Steve Tibb takes a quick look back over the European basketball action over the past week or so and provides a recap on the notable performances by the Australian contingent.
It’s the time of year where teams start to make their move towards the top of the table or start cutting players to save on salaries and reload for next season. We will begin with our two Aussies in Euroleague action then take a trip around Europe to see what has been going on…
In Euroleague the round of 16 has well and truly commenced with two Aussies in action; Joe Ingles for Maccabi Tel-Aviv along with Aleks Maric and Lokomotiv Kuban who are playing in the best competition outside of the NBA.
Both Ingles and Maric have played two Euroleague games since we last checked in, with the first game of the round sending Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Ingles to take on Lokomotiv Kuban with big man Maric in a group F showdown. It was a tight first quarter with neither team able to gain an advantage going into the first break at 21 all. The Israeli’s stepped it up in the second term and Lokomotiv Kuban couldn’t stay with them as Maccabi Tel-Aviv edged ahead to a 45-38 half-time lead. Whatever Lokomotiv Kuban coach Evgeny Pashytin said at half time worked as his team won the quarter 24-19 and thus trailing by just 2 points heading into the last quarter. The visitors however went on a 12-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to move away 81-68 lead and never looked back as they cruising to a 85-75 victory. For the home team, Maric contributed 2 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in 14 minutes of action, with Ingles tallying 7 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in 15 minutes coming off bench.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Ingles recorded their 3rd win in a row as they accounted for Zalgiris Kaunus 87-78 and ensure they sat on top of Group F with an unblemished 3-0 record. Ingles had a quiet game, scoring 4 points on 2/3 shooting to go along with 1 rebound and 1 assist. Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s next Euroleague game is against Partizan Belgrade on the 23 January.
After their home loss to Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Lokomotiv Kuban travelled to Istanbul to take on Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray as severe underdogs. In a low-scoring affair it was Maric and his team who managed surprise upset victory 63-62 to move to a 1-2 record in Group F. Maric played his role well in the victory, dropping 8 points on 3/5 shooting that included a perfect 2/2 from the charity stripe. Throw in 5 rebounds and 3 assists and it was great all around game by the 6’11” Aussie center. Lokomotiv Kuban play their next Euroleague game at Zalgaris Kaunus on 23 January in the hope of continuing their winning ways.
Over in sunny Spain, swingman Brad Newley and Gran Canaria have played twice since my last update. They played against La Bruxia d’Or on 12 January in a game that they were expected to win. Unfortunately in sport, what is meant to happen and what actually happens are two very different things. The 3rd placed Gran Canaria went down to the 15th ranked team in a major upset 70-85. Newley had one of his quieter games, only scoring 4 points on 2/3 shooting to go with 2 rebounds. The loss sent Gran Canaria down to 5th place in the Spanish ACB.
In a game that was a battle of two of the top teams in the Spanish ACB this season, Gran Canaria took on 3rd ranked Unicaja and a win was needed by Newley and his team to keep in touch with the top echelon. Newley went off for 20 points with 4 rebounds and 2 assists, but it was not enough as Gran Canaria lost on the road 66-76.
In the VTB United League, 3rd ranked Russian outfit Lokomtiv Kuban with Aleks Maric travelled to 2nd placed Lithuanian side Lietuvos Rytas in a big game. Maric was his usual efficient self in collecting 11 points on 3/5 shooting with 5/6 from the charity stripe as he helped his side earn a big victory on the road 84-81.
Sharp shooting forward Daniel Kickert and his Ukrainian side Azovmash have played 3 games; twice in the VTB United League and once in the Ukrainian Superleague. On 8 January, 6th ranked Azovmash took on 10th ranked Cherkasy on the road. Azovmash ended up winning the close game 71-70 behind the exceptional play of Kickert. He finished the game with 23 points on 6/9 shooting including 3/4 from behind the arc and a perfect 8/8 from the free-throw line. He unfortunately just missed out on the double-double in hauling down 9 rebounds.
In the VTB United League, Kickert and Azovmash made the journey to VEF Riga in a battle of two of the league’s cellar dwellers. Once again Kickert was in outstanding form, scoring 14 points on 6/9 shooting to go with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. However despite Kickert’s efforts it wasn’t enough to get Azovmash across the line, eventually going down to VEF Riga in a tight one 71-73.
The week didn’t get any easier for Azovmash as they continued their road trip in heading to Moscow to challenge European powerhouse CSKA Moscow in what would be a one-sided affair. Azovmash did well on the defensive end in restricting CSKA Moscow to 75 points, however they couldn’t find the basket themselves in one of their lesser performances for the year. In their 40-75 loss, Kickert also was well held, contributing just 10 points and 1 rebound. On a side note, this was the 15th straight game that the Aussie forward had scored in double figures, with the streak dating back to 9 November. This is one streak for all Aussie hoops fans to keep an eye on!
Rookie Ryan Broekhoff who is playing for Turkish side Besiktas, had a big game in their last Eurocup game against Cedevita on 22 January. In a big road win, Broekhoff logged 17 minutes off the bench in compiling 11 points on 4/6 shooting, including 2/3 on triples. He also added 6 rebounds and 2 assists as Besiktas’s prevailed 71-69 in a tight victory.
The Aussies continue to make their mark on the European basketball scene and are all contributing towards the on-court success of their teams. My player of the week this week goes to Aleks Maric for his performances in the Euroleague. Maric has been in typical efficient and effective form, something that we often take for granted and have become accustomed to see from our big Aussie center.
What are your thoughts and who do you think deserved player of the week?
You can follow Steve Tibb on Twitter: @tibba_02