Euroleague Qualifiers: The Chronicles of Riddick and Austin’s Rough Daye

By: Rob Scott / @robscott33

Belgacom Spirou Charleroi 74 – 63 Alba Berlin

Spirou Charleroi sparked something of an upset by blowing away Alba Berlin in front of their home fans in a lively atmosphere at the Spiroudome. Spirou came out firing whilst Berlin played like they had watched the film of the Belgians stumbling past Donetsk last night and thought all they had to do was turn up. A 24-16 first quarter was the difference, the only time the Germans looked threatening was durign a 9-0 run to close the first half and cut the deficit to four.

Most of the damage Spirou did on offense came through the pick and roll, with the roll man able to find open shooters either in the corner or spotting up at the top of the arc, and Spirou knocked those shots down with regularity. In the postgame press conference, Spirou coach Gio Bozzi revealed this secondary pick and roll set was designed especially with this game in mind, saying “Berlin had big problems on defense on the pick and roll”, and partly to take advantage of the new Euroleague edict to referees to prohibit hand checking on the perimeter, which he correctly saw would cause problems for teams defending the pick and roll.

As Bozzi said, it was “one simple play” but they ran it successfully time and again. Bozzi explained that the new rules meant that recovering weakside was more difficult if the ball handler had the freedom to attack his man, and you can bet your bottom Euro that he isn’t the only coach to have figured his out.

Broyles had three triples in his 15 points and Caleb Green and Justin Hamilton also benefitted from this kind of set. Berlin’s defenders were rotating to cut off the middle, which was probably the correct strategy having watched Spirou unable to throw the ball in the ocean last night, but they didn’t adjust to the fact that their opponents were draining it from the perimeter. Unfortunately, Broyles picked up an injury in the fourth quarter that may be serious. The full extent is unknown but he will definitely miss the final tomorrow.

Spirou went to a smallball lineup for large stretches of the game, with Broyles at the four, but with his injury, there will be a rethink. Toko Shengelia only played 9 minutes tonight but I asked Bozzi if he saw a big role for him both tomorrow and this season and he confirmed this was definitely the case.

Andre Riddick had a huge game - he may wear glasses and run like an old man, and take his free throws as jumpshots, but the spindly giant can extend his arms to disrupt just anybody’s shot.

Berlin came out flat, and stayed flat the whole game. Coach Gordon Herbert was dejected after the game, after spending much of it angry. He bemoaned his players’ lack of intensity, particularly on defense, and it’s difficult to disagree. Derrick Allen persisted for his 20 points, but other than some Heiko Schafartzik knocking down some threes, nobody lived up to his reputation. DaShaun Wood in particular was a disappointment, going 0/7 from inside the arc, 6 points, 4 assists and 3 turnovers in 30 minutes. He was outplayed at both ends by Demond Mallet.

CEZ Nymburk 86 - BC Khimki Moscow 79

CEZ Nymburk shocked BC Khimki Moscow by running out to an almighty 21-5 first quarter lead and a 49-22 cushion at halftime. Everything went wrong for the Russians, as their high profile NBA names Timofey Mozgov and Austin Daye were absolutely terrible, playing selfish, lethargic basketball. Both were benched by Rimas Kurtinaitis in the second half, and although cutting the rotatino to 6 men after halftime caused fatigue (although Rimas denied this in the press conference), it was worth a shot. 6 minutes of Daye and 4 of Mozgov was enough for any self-respecting coach the way they handled themselves tonight.

The first half, and the first quarter in particular, was an exercise in wretchedness for Khimki. Defensive rotations? Ball movement? An entry pass that wasn’t absolutely godawful? All of these things were completely absent in one of the worst halves of basketball we’ll see in any game this season. At least, I hope so. Obviously a British homer, I love Mike Lenzly, but when one of the chillest (which is a nice way of saying ‘slowest’) guards around is beating guys like Vitaly Fridzon off the dribble, it’s time to up the defensive intensity. Lenzly had a nice little game, and that summed up what went right for Nymburk - their role players stepped up, Khimki’s big stars shrunk .

A storming 28-9 third quarter saw Khimki cut the deficit to just eight at one point, but Chris Quinn, Thomas Kelati, Kresimir Loncar and Sergey Monya in particular exerted so much energy in clawing back that black hole of a scoreline, it was inevitable they would run out of steam eventually. Quinn scored 13 in the period but the shots that had glided through the net in the third started rimming out in the fourth. Nymburk didn’t panic, just kept playing solid, mistake free basketball and behind Tre Simmons and Pavel Pumplra in particular, they won relatively easily in the end.  Quinn and Loncar dropped 25 each but the fact that their 50 made up so much of Khimki’s 79 showed how little help they had, outside of Monya.

A name to watch out for tomorrow is Pavel Pumplra - the Czech swingman had 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks, and showed considerable poise to keep playing defense on four fouls. Tre Simmons was the big shot for Nymburk as his 26 points included 6/7 from three point range, including a couple of massive ones in the fourth quarter including the dagger he hit after curling off a screen to finally kill off the faint threat of a Khimki comeback.

Both Kurtinaitis and Loncar denied underestimating Nymburk, and the Croatian said “I don’t want to say nothing about any of our players” he was unwilling to point fingers, but it doesn’t need a genius to work out who is in the coache’s doghouse by looking at who played in the second half, and who maybe thought this would be easier than it was.

MVP of the Day: Really tough to choose between Charleroi’s Dwayne Broyles and Nymburk’s Pavel Pumplra, but I’m going to give it to the Czech. Although Tre Simmons scored more points, Pumplra’s quiet devotion to kicking ass defined Nymburk’s victory over the fancy pants opponents.

Must do better: With the Keith Langford fiasco, and the lack of communication and esprit du corps on show from Khimki tonight, whoever’s job it is to get a talented team playing up to their ability. That has to be the coach, Rimantas Kurtinaitis. If he doesn’t get a grip on this team, it could be a long old Eurocup campaign as well.