Facts do not cease to exist just because… they are ignored. Hoopfellas on the two “eternals” and what they go through in the final stretch of the regular season..
Different routes for Olympiacos and Panathinaikos this week with the “clover” losing in details in Istanbul a match that would have given them an advantage. Olympiacos managed their own absences easily by winning the decimated Maccabi in Tel Aviv..
Welcome to Hell..
Panathinaikos lost an important match in Istanbul to Darussafaka and with this the security provided by the loneliness of the fifth place and the closer contact with the leading quartet. Six games before the end of the regular season, the Greens officially joined in a group of five teams that are expected to endure their own basketball Survivor, testing their limits in the battle for qualification and the best possible place in the rankings. The phantom of not qualifying for the next round (with any kind of tie considered likely) really puts pressure on them and managing it will serve us plenty of “truth” on all levels..
Xavi Pascual’s team is now tied with Crvena Zvezda in fifth place and in the next two games they play away at Kaunas and at home against Real Madrid. One victory behind Anadolu who plays 4 out of the next 5 matches at home. In the first two games (at the beginning of next week) they even play at home with Brose and Maccabi.. At the same time, Darussafaka has “targeted” Baskonia.
Gentlemen, welcome to hell..
Close matches require 1 on 1 defense…
Panathinaikos “fell” in the last minutes roulette in VW Arena in a game that seemed to be able to “close” properly. However, they did not succeed because they never really managed to control it through their defense. This is where the main reason for the defeat of a team that shot 27 two-pointers (with the very poor 40.7%) and 30 three-pointers is found.. The “Clover” fell in Turkey due to their poor defensive performance, certainly one of the worst of this season.
Xavi Pascual’s players lost a lot of One on One battles on the court, whether they were personal defenses or hustles for loose ball or bra-de-fer away from the ball, which “paid up” with precious space to the winner in the battle for position. It is maybe the first time this year that the Greek team loses so many personal battles. You can understand how important this is if you translate it into the defense field, when the team lining up against them was the team whose offense depends on one on one plays more than any other team in this year’s Euroleague. Such is indeed the nature of this year’s Darussafaka. A look at how their backcourt is built is enough…
Coach Pascual abandoned last month’s gamble with Gabriel and Gentile in the same lineup seeking to control the defensive rebounds with Bourousis next to Singleton. It is obvious, however, that in close matches, which, as we have underlined, are decided by one on one plays, the opponent coaches now cynically target Bourousis (see Pashutin’s persistence on picks with Colom last week). In total, the green defense:
Was unprecedentedly passive in Close out situations. After the second rotation, the home team “closed inside” the Greek defense with entry actions in close out offenses, such as the Flip Action for Moerman whom you see in the photo (smells like Kezmura), and kept sending the ball to the Weak side and creating close out situations.
They were slow in defensive rotations, caused by lack of focus and poor positioning. Players such as Gentile and Gabriel often lose their position and sprint to get to the position in which they should already have been when the ball has reached the opponent’s free sniper. Done deal.
They lost space on the court. PAO’s “5” stays on Zizic’s back when the Croatian screens away from the ball to clear the lane for his backcourt teammate. The “change” tactic was completely shot down as Panathinaikos conceded several points from slashing and even from match-ups that were, theoretically, in their favor. Also note that in two matches against Panathinaikos this year, the Turkish team shoots 44.4% on three pointers and has won the above the rim battle…
They showed poor behavior in defensive transition and unusually low perception in decoding what was presented by the opponent. Darussafaka’s productivity in the open court shifted the balances, especially when Blatt’s guards reached with characteristic defense by dribbling to the free throw line, getting close to the Greens rim. When the tank named Wanamaker reaches the Deadly Zone at full speed, the game is probably lost.
Brad Wanamaker was a real tank on Friday night, going “over” his opponents. His body, insight and determination created a non match package for the green defense, especially in situations where the guard from Philadelphia had the “train driver” role in offensive transition. When Wanamaker “entered” the middle lane dribbling aggressively towards the basket, no one managed to send him to the corners. He managed to get inside by going against the screen before the green defense could adjust to the opponent’s action and the former Pittsburgh guard would perfectly “read” the big guy’s body that would go up with his screener and punish every moment of weakness/imbalance. Blatt opened up this path for him by creating the appropriate context with double drags in the open court (he has been doing that efficiently since the start of the season). Maybe Pascual should have bet more on ICE on Wannamaker’s side picks (especially since there were units on the court that are not strong on rotations), but this choice would require Calathes on the court and a typical “5” on the other side (given the fact that Moerman and Harangody have the ability to score from mid-range). Wannamaker was excellent in both offense and defense and completely beat every opponent.
Keep your mind open to new ideas, coach…
Xavi Pascual’s mission was admittedly difficult against David Blatt, especially since the home team were playing for their survival. Panathinaikos had bad stretches of time and their coach made wrong assessments; however, it is essential as a coach to keep his mind open to new ideas and also keep his team fresh. At this point the Greens need their coach more than ever in the season. Panathinaikos tried to attack from the main lane by running side pick situations (even in 1-3-1) aiming to send the guard to the main lane with his good hand and expected to use this to open the defense. Let me remind you that the Greens (especially with James on “1”) do not use those skip passes that used to make the opponents’ defense run more and cover much space in defense. The Diamond offense ended up in post ups from Bouroussis, but Blatt was ready there. The “aggressive” help before Bouroussis’ drop step from the strong side (vertical or from the base line aiming at make it more difficult to adjust, the fact that Blatt did not choose Panathinaikos’ shot cost him) made the Greek centre turn the ball over too many times and kept him away from scoring in the paint. He put Clyburn on Calathes, thus locking the main lane and making the team stronger in situations where the Greens’ “5” would win the change and dive deep.
Lately, Blatt has been playing the so called Gaggle actions after a staggered screen, which are well known to anyone that has studied the technical part and through the Spurs motion offence. Gaggle (when Moerman and Harangody are in the frontcourt) and Gaggle Post (when Zizic is in the “5” position).
On the occasion of the upcoming match in Faliro, you can check them out..
Many of Pascual’s players are in a bad moon right now. He needs someone to lift him up but above everything else, I repeat, he will need new ideas. It is now well known that almost every last possession of the greens starts with a 1-4 Low Stack that leads to a 2-3 High Set with a sudden move from Singleton, who screens James. The opponents also adjust to the persistence of the Greens for two-on-two plays on the right side for the same pair even though the ability of these players to score on defence makes them less predictable.
I believe that Xavi Pascual diagnosed from the beginning that with the players he found at OAKA he could play a specific kind of basketball in order to get fast results ranking-wise. There wasn’t the raw material to establish a more complex offense, which would probably fail. This version of Panathinaikos doesn’t have the great playmaking to do so. What it has, however, is players with backcourt execution and Face/Post up game. He executes specific things with the belief that he is closer to the skills of his players. He makes mistakes but he should stay away from obsessions. Free his mind by himself. I have shared with you my opinions on the roster since the season began. There is no need to say anything more.. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” as the great Huxley said. Panathinaikos has to reach high defensive standards in the remaining 6 matches and close the season in the top six. There is no other way at the moment. Do what you know well. Panathinaikos will invest in defense and based on this direction, they must adjust their choices in rotation. Don’t forget that last year’s “3&D” Kuban went as far as F4 by beating Pascual’s Barcelona. This is the way today to have the opportunity tomorrow..
“The coach should be the absolute boss, but he still should maintain an open mind..” Red Auerbach
Easy, as expected, for Olympiacos..
I have less to say for Olympiakos’ game. Maccabi’s roster in this particular game had less quality; it was the weakest roster to line up this year in a Euroleague game between the 16 contenders. It makes sense that the difference between the two teams was big despite the fact that the great number of absences brought Bagatskis’ team together and appeared combative and with the basketball selfishness dictated by the club’s history before their fans. I’m not going to lie; I wanted to see how Olympiacos would manage a game in which the opponent would have all their Americans on the court, especially after the match with Fener in Istanbul. Such a battle would have more “truth”..
A few comments..
-Giannis Sfairopoulos knew the “harsh reality” of Bagatskis that would inevitably lead him to use double teams on Printezis and to activate rotations in the hosts’ defense. Maccabbi couldn’t match Olympiacos, physically and game-wise. The Reds know how to deal with two against two situations, almost always with the involvement of Printezis, on the side, they move the ball right. Logic says that no help will come from the strong side when Spanoulis in on the court. However, Bagatskis didn’t hesitate to double-team him by leaving Greene free..
-On 1-3-1 coach Sfairopoulos runs a form of overload by setting up his two shooters on the weak side. For some reason a PG with better penetration could skyrocket the effectiveness of such situations. Oh, Hackett..
-Olympiacos “locked” the hosts when they improved their low post defense away from the ball. Iverson was active at the beginning, but the later 4/4 defense was exemplary. In total, Giannis Sfairopoulos was more conservative in his defensive plan (without excessive use of “changes”). This makes sense since his opponent had limited offensive skills and the main priority for the Greek defense was to reduce the hosts’ room for action by keeping their slashers away from the paint.
-Good match from Waters. He plays exactly what he was acquired for. His midrange game is gold. At this level and against these defenses he isn’t the PG with the playmaking abilities even though his passive character and Olympiacos’ game may give him numbers as well as this illusion to some. I like his competitive character. This is where we were focused on when he was acquired..
We will soon say more for Olympiakos, on another topic..
P.S.: Nikola Jokic has advanced stats similar to those of the 21-year-old Magic Johnson. Denver has a long tradition in international players. They know how to choose and work with them. Jokic is certainly a special case. His FIBA tournament experience and the way the national team of Serbia works on their offense have helped him. Watch the Nuggets for a bit and you will understand what I mean..
P.S.1: I’m writing this again. Games such as the one between Galata and Real or Panathinaikos and Unics launch up the success rate of the competition’s new format. They all play till the end...
Translation: Orestis Zoumpos
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