By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
For the next few days ELA is stationed in Oostende, Belgium for the Euroleague Qualifying Round. Check back everyday for notes on the action going on as teams from across Europe fight for that last precious Euroleague spot.
Game One: Hapoel Jarusalem 94 – CEZ Nymburk 84
Game Two: UNICS Kazan 90 – Stelmet Zielona Gora 86
The Great American Shoot-Off
Steven Burtt, Gora: 30 Points
Keith Langford, UNICS: 22 Points
Curtis Jerrells, UNICS: 22 Points
Between the three American guards they put up 74 points Wednesday night in Oostende. The game turned into a one on one showcase with Burtt trying to break his man down off the bounce and then Langford or Jerrells taking turns trying to answer on the other end. In no way would this be considered good, solid, offensive basketball but these three put on quite the show. In the early season when players are still getting used to each other and offensive plays and principles have not yet been totally established, the American scoring guard going one on one reigns supreme.
UNICS Rosters Holes: Center and Small Forward
While UNICS Kazan surely put together the most expensive roster at the Qualifying Tournament, there are still some holes on the team. The center rotation of D’Or Fischer and Dmitry Sokolov looked old and slow at times versus Gora. Neither guy is very nimble at defending ball screens on the perimeter and both didn’t box out nearly enough on the defensive end when Gora would just out-energize them for tip-ins. Fischer can still protect the rim and finish on offense but asking him to play 30 minutes is just too much, his minutes need to be conserved. With Sokolov dropping entry passes left and right, UNICS might need to find a more dependable back up post player.
On the wing James White started at small forward. In 23 minutes he had three points, ZERO rebounds, and a couple of steals. His activity level was incredibly low. With scorers like Jerrells and Langford around, a really active wing who will seriously buckle down on defense would have made sense to pair with them. White is known for his athleticism and scoring to a degree but at almost 32 years old, I’m not sure what he brings them.
In the second half Coach Pedoulakis went with a lineup of Kostas Kaimakoglou and Viktor Sanikidze at the forward spots for long stretches. It was the smart move, as we all know Sanikidze can supply a lot of energy and was up for guarding Gora’s wing players.
But with the Great American Shoot-Off going on the game could have gone either way and UNICS will need to clear up these roster problems with more creative lineups over the next couple days and possibly even another signing if they make the Euroleague.
Jerusalem: All Offense, No Defense
It’s early and defense is a continuity thing so Jerusalem could have a solid basket preventing unit come later on in the season but they were not up to the task so far in Oostende. The biggest problem seemed to be interior defense. At the power forward spot they have Lior Eliyahu and Tony Gaffney who are both much more offensively talented players. Eliyahu is a known negative on defense and Gaffney is a jump-aholic who brings good energy but has also only been with the team a couple of weeks and wasn’t solid enough yet defensively.
At the center spot Joseph Jones and Yaniv Green were really not up to the task of defending the rim. While Jones can hit a turnaround jumper or finish on offense he had really trouble providing any rim protection on defense. Jones was also a little but of late signing like Gaffney so he needs time to get comfortable with his teammates and learn the system but he was really hurting the team in the middle on defense. A guy that big should be able to contest more shots and provide an interior presence and Jones was far from doing that on Wednesday night.
Derwin Kitchen did use his active hands to provide good defense at the top of the key and Donta Smith and Bracey Wright both cared a heavy load offensively but they’ll all need to come together on defense to corral UNICS’ shot-happy guards.
No Derek Raivio or Garrett Stutz
Two of Nymburk’s import signings didn’t play at all in the game. Raivio is a super experienced shooting point guard and Stutz is an up and coming big man. Both could have been really useful, especially Raivio as Nymburk had a real need for another playmaker. Both could have been injured but they warmed up with the team, looked fine in warmups, but then didn’t get any floor time. Not sure what was up but in a do or die game and it was strange not see them get in at all.