Real Madrid swept Maccabi in three and CSKA Moscow needed a fourth game to get rid of pesky Caja Laboral, and now both wait for this week’s results to see who they’ll be playing in London on May 10.
Madrid awaits either Barcelona or Panathinaikos, who play their fifth game in Barcelona on Thursday at 21:00 CET (that’s 4:00 EDT). Moscow will play the winner of Olympiacos vs. Anadolu Efes. That’ll be played on Friday in Piraeus, Greece at 20:45 CET (subtract five soooo…3:45 on the East Coast. Or 12:45 in Nevada).
Watch these games.
Whether it’s on Euroleague.TV or ESPN3.com or somerandomforeignstream.com, just take a moment and watch these games. They will be extraordinary.
There have been Bombas from La Bomba, daggers from Diamantidis, a Kyle Hines blockage bonanza and a tip-in at the buzzer. Through it all, the ten things I took away from these Euroleague Playoffs:
1. Spanoulis Not Above A Benching
Quick: who’s leading the Euroleague Playoffs in assists with seven? Not Rodriguez. Not Farmar. Not Huertas, and not even Dimitris Diamantidis. Nope, it’s Vassilis Spanoulis. It’s great news that he’s been passing the rock so well, but his seven nightly assists look less appetizing in the harsh light of his meager 8.3 points per game during these playoffs. Yup. He’s all the way down there at 34th (but still one slot ahead of Diamantidis, which is really all that matters). Spanoulis’ 3.3 turnovers per playoff game aren’t ideal, but it’s basically in line with his season average (3.4). The issue is with Spanoulis’ shooting stroke, which at first went cold and now has gone missing. For the series he is 6-of-19 on twos, a [pitiful/terrible/woeful/insert adjective of choice] 1-of-18 on his threes and only reached double figures in Game Two with 15. Bartzokas thought so little of Spanoulis’ contributions during Game Four that he put him on the bench in the game’s 34th minute and kept him there until the final horn, even as Olympiacos let a seven-point lead slip away in the final 1:29. Spanoulis finished the game 0-for-7 with 5 points, but here’s the craziest part to me: in a potentially Final Four clinching playoff game, Vassilis Spanoulis was not a part of Olympiacos’ most-used line-up (that was Law, Sloukas, Papanikolaou, Printezis and Hines). Shocking, and something that won’t happen again in Game Five.
2. Kyle Hines Above and Below Everyone, Simultaneously
Hines’ play all season long has been head-shakingly impressive. Week in and week out, the 6-foot-5 center proves to Europe that he has the mismatch, and not the other way around. Hines’ developing handle and low center of gravity make him a tough cover from 8-10 feet on offense, but it’s his ability to switch defensively from a center to a guard with very little drop off that makes him a monster against the pick and roll (a pretty popular play, I hear). And after a season’s worth of candidates, Kyle’s finally given us the one clip that wholly encompasses what it looks like to have your pick and roll Kyle Hinesed.
That there’s a slight hedge on the screen at the free throw line, followed by a successful recovery on the roll man resulting in an alley-oop swatted off the board. Beauty.
3. Olympiacos Can’t Keep Efes Off the Glass
The concern leading into last season’s semifinal against Barcelona, and agan in the final with CSKA Moscow, was largely centered around the Reds’ largeness, or lack thereof. Even after Joey Dorsey had ripped it up in the playoffs and become a defensive lynchpin for Dusan Ivkovic, what Olympiacos lacked in sheer inches (or centimeters) put them at an inherent disadvantage on the boards against Erazem Lorbek, Boniface N’Dong, Sasha Kaun, Nenad Krstic and the others. Dorsey’s gone now, Hines still hasn’t grown vertically and Josh Powell doesn’t deliver much more than a few competent minutes of Josh Powell. Giorgi Shermadini is an able-bodied pick and roll finisher whose head rests seven feet above the ground, yet he couldn’t get back in the game after starting, playing seven minutes and then fouling twice. Still, Olympiacos grabbed 10 offensive boards in the 74-73 Game Four loss. Not that bad, you’re thinking. Here’s what makes it that bad: Anadolu Efes grabbed 21 offensive boards, and 10 in the fourth quarter alone. Erden had five, Stanko Barac had four, and even Dusko Savanovic manned up with three angry O-boards.
4. …not even Jamon Lucas
Despite Efes’ success with large line-ups throughout the game, Oktay Mahmuti went with a super small quintet down 73-72 and with under 20 seconds left: Jordan Farmar, Kerem Tunceri, Jamon Lucas, Josh Shipp and Dusko Savanovic. With eight seconds on the clock, Farmar drove and kicked to Shipp for three. When the shot left his hands, only Farmar and Lucas were inside the arc for a possible offensive board. Tunceri was on one wing, Savanovic the other. So with no Erden, no Barac and no Gonlum to scrap inside, Lucas pulled a nasty little swim move on Kostas Sloukas and squared his feet to the rim. Then this happened.
No guard in today’s Euroleague helps his team in as many ways as Jamon Lucas. Except for maybe one guy…