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sábado, 26 de abril de 2008

THE EUROLEAGUE´S FINAL FOUR (This article is available in English and Español)

After the analysis of the European handball´s final, it is now time to look another major sporting event that it will take place in Madrid during the first weekend of May, the Final Four of the Basketball´s Euroleague, with the participation of the TAU Cerámica Vitoria, Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv, CSKA Moscow and Montepaschi Siena.
As you can see, this Final Four will have the important absence of the powerful Panathinaikos, which was one of the main favourites to win the title of champion, but after a horrible Top 16, where it lost all the visitor games, it was eliminated of the competition, being the surprise of the year in the FIBA basketball , because as we have explained on several occasions in this blog, the Athens´s team is an excellent European team with players of the level of Spanoulis, Diamantidis (Elected again the best defender of the competition) or Sarunas Jasikevicius. Well, this is sport and anything is possible, even this strange thing. Anyway, one thing is clear, they have arrived to this Final Four the more competitive teams in the key moments of the competitions, taking both the players and the coaches the correct decisions in the crucial game´s moments-we can not say this thing about the Real Madrid´s coach, Joan Plaza, since his big mistakes in the crucial game against Maccabi Elite, caused a transcendental defeat and Real Madrid said bye-bye to the competition ( it can only be described as a Real Madrid´s failure because this season Real Madrid only had an objective, this Final Four, so it is incomprehensible Joan Plaza did not resign as Real Madrid´s coach)-
Of the 4 finalist teams, we have a clear favourite in order to win the European title, this team is the Russian club, CSKA Moscow, since the Russian team is doing a great season in the Euroleague with only 5 defeats (All as a visitor and with a maximum difference of 4 points), showing a great defence, with only received 66 points as average per game.Besides, CSKA won the 2 games that it has played against its semi-final´s rival-TAU Cerámica-and also the 2 games played against other Final Four´s team, the Italian Montepaschi Siena. Perhaps the hallmark of the Ettore Messina´s team is that it is a real team, since all the players add up and carry out perfectly the indications of the brilliant Italian coach-he sounds as possible Nba´s coach, maybe in Toronto Raptors-. Obviously all the players are top level players, but if we have to emphasize some of them, we must speak of the wonderful guard Theo Papaloukas, who is not having his best season, but it is always a spectacle to see his play, because he dominates perfectly the" tempo "of the games: he directs, imposes and decides; so, he has everything and besides he is helped by good players as the guard JR Holden and Nikolaos Zisis, or by great shooter as the Lithuanian Ramundas Siskauskas (the top scorer of the team) or the “the murderer of Alaska”,Trajan Langdon, or by center as David Andersen( he is playing very well this season after some injuries´s problem) or the Slovenian forward, Matjaz Smodis, who has returned to team, after a injury´s period, and he is also playing very well as for example in the play off against Olympiakos of Piraeus, since he got an excellent 9/10 in three-points field goals made.So, it is a very strong team and it is the favourite of the semi-final that it will play against TAU Cerámica Vitoria.

This season TAU was an unknown, because it was a new project with a new coach, the Croatian Neven Spahija, without a wonderful center, Luis Scola, who arrived to the Nba in order to play with Houston Rockets, and with injuries´s problem in important men like James Singleton or Sergi Vidal. But gradually TAU has made better as a team this season and here it is, in its 4th consecutive Final Four.The truth is that Josean Querejeta-the TAU´s president-has returned to make a competitive squad, standing out some players as the 2 guards of the team, the Argentine Pablo Prigioni (excellent vision of the game with many assists and steal) and the elegant Croatian Zoran Planinic; along with them, we should remark the top scorer of the team, the Serbian Igor Rakocevic, who is practically foolproof if he has a good day, and of course the Brazilian center Tiago Splitter, who has finally taken the responsibility to be the team´s leader in the paint. Finally we should mention the good work of 2 men, the forward, Mirza Teletovic and the Spanish Sergi Vidal, who began the season between injuries and without the trust of the coach, but he has gained importance in the team and now he is one of the TAU´s key player (we believe that the Spanish national coach, Pepu Hernandez, should call him for the Spanish national team)
The other semi-final, between Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv and Montepaschi Siena, is quite open, because on the one hand the Italian team is a very solid team with good defence-it receives only 69 points per game- and it arrives at this Final Four with good sensations, since it is the undisputed leader of “the Italian Pallacanestro” (30 wins and 3 defeats) and it arrived to the Final Four playing with authority the play off against Fenerbahçe Ulker, becoming the first team to qualify for the final phase of the competition. The truth is that this good result of the Italian team in the Euroleague is somewhat surprising, because although it is a good team, nobody thought that this team could arrive until the Final Four. Therefore it is very commendable the Simone Pianigiani´s work, since he has known to get the best resources of his team, where excel the Lithuanians players, Rimantas Kaukenas (he will lose the Final Four, cause he is injured since last January) and the sensational center Ksistof Lavrinovic, who is the team's key player with his points, rebounds and receiving many personal faults. Along with the Baltic players, we should review the good work of Terrell Mcintyre, who is the top scorer of the team, and the sensational second half of the season of Bootsy Thornton (one of the discards of "our friend" Dusko Ivanovic ), who was chosen the MVP of the Euroleague in February. So, it is a good team and if it achieves that the semi-final is played at a slow pace, it can be a dangerous rival for Maccabi Elite, since the Jewish team loves to play at a high pace.Anyway we do not see Maccabi this year as strong and with the joy of other seasons and the fact if we compare Maccabi with the other Final Four´s team, this is the team with more points received per game (79 points). We think that Maccabi depends on the success of 3 men: the impressive center Nikola Vujcic (we think that he is not playing in his best level, after an injury during this season), Terence Morris (the top scorer and the best player for the rebounds of the team) and the good shooter, Yota Halperin. The other players-like the hard Uruguayan center Esteban Batista, the guard Bynum or the forward David Bluthenthal- are good players but they are too irregular, so it is quite uncertain what may happen in this semi-final because only with the 3 regular players is not easy to win this kind of games. Well, we will have the first responses on the 2nd of May, when the teams play the semi-finals, leaving for Sunday, 4th of May, the final of the European League.
Cheers,
J&F
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