The shortest guide to the most delicious spring event.
In the Euroleague regular championship, the first and eighth teams shared only four wins, the third and eighth - only two. The next two weeks will show how real this equality was between the clubs, each of which had a completely unique season.
We asked the scout of Khimki near Moscow Denis Karaulnov to share his vision of the quarterfinals.
Barcelona - Zenit
Central narrative:Xavi Pascual against the club, which he presented the last title of the Euroleague champions. At some point, the coach was made extreme and sent on a journey that took him all the way to Russia. Although, as it turned out later, it was Pascual who was the column that somehow kept the already crumbling building.
Key fact: Barcelona's defense is their best this season, with 89.9 points per 100 possessions, with the rest being mostly between 95 and 100 points per 100 possessions.
Thanks to major victories at the finish line, Zenit was among the best attacking teams of the tournament (100.8 points per 100 possessions, 5th overall). But all the same, the main question of the series seems to be this: will Pascual find a way to free his creators (Pangos, Ponitka, Barron) at least a little, or will Yasikevicius' monstrous colossus jam them all. In the last meeting, Barcelona allowed Zenit to realize only 29% of two-point shots.
Unobvious story:The most valuable player of St. Petersburg's Kevin Pangos was not appreciated in Barcelona, although in Zalgiris and Zenit he played at the level of the best Euroleague point guards. The Canadian, rather, resembles an intelligent penguin, but suddenly a resentment against Barcelona will awaken something unpredictable in him.
The opinion of the Khimki scout Denis Karaulnov:“In each season, one of the series must end 3-0. I think that this series will be the closest to this score, although there will be a struggle in each match, it will be decided in the endings, overtime is possible somewhere. And yet, it seems to me that Zenit will not be enough somewhere: there will be not enough experience, rotation, some important things will not be enough, because for them this will be the first playoffs.
The main opposition of this series is the “big ones”. Barça has very good bigs who show a consistently high level. Zenit doesn't have that. Gudaitis is not bad. And if Poytress appears, then questions arise: this year he has failed Zenit more than once, smeared the endings of several matches. By and large, they have one good "big", and the other two, coming out to replace, do not have such stability. The Catalans score the most paint points in the tournament (a little over 46%), Zenit is fifth from the end in this respect.
I do not consider Zenit's victory in the home match against Barcelona in the regular season indicative: then Barcelona had an outbreak of coronavirus, Yasikevicius did not come, an assistant was playing, and the team was not enough for the ending. Even such a weakened Barcelona managed to break only at the very end.
Zenit's chance is their shooters, of which there are a lot of St. Petersburg residents. But it will not be easy either - Barcelona conceded the least in the league from the perimeter. "
Milan - Bayern Munich
Central narrative:"Happy fucking flight," was how Ettore Messina escorted Trinchieri to the post-match press conference of the regular season match. Italian coaches will continue to sort things out directly in the basketball vein. For some reason, since Russian times, Messina has been demanding that his younger friend show off less: “Milan” took both matches from “Bavaria” (away in overtime, at home - by a defeat) and due to this they got the advantage of their own court.
Key fact: Milan are the best in the Euroleague in terms of losses (11 on average per game), Bayern are one of the best in the Euroleague in inciting losses (14.8 on average per game).
Perhaps this best explains the stark contrast between the rivals.
Bayern have built a high-quality defense: 10th in two-pointers (53.7%), second in three-pointers (34.7%), while third in offensive rebounds (9.0 rebounds). The Germans are one of the best in the league in terms of points in fast attacks, in terms of points after losing an opponent. Without this, their attack is completely lame.
Milan are the second most effective offensive team in the Euroleague. And in many ways this comes from the extremely careful handling of the ball. Milan dangled all the way at the bottom of the table in terms of the number of passes, but this did not affect the main quality component: the Italians rely very heavily on three-pointers, and they managed to knock out 41.5% from the distance in the season.
Unobvious story:If we take into account the rotation in minutes, then in Milan there are not much fewer reigning champions of the Euroleague than in CSKA. Who is more likely to defend the title? At Cliburn, Kurbanov and Bolombay? Or Kyle Hines and Sergio Rodriguez?
And who in their right mind will bet against Kyle Hines in the Final Four?
The opinion of the Khimki scout Denis Karaulnov: “I think it will be 3-1 in this series, Bayern will still catch one match. Here Milan are a clear favorite: their roster is deeper and more masterful. Bayern have practically no people with experience in the Euroleague playoffs. They have already completed the task for the season and can now play relaxed, they have already achieved their goal.
The main confrontation here is the confrontation between two coaches, coaches of the Italian school, where one is more experienced and the other is younger.
In this pair, the Bavarians have an advantage in the "paint", and the Milanese on the perimeter. Although Olimpia is in the top 5 in the defense of the 3-second zone, and Bayern is the second after Barcelona in the defense of the perimeter. The more interesting it will be to see what surprises they will prepare for each other. "
Anadolu Efes - Real Madrid
Central narrative:change of eras in European basketball. The pandemic has frozen this natural process, and nowhere is it seen more clearly than in this pair.
Efes lost in the final to CSKA in 2019, fired all guns last year and returned this year to transform their obvious two-year dominance into something tangible.
Real Madrid have long run out of steam, but due to their unwillingness to take drastic steps in such a strange era, everything runs on an exhausted resource. It is so strange that capable sprouts themselves move away from the club (Campazzo, Dec), and new ones emerge from under the drying background (Garuba, Abalde, Vukchevich).
It is characteristic that Efes won 11 out of the last 13 matches of the regular season, while Real Madrid lost 6 out of 9 matches before two victories in the last matches.
Key fact:Efes is the most effective attack of the tournament (104.6 points per 100 possessions), implying a high tempo, excellent ball movement, active use of mismatches and the strengths of their best players. Efes is in the top in terms of efficiency of both two-pointers (4th in the league) and three-pointers (5th).
Somehow, Real will have to show miracles of defensive versatility in order to fight back both at a distance and under the basket. At the very least, Real are still the best team in the Euroleague on their own backboard rebounds.
Unobvious story: Real Madrid and Efes are leading in the number of three-pointers in the Euroleague - 10.3 and 10.1, respectively.
So there will be a bullet.
The opinion of the Khimki scout Denis Karaulnov: “I think it will be 3-1 here: there are such basketball heavyweights with an experienced squad, with experience in playoff matches.
Real Madrid are, of course, a good team, but of an age. Plus the loss in the squad during the season: they just lost Deka. They just don't have enough strength for the entire series. They will be able to get together, take one match, but no more.
The clear favorite of this series is Ephesus.
The main confrontation is Larkin against all the small Real Madrid. Now he began to play much more for the team, give more assists, and Efes has enough options even without him, and yet the main task of Real is to cover him.
Plus, it seems that Efes is not so convenient for Tavares: Pleiss will play against him, the same tall player, with good skills, the parameters are similar, so it will be difficult for him, since he has no similar opponents in the entire Euroleague.
The X factor for Real is a young man's game. In the last match against Barcelona, young center Tristan Vukcevic played very well. We expect more from Alosen. Perhaps the young guys will get more time in the absence of Deck and others, and one of them will shoot as well as Vukcevic has already done. "
CSKA - Fenerbahce
Central narrative:as unpredictable as the series itself. It could be a coronavirus story. This can be a powerful phenomenon of Vesely in the status - as they believe in Turkey - Euroleague MVP. It could be a lead cloud, shaped like Mike James.
The most obvious dominant plot is Nando De Colo's return to Moscow. The Frenchman is a citizen of few words and alien to emotions, but he, like any robot, respects numbers and encrypts his messages to the former coach in the form of statistical puzzles: the last one in Moscow was especially good - 38 in the index of usefulness (6 out of 6 two-point, 2 out of 3 three-point , 9 assists, 4 steals).
After leaving, De Colo played with CSKA twice and looked completely elusive for the new defense of the army.
Key fact:CSKA shared the first place with Barcelona in terms of the number of victories in the tournament. And at the same time, according to the no-rating (comparing the effectiveness of attack and defense), CSKA, according to the results of the regular season, was generally in the red and takes 12th place: the army team has the seventh attack (96.2 per 100 possessions) and the seventh defense (97.4) ...
Perhaps the main thing that this tells about is how unstable, changeable, seeking and losing themselves were the army team. In fact, the main indicators of their system are a small number of losses (third in the Euroleague) and dominance on the offensive (first in rebounds and second chance points).
Unobvious story:Throughout almost the entire XXI century, the bosses of the army men kept repeating: during all this time, no team managed to beat CSKA in the series. If not for the provocative format of the Final Four, the club would definitely have more trophies.
The incomprehensible form of CSKA gives Fenerbahce a well-grounded reason for not giving a damn about this eternal axiom and for the first time after Ural Great to take the series.
The opinion of the Khimki scout Denis Karaulnov:“If everyone was healthy, I would bet on the fifth match in this series. Now it is already clear that Vesely will almost certainly not be in the Moscow matches, he may miss the whole series. Without him, Fenerbahce is a slightly different team. Now there is information that the Fenerbahce players have a covid (the names of these players are not named), perhaps this is a small fake from the Turkish side, since the time of Obradovic they have been very successful in launching such ducks.
The X factor of the series is Iffe Lundberg. He has on average less than 5 points per game against teams in the playoff zone, and more than 15 points per game against a team outside the playoff zone. How he performs in this series will affect the results.
Now CSKA has become more unpredictable. With James, it was clear that 80 percent of the attacks, he would have the ball. It was clear who the defense should focus on. Now the movement of the ball has become better, there are more team interactions, Lundberg, in matches with strong opponents, tries more to play for the team, he is afraid to attack himself. They are unpredictable not only for Fenerbahce, but also for themselves.
I think that CSKA is one hundred percent ready to defend against De Colo: Itoudis knows all his strengths and weaknesses very well. In this episode, it will be more dependent on other guys. It is clear that De Colo will play at his level anyway, gain his points, but will play more for the team, help the rest to reveal themselves. It seems to me that the match in Moscow was very typical, where De Colo played very useful, but tried more to act on his partners. It will be a principled series for him. "
Photo: / Alexey Filippov; ; / Alexander Kulebyakin / Global Look Press, Mladen Lackovic via imago-images.de; / Burak Akbulut