Welcome back, Alexis!
Before reviewing the action of the last few weeks I wanted to highlight that Alexis Ajinca is back in the NBA. I was confident that Alexis would get another shot at the NBA within the next 1 1/2 years yet it is a surprise to actually see him play NBA games in 2013 already. The 7'2" center out of France played three uninspiring seasons from 2008-2011 in Charlotte and Dallas where he combined for just 71 games and a career WS/48 of .025. After a strong showing on France's gold winning National Team at the Eurobasket and dominating performances at the Euroleague with French underdog SG Strasbourg, Ajinca's contract was bought out by the Pelicans who are short up front, featuring ex-Wolves Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson.
Nice low risk move that could still hold a reward even though he clearly wasn't an NBA player in his first stint.. Ajinca is still just 25 years old, has a freakish body and matured significantly during his last few Euro years. In his debut for the Pierres against Portland, Ajinca grabbed 11 rebounds in just 16 minutes but has been Dieng-like foul prone in his first two games.Still definitely an upgrade over Lou Amundson (ok, even a penguin would be). He's a fun player and I'm happy to see him back. I hope he'll get some burn and with Davis back in the lineup I finally have various reasons to watch the Hellicans.
Not only has Partizan lost its ballhandling leader Leo Westermann for the season, but the outlook in the Euroleague with just two games to go was grim: The youngest team ever in the EL saw itself one game behind surprise hit JSF Nanterre and had to face powerhouses Fenerbahce Istanbul and CSKA Moscow. At least one win was mandatory and to much surprise, Partizan pulled it out in Turkey to keep its dream alive.
Istanbul's fans watched in shock as Partizan sliced through the turkish team's defense at will, converting all of its 11 first field goal attempts and going up 30-17 after the first quarter. If not for one miss by Terrance Kinsey, Partizan would have gone perfect on 12 shot attempts. The second quarter was a complete different story: Istanbul's defense tightened up and allowed only 9 points while scoring 20 and cutting Belgrade's lead to just two points. After the third quarter, the hosts took the lead on a 43-29 run that didn't give much hope to Serb fans.
Yet, two threes by Bogdan Bogdanovic and Terrance Kinsey, and a layup-dunk combo by Joffrey Lauvergne gave the youngsters a comfortable eight point lead with five minutes to go. Partizan increased the lead to nine with just three minutes to go, but a three pointer by Emir Preldzic, free throws by the other Bogdanovic, Bojan, and a Bo McCalebb dunk cut the lead to four. A turnover by Partizan gave the hosts more momentum, but after a botched three pointer by Bogdanovic, McCalebb missed a layup off an offensive rebound just to get another offensive rebound. This time though, Lauvergne sent him to the line with a foul and McCalebb was unfortunate agan, splitting free throws. Tradign free throws was eventually enough for Partizan in the last few moments to win a crucial game.
Emir Preldzic - IST (21 pts, 7 assts, 6 rebs, 1 asst, 1 stl, 1 blk)
Bogdan Bogdanovic - BEL (19 pts, 5 assts, 4 rebs, 2 stls, 1 blk)
|Fenerbahce Istanbul - Q
|CSKA Moscow - Q
|FC Barcelona - Q
|Partizan Belgrade - Q
Anton Gavel - BAM (15 pts, 3 rebs, 2 assts)
Anton Gavel - BAM (16 pts, 8 assts, 1 reb, 2 stls)
Justin Dentmon - KAU (26 pts, 7 rebs, 4 assts)
|Real Madrid - Q
|EA7 Milan - Q
|Zalgiris Kaunas - Q
|Anadolu Istanbul - Q
Olympiacos Piraeus 78 - 73 Montepaschi Siena
Vassilis Spanoulis - PIR (16 pts, 2 rebs, 2 assts, 1 stl)
Erick Green - SIE (28 pts, 1 reb, 1 asst, 1 stl)
Unicaja Malaga 77 - 72 Bayern Munich
Nik Caner-Medley - MAL (17 pts, 6 rebs, 1 asst, 1 stl, 1 blk)
Malcolm Delaney - MUN (14 pts, 7 assts, 3 rebs)
Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul 76 - 57 Stelmet Zielona Gora
Milan Macvan - IST (18 pts, 6 rebs, 3 assts, 1 blk)
Montepaschi Siena 62 - 64 Unicaja Malaga
The matchup was a do-or-die-game for Siena while Malaga could even be lucky in a loss and advance if it Galatasary beat Bayern. Galatasaray got blown out though and Malaga took matters in its own hands against Daniel Hackett (returning from injury) and his co-stars. Siena hanged in tough at home but fell to an incredible off-balance buzzer beater by Jayson Granger.
Malaga looked solid on the road and opened a ten point lead after the first half which melted to four on a 16-10 third quarter by Siena. Siena's David Cournooh opened the quarter by two quick three bombs interrupted by a Caner-Medley bucket for a tie at 44-44. Both teams scored at will, combining for 22 points in just five minutes. Malaga got serious with three minutes to go on two three pointers by Earl Calloway and eventual hero Jayson Granger for a six point lead. Spencer Nelson and 2013 NBA draftee Erick Green scored on layups for Siena. Jayson Granger hurt SIena's defense with a layup, but five quick points by Othello Hunter and Joshua Carter gave the hosts a one point lead with less than a minute to go. Malaga's coach Joan Plaza replaced Jayson Granger with Ryan Toolson and got rewarded with a three by that guy for a two point lead. Hackett who wasn't as lively as in throughout the Euroleague regular season in this game found Othello Hunter on a brutal defensive breakdown for an easy layup on an out of bounds play to tie at 62-62. Plaza put Granger back in for Fran Vasquez. With just four seconds to go, Granger raced down the court, got a nice screen that shook off Daniel Hackett and hit a running shot for the win.
Othello Hunter - SIE (14 pts, 5 rebs, 1 blk)
Jayson Granger - MAL (13 pts, 6 rebs, 2 assts)
Stelmet Zielona Gora 80 - 91 Olympiacos Piraeus
Przemyslaw Zamojski - GOR (22 pts, 3 rebs, 3 assts)
Stratos Perperoglou - PIR (23 pts, 3 assts, 2 rebs, 1 stl)
Bayern Munich 88 - 68 Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul
Nihad Djedovic - MUN (15 pts, 6 rebs, 4 assts)
Henry Domercant - IST (15 pts, 4 rebs, 3 stls)
|Olympiacos Piraeus - Q
|Galatasaray Istanbul - Q
|Unicaja Malaga - Q
|Bayern Munich - Q
|Stelmet Zielona Gora||2||8||100,6||113,5|
Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 81 - 65 Laboral Kutxa Vitoria
Jaka Blazic - BEL (24 pts, 4 rebs, 1 stl, 1 blk)
Lamont Hamilton - VIT (13 pts, 6 rebs, 3 assts, 3 blks, 2 stls)
Shawn James - TEL (9 pts, 4 rebs, 3 assts, 2 blks)
Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 63 - 82 Panathinaikos Athens
Derrick Brown - KRA (8 pts, 4 rebs, 3 assts)
Dimitris Diamantidis - ATH (12 pts, 7 assts, 3 stls, 1 reb)
Panathinaikos Athens 55 - 68 Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv
Joe Ingles - TEL (10 pts, 3 assts, 2 rebs, 1 stl)
Boban Marjanovic - BEL (25 pts, 11 rebs, 3 assts, 1 blk)
Marcus Williams - KRA (19 pts, 5 rebs, 4 assts, 1 stl)
|Maccabi Tel Aviv - Q
|Laboral Vitoria - Q
|Lokomotiv Krasnodar - Q
|Panathinaikos Athens - Q
|Crvena Zvezda Belgrade||4||6||108,6||106,9|
|Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius||1||9||93,6||112|
Format: Two groups with eight teams per group. Round-robin format for a total of 14 games per team. Best four teams from each group advance.
Duration: January 2nd to April 11th 2014.
|EA7 Emporio Armani|
|Laboral Kutxa Vitoria|
|Anadolu Efes Istanbul|
|Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv|
|Galatasaray Liv Hospital|
|Partizan NIS Belgrade|
|FC Bayern Munich|
No Euroleague play to review next week, but I'll take the time to bring back the MVP watch, highlight a few Euroleague magazine features, and start looking at the first few future prospects at the power forward/center position.