Artículo en inglés escrito por Florian Kurth, que colaborará puntualmente con Fullbasket en un nuevo espacio íntegramente en lengua inglesa.
Not even 5 days until the 2019 Turkish Airlines Euroleague final four in Baskonia will start. After 30 regular season games for each team, we have four teams left, which are all dreaming to bring the trophy to their city. In this article, we will give you a quick preview of all four teams, which are aiming for the Euroleague title.
The finalists from last season, could even improve their winning number by four wins. Last year they finished with 21 wins the regular season and on the second spot. This season the Turks reached 25, after keeping most of the key players from the 17/18 roster.
The biggest trademark of Zeljko Obradovics coaching philosophy is the defense. Fener is the best defensive team, when it comes to the scoring average by their opponents in the regular season (75pts per game). The Serbian coaching legend is playing in almost every single game with a deep 12-player rotation. You know why? Just because he wants to have players on the court, who want to play defense with a high-level of energy and with cleverness. The fewest players can keep these two components, so you need to bring new incentives to your squad, in all these different game situations. As we notice the modern basketball playing style overseas in the NBA playoffs right now, I tell you, the phrase “offense wins games, but defense wins championships!” is real in the European basketball scene. If you can set the tone for 40 minutes on the defensive end, with ball defense all over the court and physical one-on-one matchups, you won half the battle, because the opponent loses lust, if they are not finding solutions against your mix of substantial and tactical defensive strategic. In this defensive structure of Fenerbahce, it seems like every individual defender is fighting for his teammate and interprets the D as a privilege, what is an insane achievement for any coach in Europe in these days.
The club announced on the 8th of May, that two important players with Luigi Datome and Joffrey Lauvergne will not play the semi-finals due to injuries. Lauvergne has been out since mid-February due to an ankle injury that he suffered in a Turkish Cup semifinals game. Datome suffered a right calf muscle tear in a Turkish League game against Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul on April 28.
Key player: Kostas Sloukas
The greek guard is playing the whole season on an insane high-level and will be for sure in the MVP conversation. With his great one-on-one full court defense and his intelligence, when it comes to decision making in the pick and roll, are essential for his team. He scored one point less in the quarterfinal series against Zalgiris, but shared the Spalding even better with more than five assists each game. When it comes to the Istanbul derby again, he will be in attack mode right away. He showed in every close game, that he is the man in the crunch time.
Anadolu EFES Istanbul
Most of the Euroleague fans already forgot, EFES was on the last spot on the table last season. But then we could notice one of the biggest offseason turnover in their roster. They just kept four players from the 17/18 season (Dunston, Simon, Balbay and Motum) and signed stars like Shane Larkin, Vasilije Micic or Tibor Pleiss. With a deep and well-adjusted roster, it was no surprise, they will aim for the playoffs after one year of frustration.
In the quarterfinals, the biggest rival of Fener, shot 158 three-pointers in total. Thats 55 more than CSKA Moscow, which shot the second most. The crazy thing is, they made almost 40% of them (39,8%). If you give them just a bit of daylight, they will destroy you as soon as they step into their opponents half-court.
Regular season duels
It should give EFES hope, that they know, they can beat this great team from the other side of the city. They won their first season matchup against Fener by 6. I guess coach Ataman will use for sure video material from this game, to motivate his guys. The key for this game was just the team effort. The blues will not beat them as individuals, because Fenerbahce has quite better individual players. I like to say again and again, that in the Euroleague final four it is do-or-die, so nuances are the deciding factor. Everything is possible, even if the fans are already talking about a win of Fener against EFES.
Key player: Adrien Moerman
From 7 ppg. up to almost 13. From 5 rpg. up to 7. Furthermore he shot 60% from the field. The French forward is a big deal this season. For me he is with no doubt the most improved player of the season. Not only on the parquet but with his emotions and his leading he is essential for this team.
I already mention this wise quote about winning championships. But for the Russians this quote was real the last season. They were the baddest team in the Final4 with receiving 85 points per game. Again this season, they couldn’t convince on the defensive end.
In the Basketball you often read points or generally stats in average. But now I will use just one time a number in total. They scored all season 2590 points, which is the highest data in the Euroleague season 18/19. If you have players like Nando de Colo, Sergio Rodrigues or Will Clyburn on your roster you don’t need to pay attention as a coach to what your team is doing on the offensive side. Moscow has good screeners with Kyle Hines and Othello Hunter, who are also ready to dunk the ball through the rim after they rolled to the basket. They are just average with 17 assists per game (nr. 1 Madrid with 20 apg), but I would say the reason for that is the fantastic individual talent by all these great players.
All OFF, No DE – Unfortunately again
I already mentioned in the introduction of CSKA, that they are unfortunately again not a good defensive team. The reason, why they are only the 10th best defensive team, is just because they are not defending as one team. Many players are maybe just focusing on offense and not on hustling on D. With mobile towers like Hunter and also Hines (he’s just 1,98m), they should have actually no problems to stop drives and defend the pick the roll. But especially in these situations they have trouble. Now it is Dimitris Itoudis job, to practise all kinds of rotations and prepare real good for Madrid.
Key player: Sergio Rodriguez
It is pretty obvious, that the Spanish dude is protruding out of this star peppered team. He is the leader and also the longer arm of the Greece head-coach. He knows the best how his coach wants to play and what he wants in different game situations. He showed also in several crunch time situations that he is the man when it comes to a last pick and roll in a game, just because he makes absolutely no mistakes and is so crazy experienced. Rodrigues averages 2 turnovers per game (Btw Calathes averages more than 3 a game), which is really less. It shows that he knows where his teammates are and he also knows how to read all five opponent defenders.
You could see clearly, what it makes with a team, if you steal their by far best player. I don’t want to say, they were bad this season, but we couldn’t see the Real Madrid from the last few years.
Maybe they lost their superstar Luka Doncic, but not their experience they collected over they years. Almost everyone in this team knows how to win this title. In average they are the oldest team with 29,6 years. In the first playoff round against Pana, you could see, Madrid has cold blooded player, who are staying cool when it matters the most. So many basketball fans in Europe saw Athens in front, because all injured players are, because Pitino is the best coach in the world,… But they sealed a 3-0 win and didn’t even let the doubters start to write anything bad about them.
Real Madrid can be the first team ever, to defend the Euroleague title. They didn’t rank high in all kinds of statistics this season, but you know what. They won many games. They outplayed Panathinaikos, which is one of the best teams in Europe, by 25 in just three games and also prepared well for this Final four. The mastered their dress rehearsal with winning by 15 against Zaragoza (Tavares with 17pts and 11rebs) in their national league. For sure Pablo Laso will find the right words to get the team motivation level up to the highest again, because they all know how great it feels to be on top of the European throne.
Key Player: Walter Tavares
Maybe this player as a key player surprises you a little bit. But the big men from Capo Verde is just ridiculous since he arrived in Madrid. He has awesome height and crazy long arms, which leads into almost two blocks per game. There are not many finishes at the rim, which are not dunks or alley-oops. He tries to find gaps in the opponents defense, to receive the ball in the zone. He got drafted for a reason, but he is one of the players, which are specific for European basketball. Because he has that hustle hard mentality to fight for every possession on both end of the floor.