The man who plays “at home” in hell..

The man who plays “at home” in hell..

By  Jim Conway on 20 April 2017




When the conditions of the game resemble hell, Obradovic just plays “at home”. Big break for Fener in OAKA, slow reflexes from Panathinaikos who will pursue the victory tonight with everything they have to tie the series. Great entry into the series for Olympiakos who grabbed Anadolu by the neck and gave them a first-hand lesson of what “Playoff Basketball” is. Hoopfellas and coach Kostas Mexas dissect the first games of the Greek teams..



He plays at home in “hell”. In the deepest darkness, he sees. This is what makes him special and has given him the throne. When everything falls apart for his team, he is the only one to detect “life”. Last year’s Euroleague final is a typical example. Once again Zeljco Obradovic seems to be winning the title of the main person in the Playoffs of the competition. It truly is bad news for a team to find themselves against him when he is on form…


In an game full of surprises at OAKA, Fenerbahce got the win from the spiritually “frozen” Panathinaikos of the second half taking the lead from the beginning. Olympiacos gave absolutely no right to Velimir Perasovic’s Anadolu and bringing to the fore their traditional Gritty Basketball, trademark of the Piraeus club, reached 1-0 last night. Tonight Panathinaikos’s second match and their chance for a “comeback” (at so many levels)..


This year Hoopfellas has once again the pleasure to host coach Kostas Mexas in this critical time of the season to enlighten us with his valuable thinking on the two games of the Greek teams. The floor to the coach..



Good morning everyone. Once again I would like to respond to the invitation from Dimitris and Hoopfellas to analyze the Euroleague games with great pleasure. A site that has become indeed a special place for our game with greatly knowledgeable followers of the sport who are also respectful of the basketball exchange of views.


Let’s see what happened in the two games..






In my opinion, in this game we watched a defensive seminar from the Fener team for 3 periods. I think it was clear from the get-go that coach Obradovic’s team entered the court with much more concentration in both ends. Choosing to play Calathes under in pick and roll and a clear 2on2 in repick without helping from the others, with Gist’s playe- Vesely essentially following the roll, blocked the main part of creation for Panathinaikos. Also, choosing to put Kalinic on Singleton and his good performance took away any possible influence he could have on the match. On the other hand, PAO started without energy and concentration on defense –especially the 2 big men- and Fener, reading the defense correctly in most cases, were able to find solutions especially in the first 8 minutes- scoring three pointers was also an indication of spiritual readiness, as was in general the readiness of Kalinic-Vesely (in the “4” position) who knew, I think, that their defenders would always be in a position to help, played an important role overall because they seriously hurt coach Pasqual’s defensive plan..



In the second period, Panathinaikos relying on Bourousis, from the low post where he read both the help and the traps and created good shooting conditions for the guards, Rivers whose ability to use very well the off ball screens- especially when playing against Datome- and the skill of James-Pappas in slashing fully changed the picture; combined with the very good defense (even in pick and rolls with Bourousis that Fener pursued very frequently) that led Fener to many turnovers, gave Panathinaikos the upper hand until 22’. In the second half, the decision for 3 ballahandlers and “twin tower”s for the first time with the clear goal of limiting the turnovers and controling the tempo changed the scene. Fener’s defense became once again high-level both in tactic result-concentration and in energy. It was ready for various tactics, depending on the ballhandler in the pick n rolls, ready for off ball screens for Rivers-Feldein, ready for 1on1 defence both in backcourt players and when Bouroussis came on the floor. It led PAO to a game with much dribbling, very few movement and many off the dribble contested shots, plus mistakes that allowed them to find good opportunities in transitions – in a few words it made the Greens execute poorly. On offence, even though the lineup with 2 big men (plus Kalinic) had issues with spacing, good reading and proper execution after a hedge out defence in pick and rolls by Sloukas-Bogdanovic, emphasizing on the short roll pass to Udoh and Vesely’s movement on the baseline, created many problems for Panathinaikos and allowed easy layups and high percentage uncontested shots from behind the arc that in essence decided the game. The key was the quick passing of the ball by Fener’s ballhandlers and them looking for the next situation in hedge outs or against switching. In total, we would say that it was a just win for Fener, who were more mentally ready and concentrated in following their coach’s plan for the better part of the game, which was clear by Panathinaikos’ blow out when the match started going the wrong way before its final stretch.




Olympiacos were READY. From the beginning of the match they gave their credentials for almost 40’; they were dominant both on and off the court on both ends. Using their energy and concentration on defence, they threw Anadolu off their game and made them play their style. All of Olympiacos’ players were great in most areas of the game and this showed their commitment. We all know how Olympiacos play much better when the supporting cast of their two leaders plays well (Milutinov and Mantzaris were particularly decisive). Both teams defended the PnR in the same way with the guard playing Over and the big man Flat, whereas Olympiacos played Granger Under, if the screen was too high and the rest of the players not helping too much and staying on the passes; Efes would help a bit more with Spanoulis with the players that were close to the ball. It was obvious that coach Sfairopoulos did not want Efes’ two guards to create for the other players. Even though Spanoulis missed 2-3 of his first off the dribble pull ups, Olympiacos later found solutions with either Spanoulis passing to Milutinov, or with baseline cuts; on the other hand, Efes seemed trapped, as the Reds guards on ball defence was good, and in several occasions tried to “break through” the screens and the good game of Milutinov, even when switching in the dying seconds (6-7’’) of the possession. Also, Olympiacos was completely ready and concentrated in the important area of defensive transition, and did not allow Anadolu to hurt them there, whereas, when they found the chance, they run the court and scored in primary or secondary fast breaks in various ways. Heurtel was “targeted” in the second period, and Olympiacos scored 9 points against him, 6 by Waters and Papanikolaou’s 3-pointer from an assist by Green on Heurtel’s defence, which led to establishing the game’s momentum.


The change in tactics by coach Perasovic in the pick and roll in hedge outs for the rest of the minutes and the 3rd period did not help his team, as Olympiacos-Spanoulis in particular- read their helping well (last weakside defender) and easily found solutions. In the third period, Anadolu started with their two point guards together and tried to change things up, but Olympiacos’ concentration level was too good and even though both scored difficult off the dribble shots, it wasn’t easy to turn things around, as Olympiacos continued to read the situations well on offence and used Printezis a bit more-mainly with early posts-and responded well to traps from the ballside(on the second dribble) that Anadolu sought, but they had solutions to this. Things did not change in the 4th period, despite Anadolu starting well and changing lineups with Brown on “5”, as Olympiacos concentrated very quickly and read very well the mismatches that were created, most of the times during the play, and used them to their advantage by getting fouled or by scoring. All in all, Olympiacos were very good and were ready to deal with Efes’ strong points (transition, 1on1, pick and roll and offensive rebounding) and mentally ready for a battle, as we can see from their high percentage on free throws, their many offensive rebounds as well as huistle possessions, where they were dominant most of the times.”  

After thanking coach Kostas Mexas for his analysis and his good words, I will go on to my comment and I will talk about certain areas of the two matches of the Greek teams, apart from the ones the Greek coach just mentioned, in order to avoid repeating ourselves.


In the Playoffs, coach Obravdovic has this magic ability to turn Fener into the best defensive team in Europe. We saw it last year against Real Madrid, where he played total basketball and perfect defence, which, as in the first game of this season, gave him scoring in transition. Fener is not a team that uses quick entry of the ball with a dribble (after a rebound or a bucket) in their offence, seeking any chance to score in the first seconds of their possession, but they have several playmakers on defence (the term in its core is used on both ends of the floor, and on defence is attributed to players that make defensive plays, steals, blocks etc.), such as Vessely, Udoh and Kalinic-Bogdanovic, which gives them the right to push forward. Just like in last year’s series against Madrid, at OAKA the Turkish team were able to find the circumstances to allow them to score in transition behind the arc against a Panathinaikos squad that to everyone’s surprise, was very late in putting a player on the ballhandler that would run in the middle lane.


Half court fast breaks (SOS)


The Show & Recover tactic, used by Xavi Pascual to stop Fener’s Pick & Roll was so unsuccessful that it became the point of reference for the opponents’ offence. Fener’s ballhandlers would quickly pass the ball either to a big man, or the free throw line (2-1-2), or the weak side guard and create half court fast breaks, which were executed by Fener t o  p e r f e c t i o n. Panathinaikos never stopped this first pass and their big man’s Show, they had trouble communicating (lack of automatic rotations, we saw two players running towards the same direction more than twice) on defence, and they never directed the ball. Looking at the change of Fener’s offensive performance, I would say that this is what coach Obradovic asked from his players to change on the second half: how quickly the ballhandler passed the ball after the screen. Comparing the way Fener executed this specific situation, shows the mistake of overdribbling in the first 20 minutes. Overdribbling (when we use that term in this level, we mean that just one dribble is superfluous, as it changes the time of execution) helped Panathinaikos’ defence, which in the lineup with Bouroussis-Gabriel had had its best minutes in the game.

The Greek team fell to their knees by their opponents’ ability to execute with an extra player (the automated plays and reactions of a core of players that are working together for a long time) and coach Pascual was too late to act (immediate switching in the end, but the opponents were already in the driver’s seat). To be honest, I think that from the beginning, he looked like he was following Obradovic in terms of “adjustments” and initiatives by believing (?) that the home team, seeing certain players in a “Get Going” mood would automatically win this game. I was also expecting “something” (something, coach…) when the switch was off and darkness hid the basket from the Panathinaikos players. A trick to change the momentum and transfer a feeling of initiative to your team. The 1-2-2 he used in their previous clash at OAKA was a good thought when the opponent change the “line of defence” on Kalinic, who would leave Singleton (his defence was very close to the American F/C’s face, he was always ready to lower his body and deprive him of his ability to put the ball on the floor well) and would go up to the first line of defence to guard James (his length against the player of the final attempt I was talking about). Fener “adjusted” the execution of this situation in the requirements created against Panathinaikos’ defensive choice, so the Greens have to work on the way (and the time) that Bouroussis passes the ball then the Turks double-team him in the low post. This will be a very important situation for the development of today’s game…

Fener aimed at entering the middle lane mainly with Bogdanovic, who (especially against the Step back-Fight Through that Pascual uses for Bouroussis) knows how to keep the opposing guard on his back, which is what great PnR guards do (Diamantidis, Spanoulis) to read and finish with the use of his size and insightfulness when going in the paint. Bogdan (I think that after all these, people who would smirk when in the summer of ’15 we were talking about the most complete wing in Europe, have stopped laughing) is a “killer”. His talent goes along with a durable wrapper of intangibles. Coach Obradovic used him in the 1 position for quite a long time (he had 18 assists in the two matches against Tofas and Banvit) in the first match, and Panathinaikos was mistaken in allowing him to move with the ball anywhere he wanted on the floor. Given his mentality, it is important to stop any connection with the basket from the start, when he tries to connect by walking on the “carpet” of easy scoring (free throws, close execution, selected shots from outside).

At his point I would like us to see the video made by the Peristeri coach, Kostas Kalogeropoulos, who analyses the Serbian wing’s performance in the first game of the series. The coach is one of us and has been reading our website from the beginning. Excellent work.

So, it’s 1-0… Panathinaikos is having one of the greatest battles of his recent history and the pressure on the team is great. We have said in the past (and it is very important not only to write/read about it, but also to understand) that in the Playoffs, sorrow or joy must only last a few hours. Only the ones that look ahead and quickly leave their emotions behind after each game advance. Nothing’s over. This is not a “cliché” nor comforting words, but what I have concluded in my experience in such series, which may be completely change within 40 minutes. Panathinaikos needs a convincing win today. Even though they are up against such a great team. They should keep the second period in their mind. A win that will change the atmosphere in the series and mainly the momentum, by being convincing first of all for the people that make up the team, who are looking for answers after last Tuesday’s shocking defeat, and are fighting to find the answers created by the blackout. Panathinaikos has an obligation to his history to give a strong message tonight. You know, a lot can change inside you after a night of merciless hammering, which was so hurtful two days ago.

«OSFP Playoffs Basketball»




Olympiacos took advantage of the lack of communication in Anadolu’s defence, which is obvious from the beginning of the season. This is an area where coach Perasovic’s team has been struggling with, for which the coach himself is mostly responsible; the coach has many good individual defenders, but he cannot make them defend together as a team and develop communication codes and automated responses on the defensive end. Especially when Heurtel (who is very poor in every aspect of defence) is on the floor, his teammates overhelp in order to cover this weakness and this constantly leads to situations for open shots or close out offense, depending on the situation (nature of help, time-point from where it comes, the skills of the players who receives the ball). Also, Anadolu, despite their athleticism, have trouble in defending with one player less, when the ball leaves after a Hard Hedge or Show bordering trapping PnR on defence, leaving open baseline cuts, which coach Sfairopoulos targeted with his forwards. I really liked this aggressive character of Olympiacos against this “Achilees heel” of their opponents. They look like a team that is prepared and know what they want on the floor.

 It is this lack of communication that was one of the main reasons that helped Olympiacos support their defence with offensive rebounds, by grabbing 18 of them. Anadolu was the top team in the league (averaging 10.7); they grabbed 9 offensive boards and scored 4 second chance points, whereas the home team scored 24. Suddenly Olympiacosnumber of total points scored (87) is justified




The defence of the Reds in the low post was (once more) very good. After all, we have pointed out again and again that Olympiacos is the team that best defends in this part of the court, and they will need this asset a lot in this series. With Lojeski out, and the big, athletic bodies of Papanikolaou-Papapetrou covering the “3” position, the Reds are even more “physical” and “aggressive” low in the paint; at the same time Milutinov’s improvement in positioning is an extra advantage. Player like Dunston, Brown and Paul had great trouble when going to the rim. The three of them had 4/27 two point shots




-Nikola Milutinov was fun to watch. At this moment he (and Papanikolaou) is the player that gives that extra boost every team is looking for at this point in the season from their role-players. The Serbian big man was dominant in the paint. He has impressively improved his footwark and this season has helped him to better perceive what goes on around him in the court. He was excellent against Dunston, he was very strong when fighting for positioning low, and he works very well away from the ball, by opening ways for his teammates’ drives with his screens. Excellent



Next to him, the duo of Green-Mantzaris. The two guards scored 7/12 three pointers and their performance is an important part of the aggressive nature, with which the Reds approached their opponents’ defence. We had said that with Lojeski out, Green is the key player for Olympiacos, and the good spot shooting of Mantzaris (which was a point of concern in the second half of the season) must be “there” throughout the series.





Olympiacos got their first win, but in this case (reading it backwards) we should reiterate the “must” of the short-lived strong feelings a win or a loss gives you in the playoffs. Coach Sfairopoulos and his players managed this series very well and gave a typical “Olympiacos Playoffs Performance”, by throwing Anadolu on the ropes from the beginning. The Turks are lacking in emotional intelligence, but they have other attributes and are still dangerous. Coach Perasovic in trying to open up the floor (he stretched his defence on the court at some point), but against a team (that is strong in rebounding) that know how to control the tempo, he must find solutions in half court. Olympiacos must remain aggressive. He should also be ready to win a more difficult game on Friday…

P.S.: Both outsiders (Baskonia, Darussafaka) fought hard and got close to an upset. The question is whether they will have another chance in the second game. We will talk more on Sunday.



P.S.1: I see Darussafaka trimming the point difference and Blatt using a 1-3-1 in the end and what we are seeing is just exciting. You know (regardless of the final result) this is what I really like. Coaches that “see” and “try” things. This is what Playoffs Basketball is all about.

Translated by: George-Orestis Zoumpos

Jim Conway