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sábado, 21 de marzo de 2009

EUROLEAGUE: THE QUARTERFINALS (article in English and Español)

Next week, the Euroleague basketball will live the start of the 4th-finals of the competition, which is the last step before the Final Four at Berlin. Of course, we will have great matches between the best European teams, the teams with the best rosters and winning mentality. Maybe the only big absences in this round is on the one hand, the historical Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv-anyway, we said in an article last October( THE EUROLEAGUE IS HERE (This article is available in English and Español) that Maccabi was a team, whose performance was unknown-and the Turkish Efes Pilsen Istanbul,whose roster was “a priori” very good but it had a very bad Euroleague´s season (4 wins and 6 losses)-it is difficult to understand this poor performance, since we can find in the Efes Pilsen´s roster, experienced and good players like Charles Smith, Mario Kasun, Preston Shumpert, Bootsy Thornton, Kerem Gonlum, Kaya Peker, Milos Vujanic, Predrag Drobnjak Michailis or Kakiouzis-. But now it is not time to analyse the competition, since we must focus on the Quarterfinals.
PANATHINAIKOS-MONTEPASCHI SIENA
If powerful Panathinaikos does not want to suffer again a fiasco(last year it could not play the Final Four), it must play 100% this hard quarterfinals against the competitive Montepaschi, which is a great team-the best of Italy, where it has not any rival during the last years-, thanks to its excellent backcourt´s line, where we can find players like the elegant Terrell McIntyre-the American guard is an excellent shooter (15.3 points per game-63.3% 2FG, 38.6% 3FG and 89.5% FT-, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals), the experienced Lithuanian Rimantas Kaukenas (14.7 points -56.8% 2FG, 39,4% 3FG and 86.8% FT) and the decisive Henry Domercant (11.3 points-43,9% 2FG, 41.8%FG and 92,3% FT), who are well helped by the complete Romain Sato-anybody can explain me why this player(10 points per game with good percentages -50.7% 2FG, 43.9% 3FG and 86.7 FT-) did not have any chances to play during his FC Barcelona´s period when the “superb” Duško Ivanović was the coach of this team…well this is Duško- and the hard worker Shaun Stonerook-6 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game-. Perhaps the only problem for the team of Simone Pianigiani is the important absence during this Playoff of the center Ksistof Lavrinovic, who is one of the best current European centers (he is good for the rebounds and with his shot and even he can score 3FG, which is always a nuisance for the rival defensive line, because if the rivals want to block a Lavrinovic´s 3FG, they unprotect the paint´s area) and of course he is the owner of the Siena´s paint and therefore his absence will be exploited by the phenomenal Panathinaikos´s paint play, where we can find players like Nikola Pekovic and Mike Batiste, who are the top scorers of the team (12.5 points per game), a team, which is a constellation of stars-Dimitrios Diamantidis, Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Vassilis Spanoulis, Drew Nicholas, Kostas Tsartsaris or Antonis Fotsis-who are accustomed to play around 20 minutes per game during this season-Diamantidis is the player with more minutes on the court, he plays 27 minutes-. The only drawback for the great coach Zeljko Obradovic, it is that the play of Diamantidis during the first 2 games of the draw is doubtful because he is injured, but having in the roster a guard like Šarūnas Jasikevičius, who is one of the best European player- although he is not having his best this year- is always a guarantee. Prediction: the home factor will be decisive, Panathinaikos has lost only 1 game during this current Euroleague at the OAKA of Athens-it lost the game played against Regal FC Barcelona- and Montepaschi Siena has not lost any game at the Mens Sana Palasports, even it beat Panathinaikos (81-76).
So, Panathinaikos will win, 3-2
CSKA MOSCOW-PARTIZAN BELGRADE
Although CSKA is not having its best season of last years, it is still a very hard team and it seems that it has been used to playing without the brilliant Papaloukas and David Andersen-they left Cska last summer to play in Olympiakos and Regal FC Baracelona respectively-, showing again its typical power after a difficult short period when it lost 3 Euroleague´s game- one of those defeats was against Partizan at Moscow (63-66) -. Cska is a strong team, with a winner coach like Ettore Messina, and a complete roster- the elegant Croatian guard Zoran Planinić, the secure Nikos Zisis (55% in 2FGand 92% FT), the decisive and competitive JR Holden, the technical Erazem Lorbek and Matjaz Smodis, the determinant Trajan Langdon "the Alaska´s killer" and Ramunas Siskauskas or the former NBA player Viktor Khryapa and Terence Morris ...-, which is almost unbeatable team when the players are 100% and it should have too many problems to beat Partizan, whose top star is its coach, the sensational Dusko Vujosevic, who is making an incredible work since he arrived to Partizan in 2001,because he is getting great results and it does not matter if the stars leaves the team (players like Predrag Drobnjak, Dejan Milojevic, Nikola Pekovic, Kecman or Kosta Perović has left the team during this years). A Vujosevic´s team is always synonym of proud and winning mentality, specially when it plays at home with the incredible help of the enthusiastic fans-this season 22,567 fans went to Belgrade Arena to see the game between Partizan and Panathinaikos-.But although Vujosevic is a very good coach, Partizan almost need a miracle to beat CSKA in this draw, because Partizan is a young team, whose players are not accustomed to play this kind of games and besides we do not find any star in the current roster of Partizan, since after the departure of Nikola Pekovic, there are simply good players, being the most remarkable the shooter Milenko Tepic (10.2 point per game-38.6% 2FG, 40.6% 3FG, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists), the guard Uros Tripkovic (10, 8 points, 41,1% 3FG and 84.8 % FT), the center Novica Velickovic (11.4 points-50, 6% 2FG and 5.2 rebounds) –these 3 players have confirmed our predictions in our article THE EUROLEAGUE IS HERE (This article is available in English and Español) and they are the current key players of the team- and Stephane Lasme (11.2 points-57% 2 FG and 6.7 rebounds). Good players, but they are not enough to beat CSKA.
Prediction: 3-1 for CSKA Moscow

OLYMPIAKOS-REAL MADRID
The truth is that it is difficult to predict the result of a Real Madrid´s game because on the one hand, it can win difficult games- it beat CSKA Moscow at Moscow during this Euroleague-, but on the other hand, it can lose “a priori” easy games-it lost games played against teams like Panionios on Telecoms (its record was 3-7) or AJ Milano (7- 9) - but if we have to chose a favourite for this draw, we think that Real Madrid has not many chances to beat Olympiakos with this Euroleague´s series-the best of 5 series-. If the format was the best of 3 series, Real Madrid could think that the miracle is possible and if Olympiakos had a bad day, the Felipe Reyes-he is a guarantee of intensity, character and concentration-, Tomas Van den Spiegel-he arrived some weeks ago to replace the departure of the unlucky Lazaros Papadopoulos-, Louis Bullock- after a bad start, he is gradually recovering his best level-, Axel Hervelle, Alex Mumbrú, Jeremiah Massey-he is playing worse than during his Aris Thessaloniki´s period-, Raul Lopez and Sergio Llull-he is one of the sensation of the year in the European basketball, since he is showing a great level and intensity both offensive and defensively and besides he assumes the responsibility during the important moments of the games (Real Madrid is lucky with Llull, because other guard of the team, the Argentine Pepe Sánchez is playing horrible, even worse than during his FC Barcelona´s period)- could win at the Palace of Peace and Friendship in Athens and then finish the series at Madrid, helped by the madridistas fans. But with the current format and without the homecourt advantage, honestly, I think that Real Madrid does not have any option to beat Olympiakos, which has an incredible roster, with many super stars of the European Basketball. Olympiakos is confirming the prevision and it is showing a hard and powerful play both in Greek league and in Euroleague, since if we exclude a short bad moment during the last games of the Regular Season, it has played very well and even it could win the 2 Top 16´s games played against the powerful Tau Cerámica. This good results are normal if we check the name of the players, since we can find guards like Theodoros Papaloukas-the great playmaker of the European basketball; perhaps he is not having his best year, but of course he always show his quality and vision of the game(5 assists per game)-,Jennero Pargo-the last superstar to arrive, he is gradually coming into the team´s dynamic-, the superb shooter Yotam Halperim- the Israeli has a 65.9 % in 2FG and 51.4% 3FG-,Milos Teodosic-the young Serbian player continues progressing- and Lynn Greer-another excellent shooter-, the forward Josh Childress- the man of the 20 million euros per 3 years was playing well(scoring and rebounding) until he suffered an hernia and he had to stop during a month-and Georgios Printezis or the center Nikola Vujcic-he scores, assists and a lot of rebounds-, Ioannis Bourousis-other example of the ineptitude of Duško Ivanović as coach, since Bourousis did not have any chance to play when he was a FC Barcelona´s player; this season, his numbers are 12 points and 7 rebounds per game- or Sofoklis "Baby Shaq" Schortsanitis-it is a pity his weight´s problem because he could be the most dominant European center-…So, it is an incredible team and besides it has a winner coach, Panagiotis Giannakis, who has only one objective, to win the Euroleague.
Prediction: Olympiakos won 3-1

REGAL FC BARCELONA-TAU CERAMICA VITORIA
Those who follow us, know our "love" to the current coach of Tau, Duško Ivanović, who is a coach with a big "virtue", since he can get that good players show a bad performance in the important moments of the games or competitions. So if we are consistent with our ideas, we bet on Regal FC Barcelona as the winner of this great draw between these 2 great teams, which arrive in different moment, because on the one hand, Regal FC Barcelona arrives showing a great level, both defensively and offensively and being an intractable team, since it has won the last 9 Spanish league´s games, being the last defeat on the 3rd of January when Tau Cerámica beat Regal FC Barcelona (70-74), although we should say that Regal FC Barcelona played that game with the significant absence of the Slovenian guard Jaka Lakovic. Besides Regal FC Barcelona is making an excellent Euroleague and it is the team with the best record of the competition with 14-2.On the other hand, Tau is not living its best moment of the season, since it has lost 4 games in the last month of the competiton-2 Spanish league´s games, matches played against Real Madrid and Bilbao Basket Iurbentia, and the 2 games played against Olympiakos in the Euroleague-. So Tau gradually begins to show the typical weaknesses of the Ivanovic´s teams when the important moments of the competitions arrive-one example is the last Euroleague game between Tau and Olympiakos, because Tau Vitoria had to win this decisive game played at Vitoria (Fernando Buesa Arena) to finish in the top position of the group and to get the homecourt advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs... obviously Tau lost this game, what was not strange for. So if Tau continues with this dynamic, although it has a good team -perhaps the only weak point is the substitute of the great Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni because after the departure of Planinic to CSKA, Tau has not found a good replacement, first election was Goran Dragic but the Slovenian decided to go to “play” with Phoenix Suns, later Mustafa Sakur arrived but he was unlucky and now it is time for the apathetic Vlado Ilievski-, we do not believe that is capable to beat Regal FC Barcelona, which transmits very good sensations- as Tau, the Regal Barça´s problem is with its playmakers, because Andre Barrett is unlucky and the other guards of the team, Jaka Lakovic and Victor Sada, have many virtues, but they are too good as playmakers-. Anyway, it will be a wonderful draw and any basketball´s fan must watch these games, where we will enjoy with some great duels as the duel between some of the best European basketball ´s shooters: Juan Carlos Navarro (50% 2FG and 91, 5 in FT), Jaka Lakovic (He is recovering gradually his best level after a time stopped because of a tumour), Gianluca Basile (he scores the difficult shots) vs Igor Rakocevic (53.8% in 2FG, 43.5 in 3FG and 90% in FT) and Mirza Teletovic (75.9% In 2FG and 45.9 in 3FG) or the intense duel to control the paint between the Barcelona's center Fran Vazquez-finally we are seeing the best Vazquez-, Daniel Santiago-he is always a nuisance for the rivals-, and the elegant David Andersen-good shot-and the competitive Ersan Ilyasova against baskonistas Will McDonald, Pete Mickeal and the great Thiago Splitter, whose play has one destination, the NBA-it is sure that he will continue the steps of the former Tau players(Jose Calderon, Carlos Arroyo, Raja Bell, Luis Scola, Fabrizio Oberto, Andres Nocioni and Jorge Garbajosa, Ukic), who arrived to the NBA-.
Prediction: The Regal FC Barcelona will win 3-2
Enjoy with this quarterfinal, which will start next Tuesday, March 24.
Schedule: First game, March 24, the second will be on Thursday, March 26, the third will be Tuesday March 31, the fourth if it is necessary will be on Thursday, April 2 and the 5th game, if it is necessary, on Wednesday, April 8.
Cheers,
J&F

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