WEEK: Won 75-74 vs. Zalgiris
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Unicaja

Offensive dynamo, right? Well, yes. But they’ve had room for a hobby this season: defense. Not only do they force more turnovers than any Top 16 team (17.3 per game), but they only allow 10.3 assists against them (second fewest) and allow fewer offensive boards than anyone (7 per game).  Best make every possession count against these Madrileños; they don’t give you many extras, and they rarely leave points on the board themselves.
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3Khimki Moscow
(2-1; 8-5)
LAST WEEK: Lost 82-76 at Siena
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Maccabi

The Russian capital’s Other Team clearly couldn’t handle the pressure of being mentioned in the same breath as big bro, and as a result, left themselves vulnerable to a feasting Bobby Brown in his native Tuscany this week.
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4Regal Barcelona (2-1; 11-2)LAST WEEK: Won 76-68 vs. Olympiacos
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Besiktas

Sarunas Jasikevicius made Barcelona’s only three of the night against Olympiacos, but it didn’t matter.  Barcelona dribbled past and passed over Olympiacos’ guards all night and got too many good looks, making 56 percent from inside the arc.  Ante Tomic has been an animal in the Top 16, putting up 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds over the first three.
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5Caja Laboral (3-0; 7-6)LAST WEEK: Won 77-71 vs. Besiktas
THIS WEEK: Friday at Fenerbahce Ulker
If you had told me halfway through the Regular Season that Caja Laboral would be leading the Euroleague Top 16 in team defense, I would have stopped you before you could get past ‘Top’ and ’16.’ If you had somehow made it to the word ‘defense,’ I’d have asked you for your dealer’s number.  Alas, under new head coach Zan Tabak, a glaring weakness has become Caja’s greatest advantage, and they are the stingiest D in the Top 16 by allowing just 65 a game. On the other end, big games from Nemanja Bjelica and Maciej Lampe in the last two have offset Andres Nocioni’s two weakest scoring outings (seven, two).
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6Olympiacos (1-2; 9-4)LAST WEEK: Lost 76-68 at Barcelona
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Montepaschi Siena
I’m not terribly worried about Vassilis Spanoulis breaking his streak of 15 games in double figures (just nine against Barca). What concern me more are the 13 turnovers he’s had in his last three games.
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7Zalgiris(1-2; 9-4)LAST WEEK: Lost 75-74 at Real Madrid
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. CSKA Moscow

So a one-point loss in Madrid drops you two spots on this list?  Harsh, I know.  If Zalgiris fans were anything like Rudy Fernandez, they would throw a ball at my head and then spit on my friend.
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8Montepaschi Siena(3-0; 8-5)LAST WEEK: Won 82-76 vs. Khimki Moscow
THIS WEEK: Friday at Olympiacos

Bobby Brown’s encore for his record-tying 41 points last week was another 20-pointer against last week’s No. 2, Khimki Moscow.  It was Siena’s third win in three Top 16 tries. Tired of people saying Yeah, well they just score a lot, like it’s a bad thing.  It’s their league-leading offense that’s going to keep them in the wild Group F race until the final few weeks.
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9Panathinaikos (2-1; 8-5)LAST WEEK: Won 78-73 vs. Unicaja
THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Alba Berlin
Panathinaikos has now won two games (vs. Zalgiris, vs. Unicaja) in which Dimitris Diamantidis has left injured.  But I would stow any talk of silver linings around Dimitris himself, who Hulk Hogan-ed his poor jersey after hurting his ankle against Unicaja. Ripped it nearly in two.
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10Unicaja
 (1-2; 9-4)
LAST WEEK: Lost 78-73 at Panathinaikos
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Real Madrid
When Unicaja sent James Gist to Panathinikos in exchange for Andy Panko, the optimist in me decided Unicaja was ready to take the next step with Brazilian forward Augosto Cesar Lima. After all, Gist took a lot of athleticism and a few offensive boards with him, while Panko provides a very particular (different) set of skills. My gut feeling was off horribly: no playing time in the Top 16 opener for the 21-year-old Lima.  But after five minutes in game two, Lima grabbed five rebounds in eight minutes against Panathinaikos last week.  I cringe whenever I see him drift to the three-point line, but he has a knack for packing a lot of boards into small chunks of time, which usually makes up for it. Very curious to see what he could do with 18-20 minutes per game, but it’s tough to crack a very thick Unicaja front court that already has Luka Zoric, Fran Vazquez, Kosta Perovic and now, Panko.
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11Maccabi Tel Aviv (1-2; 9-4)LAST WEEK: Won 91-73 vs. Fenerbahce Ulker
THIS WEEK: Friday at Khimki Moscow
Maccabi’s 30-year-old Euroleague rookie Moran Roth had scored zero points and handed out five assists for the year before last week. But when faced with those friendly Fenerbahce stripes, Roth hit both of his threes and a two for eight points and handed out a team-high six assists in Maccabi’s first (hence, biggest) win in the Top 16.  The path between David Blatt’s doghouse and the foot of his bed is well worn in both directions, so don’t be surprised to see more of Moran as the games become more and more important.
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12Anadolu Efes(2-1; 7-6)LAST WEEK: Won 71-62 vs. Alba Berlin
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Bamberg
It’s encouraging to see Efes toward the top of the list in turnovers forced (16), since that’s exactly where they should be with Jordan Farmar and Jamon Gordon as the anchors.  But it’s even more encouraging to see Dusko Savanovic getting his Kerem Gonlum on, fighting for offensive rebounds (three this week) and sweating a little extra while going for a season-high 15 points.
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13Bamberg(0-3; 3-10)LAST WEEK: Lost 90-83 at CSKA Moscow
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Anadolu Efes

Playing CSKA Moscow three times in 13 games is not fun—especially when you lose all three—but watching Bostjan Nachbar revive his career as a go-to scoring threat has been a blast. This week, the 32-year-old gave us his best-ever EL output, going for 35 points. Even more incredible: he needed just 18 shots to do it.
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14Besiktas
(0-3; 5-8)
LAST WEEK: Lost 77-51 at Caja Laboral
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Barcelona

Patrick Christopher has scored 20 or more three times this season, and been held at or underneath four points four times. The last two games have been the bad kind for Pat, who is as inconsistent as they come, either looking like an unstoppable driving force, or a newly-acquired injury fill-in who’s unsure of his role.
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15Alba Berlin(0-3; 4-9)LAST WEEK: Lost 71-62 vs. Anadolu Efes
THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Panathinaikos

Not that going up against Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow is an excuse, but—no, never mind—it is an excuse. Still, the five points and three rebounds Deon Thompson averaged in Berlin’s Top 16 opening pair will never be enough for the Germans to get the job done.  The 15 and 11 he posted against Anadolu Efes is more like it.
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16Fenerbahçe Ülker(0-3; 5-8)LAST WEEK: Lost 91-73 at Maccabi
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Caja Laboral

The awfulness of Fenerbahce Ulker’s defense is easy to peg even in a police line-up with the Euroleague’s most awful. The 96.3 points per game they allow is almost 11 points worse than Bamberg (85.7; 15th) and 17 worse than Montepaschi Siena (79; 14th).  Meanwhile, the distance between Siena and top-ranked Caja Laboral (65) is only 14. Fenerbahce just keeps giving us cool new ways to quantify how bad they’ve been.
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Nick Gibson, editor of EuroleagueAdventures.com, covers Euroleague and other international basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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