After the first three games of the season, it’s time to make a little recap of what happened so far in Euroleague. After our preview, the ‘Devotion Season’ it’s finally on and I’m here to keep you updated about that.
Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid are the only unbeaten teams so far and it’s not exactly a surprising thing. These three sides, in fact, were also three of the four teams that reached the Euroleague Final Four last season. CSKA started the season with a big win over Barcelona, thanks mostly to the performances of second unit guys like Cory Higgins and Nikita Kurbanov. In the following two games, the Russian side had to suffer more to get the two wins against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel and at home against Darussafaka but the wins arrived no matter what. In Israel, the top scorer and the game changer was Nando De Colo (big surprise, uh?) who finished with 27 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Against Darussafaka, instead, Higgins came strong again with 14 points, while Kurbanov finished with 13.
Reigning champions Real Madrid opened the Euroleague regular season with a big win over Darussafaka, 109-93. The Spanish powerhouse had six different players in double-figure, Anthony Randolph was the top scorer with 16 points. Real faced a much more difficult game in Round 2 against Olimpia Milano on the road. The Italian team, owned by fashion king Giorgio Armani, played a very good first half and forced Real Madrid to a big comeback in the second half. Point guard Facundo Campazzo, who had 21 points and 7 assists, and Anthony Randolph, 25 points and 11 rebounds, were crucial in cutting down Milano’s lead and putting Real back on top. Last week, instead, Real won the Spanish derby against Baskonia thanks to a stellar performance from long-time Rockets draftee Sergio Llull, who finished with 23 points.
The Turkish champs Fenerbahce began the Euroleague regular season with a clear win at the home against newcomer Gran Canaria, 97-72. Former Wizards big man Jan Vesely was the star of the night with 19 points and 11 rebounds in less than 22 minutes on the court. In the second round, the team coached by Zeljko Obradovic beat Khimki Moscow at home 93-85 with big performances from Nicolò Melli, who had 16 points, and Bobby Dixon aka Ali Muhammed, 14 points in the last 12 minutes. During Round 3, in the re-match of last edition’s semifinal, Fenerbahce remained perfect with a win on the road against Lithuanian side Zalgiris Kaunas, coached by legend Sarunas Jasikevicius. Fener had a big help from their Greek guard Kostas Sloukas, 20 points, and from former Pistons forward Gigi Datome, who finished with 11 points.
One of the biggest surprises of these first three rounds of Euroleague regular season was definitely Italian side Olimpia Milano. After another very difficult European season, failing to reach the postseason, Milano reshaped his roster, especially in the backcourt, adding a lot of talent with former Suns guard Mike James, Serbian point guard Nemanja Nedovic and Italian NT member Amedeo Della Valle. After the first win on the road against the relative easy competition of Buducnost, Milano was a really tough challenge for reigning champs Real Madrid. The team coached by Simone Pianigiani played a great game, dominating the first half but failed to get a win against the Spanish powerhouse. But in the following game on the road, Milano made a strong statement beating Greek powerhouse Olympiacos 75-99. Nedovic exploded in the second half scoring 18 of his 22 points, while ‘The Professor’ Vlado Micov made 5 three-pointers and finished with 19 points.
Despite losing their only game played at home, this has been a good start of the season for Anadolu Efes too. The Turkish side won two games on the road, the first in Germany against Bayern Munich and the second one, thanks to a crazy buzzer beater made by captain Dogus Balbay, in Russia against Khimki. Efes showed a good offensive versatility, with different guys ready to take the offensive load from game to game. The defense still needs work but the team coached by Ergin Ataman seems already better than it looked during the entire last season.
WORK IN PROGRESS
As expected there are also a few teams that didn’t start the season in a great way. Barcelona has lost two of the first three games and the play shown out there weren’t exactly encouraging. In the first game against CSKA Moscow, Barcelona lasted only one quarter and then they were completely crashed by CSKA’s second unit, showing no kind of energy defensively. Barcelona, then, lost also in the second game on the road against Euroleague rookie Herbalife Gran Canaria, a loss that many Spanish newspapers considered embarrassing despite the fact it arrived only in the last few seconds of the game. The team coached by Svetislav Pesic showed a reaction only in the third game of the regular season, beating Bayern Munich at home 83-73, thanks to the 18 points of Croatian veteran Ante Tomic.
Zalgiris Kaunas was definitely the biggest surprise of last season’s Euroleague, reaching the Final Four and proving the skills of coach Sarunas Jasikevicius. But the beginning of this season hasn’t been easy for them. So far Zalgiris has lost both games played at home, in the first round against Baskonia, who will host the Euroleague Final Four this season, and last week against Fenerbahce. In the second week, they won on the road against Anadolu Efes thanks to a big performance from former Sixers Brandon Davies, who finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Their schedule wasn’t exactly comfortable and the team is still trying to find the right kind of chemistry after losing a couple of key players during the summer. But there’s definitely to time to fix some of the issues shown in the first few games, especially on the offensive side.
That’s a wrap for this first recap of the Euroleague season. In the coming weeks, we’ll have more updates for the fans of best overseas competition.