Nicola, has finally taken a crack at doing a video analysis of a Euroleague game and by far he has picked the most crucial game of the first half of the Euroleague season (in my opinion).
Here are his thoughts and insights on the game.
Last week, Euroleague didn’t offer so many games that tickled my fancy. Ok, maybe Barcelona-CSKA was a good one. Maybe A|X Milano vs. Zalgiris (at least for the last playoffs spot implications it had) was another one. By all means, the focus was on Fenerbahce vs. Olympiakos Pireus. For three main reasons. 1) First of all to check the superiority of the Turkish team which is safely (and comfortably, so far…) leading the pack in the Euroleague standings. 2) To test how Olympiakos was doing. In the end, the Greeks had won three of the last four (before traveling to Istanbul) and gained some momentum. 3) It was Zeljko Obradovic vs. David Blatt. The cream of the crop concerning basketball coaches in Europe.
The match was basically decided during the first half. That’s where our focus will be.
The start of the match was favorable to Olympiakos, also thanks to a passive approach by Fener, especially on defense. Lateral PNR between Williams-Goss and Georgios Printezis favored the three that opened the match by the Olympiakos’ American guard. Duverioglu was passive in jumping out and contest the shot, while Kalinic was covering Milutinov inside the paint. A similar situation occurred right after with Papanikolaou bringing the ball up (I feel that Fenerbahce initial idea was to ware Spanoulis down putting him into any pick and roll when in defense and pressuring him when had the ball), pass to Spanoulis who took advantage over Erick Green. Nicolò Melli didn’t react, and Kalinic was late on the pass to Papanikolaou for a good three (4-6 Olympiakos at that time). That three is a wake-up call of Fenerbahce who gets to work. Finally.
In this situation, it just took a couple of fakes to Alì to gain an advantage over Spanoulis, get the hand-off from Duverioglu who came on top to receive the pass from Green and play the Mid-PNR. Because Milutinov is focused on understanding what Duverioglu is doing (his eyes are looking at him and not at the ball), Alì has a clear path to the basket. Also: Printezis is initially covering the possible penetration, but in reality, he’s staying home on Melli who is quite dangerous with the corner three option.
We were talking about putting pressure on Spanoulis on both sides of the floor. Here it is. After a deadly turnover and an unsportsmanlike foul, here’s the subsequent inbound pass. Alì starts opposite to the ball, near the baseline. Gets the screen from Duverioglu. Spanoulis goes right against the screen. Tries to force it but he commits his second, early, foul. Coach Blatt is already pushed to call Strelnieks and bench the Olympiakos legend.
Q1: 5’36” (15-6)
This is an interesting setup. Everything starts with Melli with the ball in low post. Another aspect that deserves attention: Duveriouglu fakes the screen on Alì. In reality, the PNR here is between 1 and 3 (Alì and Kalinic) to force the switch in defense. As a matter of fact, the Serbian – guarded by Strelnieks – goes to play in the low post with Melli on the three-point line to act as a point-forward. The spacing is not ideal, to be fair. The Alì-Melli-Kalinic triangle looks too tight, and Duverioglu is almost inside the paint (he should be almost on the three-point line). Just a quick side note: even on this side of the Pond the paints are almost empty. Teams are playing with one big around the paint or, to the extreme, nobody in. Modern basketball came to the Old Continent, although not many, on the other side of it, are realizing all this. Oh well…)
The play goes on, and Melli duly delivers a pass to Kalinic in the post. Bogris is sharp enough and covers the middle of the paint taking off that side of the one-on-one to Kalinic. Now, Duverioglu is excellent in setting a screen for Alì who offers a clear passing lane to the Serbian. Green spaces himself. Williams-Goss close out is excellent, but Ali’s extra-pass to Green is even better. Dagger from Green. To be noticed: Strelnieks who leaves Kalinic and sprints in the corner to contest Green jumper. Too late and too much floor to cover for him, but the effort is commendable. This is a classic case of a good defense beaten by an excellent offense. Blatt calls a time-out.
Q1: 5’08” (15-9)
I can’t even imagine what Obradovic could’ve done to Green in the video analysis afterward after this blunder. Inbound pass by Olympiakos. It’s the same play that ended in a turnover at the beginning of the match. This time the ball arrives to Printezis in the corner. One-quarter of floor freed to play his notorious one-on-one, but Melli is excellent in defending it. Duverioglu helps. Which is good, although a little too early. The defense derails when Green completely loses sight of Strelnieks by turning his eyes to what was happening in the low post. Strelnieks and Williams-Goss come out free from the baseline screens. Strelnieks on top and Williams-Goss on the weak side. Green bets on the latter, but the ball goes to Strelnieks for an easy three-pointer.
Q1: 3’01” (17-13)
Guduric did not approach the game well. Sloukas a little bit better, but still a little below-par. Here, Olympiakos squanders a great chance to get back fully into the game and turn the momentum on its side. PNR between Milutinov and Williams-Goss. Pass to Strelnieks. Sloukas and Guduric do not communicate, and they seem not to know what to do: switch? Don’t switch? In the end, Sloukas recovers on Strelnieks, but it’s too late. He splits Vesely’s double team, drives to the basket and dishes out to Papanikolaou who misses an easy three.
Lauvergne and Vesely playing together. Their understanding when on the floor at the same time got better and better while Euroleague got on. So it was coaches ability to make them play in positions that were suitable to them without sacrificing space and flow of the offense. In the beginning, I remember I’ve watched a couple of Fenerbahce’s games with close attention, and I noticed that the spacing was too tight. Both bigs were splitting the paint, but the flow of the offense was sometimes stuck. When everybody was zigging keeping the paint empty and trying to create as much space as possible, Obradovic was zagging going for power and presence into the paint. That evolved over time. Now it’s Vesely around the paint and Lauvergne on the three-point line (he reminds me of how the Boston Celtics sometimes use Aaron Baines). The spacing improved. The flow of the offense got smoother. The paint is free to be “used” in as many ways as possible. Fenerbahce is dominating Euroleague’s regular season. Not by chance at all!.
This is a proof of the above:
Q1: 1’23” (19-13)
Mark this moment! A fastbreak in Euroleague! Timma, who, in spite of some mistakes, was one of the most positive for Olympiakos, doesn’t nail it and it’s a pity because in today’s basketball there is not a better shot, qualitywise: from three, as a trailer in a fastbreak, feet on the ground, with space. At this level of basketball, these must be three points.
What Lauvergne does for Fenerbahce, Zach Leday does for Olympiakos: spacing the floor. In this situation, near the end of the first quarter, he places himself right on the corner at the three-point line, basically preventing Lauvergne from helping inside and allowing Milutinov to play one on one from the low post with the other four spread outside the 3 points. Forget that the Olympiakos pivot misses another shot of a very lousy first half.
Q2: 8’33 (23-18)
This is the best that Fenerbahce can offer in defense from an organizational, focus and intensity standpoint. The ball is in Timma’s hands on the side. On the weak side, it’s interesting to notice how Sloukas and Guduric switch men, taking away any possible opponent’s advantage. Timma passes to Strelnieks who plays pick and re-pick with Leday who rolls to the basket with a very low level of aggression.
Nevertheless, Lauvergne is huge in helping and recovering on him (while Vesely has his hands full on guarding Milutinov and, Guduric stays with his man in the corner) taking away the pass inside for Leday. All passing lanes are covered, and Timma ends up with a soft lob which has “turnover” written all over the place. That’s what happens: Vesely basically “eats” that pass to Milutinov.
Q2: 8’07” (23-21)
On the flip side, this is a really negative defensive play for Fenerbahce, who lost rhythm on offense and suddenly, are less aggressive in defense. This is a case study on how the offense plays at will while the defense is carried around by the opponents’ offense. Sloukas doesn’t put pressure on the ball, Vesely does the same with Milutinov, and Kalinic has too much floor to cover to contest Timma who hits a three-pointer.
Q2: 7’05” (23-21)
This is another non-effective play by Fenerbahce on offense. In this set-up, we finally see Lauvergne in low-post, and the first goal of the offense is to give him the ball and start from there. The problem here is that Leday’s three/quarter guard puts Lauvergne’s rhythm off. Then the French pivot keeps the ball too long (more than the 0.5 seconds preached by coach Popovich for sure). To be fair, it’s not just his fault. On the weak side, things develop slowly, and it can be noted that Lauvergne turns his eyes there as soon as he receives the ball. On the week side, Vesely screens for Datome, but the execution is slow, and Sloukas who should replace the Italian, is walking instead of doing it with some sort of aggressiveness. Guduric, on the strong side, does a good job, in setting himself free in the corner to receive the ball after a double move. He receives and there, there’s a shot! Guduric should have caught and shot. Instead, he puts the ball on the floor and drives to the basket. But there’s no space. The paint is filled by Olympiakos players and the pass to Lauvergne is deflected. And Obradovic sends Guduric on the bench.
Q2: 5’56” (25-23)
This is the play that sparks a 9-0 Fenerbahce run that breaks the game into two. It’s a mix between Leday who passes on a shot he had to take and, Fener’s players’ defensive skills. It all starts with the usual Olympiakos set-up that moves the ball from one side to another. Vesely shows and escorts Spanoulis on the side while Alì trails him. Vesely is fast in recovering his position in the paint allowing Lauvergne to quickly (his footwork is impressive as it is his mind) run out and takes Leday’s corner jumper away. The Olympiakos player, nevertheless, doesn’t seem ready to shoot the rock while receiving it (only 5″ left on the shot clock), right-hand drive toward the middle of the paint. Lauvergne stays with him. The paint is filled with players, and while Leday’s dancing on his pivot foot, the 24 seconds expire.
Q2 3’03 (34-25)
Alì Mohammed is one of the few who has permission from Obradovic to go on his own on offense. In this situation, Olympiakos defends well for 20 seconds out o 24, but in basketball, those 4 seconds are the longest. Alì gets the ball from Datome after having taken a screen from Melli on the weak side. Fener’s point guard plays a first PNR with Lauvergne which is neutralized by an excellent defensive collaboration between Williams-Goss and Bogris. Alì then gets back with a backheel dribble, and Lauvergne set another screen, this time with a different angle and a different side to roll to the basket. This time Bogris is a bit less aggressive and a bit more erect than the first time and Alì is great in finding Lauvergne with a right-hand pass. Lauvergne dunks in spite of a desperate help by Papanikolaou.
Q2: 1’40” (38-27)
Alì, as we were saying, is the man who usually breaks the games for Fenerbahce and one of the few who has the license to “create” on his own – granted he keeps working his socks off on defense -. In this situation, Lauvergne hands-off the ball to Alì in a perfect manner, enabling the point guard to gain an advantage to drive straight to the basket. Strelnieks could help, but he’s guarding Melih who is shooting with 50% from the three-point range and is afraid to leave him alone. Milutinov is competent in trying to absorb Ali’s penetration, but he forgets to raise his arms and make it difficult for the tiny point guard who finishes with a fantastic rainbow shot.
Q2: 1’17” (38-27)
Nicolò Melli is one of the best defensive presence in Euroleague. His 6 stops in the game are impressive (and somehow unique). As it is this defense against Printezis, who is rightly considered one of the best one on one players in Europe. Right-hand drive to the basket, turnaround with the ball and various fakes, but the Italian doesn’t bite. He stays with his opponents, and while raising his arms, is able to steal the ball from Printezis’ hands. Textbook defense by the Italian power forward.
Q2: 54″ (40-27)
This is excellent offense for 24 long seconds by Fenerbahce. Everything starts and finish with Gigi Datome. The Italian receives the ball in the low post and passes to Melih who is in the weak-side corner. The pass looks a bit slow and high. Hence Mamoutoglu is unable to shoot as the player guarding him has time to recover. Melih plays on a quarter of court with Lauvergne and then drives to the basket with his strong hand. Milutinov is very good at taking him on and -this time- raising his arms forcing the Turkish guard to pass out to Alì and then exiting on the opposite side at 45° angle. Alì passes to Melih with still 5″ on the shot-clock. Strelnieks and Milutinov try an emergency close out, but Datome is free in the corner and ready to catch the ball and shoot. He receives a quality pass from Melih, one dribble on his left side to get into the rhythm and then hits a greatly built pull-up shot.
The first half ends 40-28 in Fenerbahce’s favor. In the second half, the former Euroleague Champions go up by 20 points (twice) while Olympiakos cuts the disadvantage to 10 in the fourth quarter. In the end, Fenerbahce wins 90-75 and its season keeps rolling high, on top of the Euroleague ranking.