October's Movers and Shakers
MADRID (Spain) - Who had the most successful month of October in the Basketball Champions League? Who swung and missed? The new adaptive schedule can make it tough to keep up with the comings and goings across the league, with Movers and Shakers we assess who got off to a great start and who can’t wait for November already.
Steven Gray, Peristeri
Let’s start with the most obvious one. Steven Gray produced the best performance we have seen in the BCL Regular Season. Not one of the best, the best.
We have seen incredible some performances before; Kieffer Sykes with 43 points v Banvit, and Jimmy Baron’s ten made 3-pointers for Neptunas in the first season. We could also talk about Scottie Reynolds and Marcelinho Huertas’ record-equalling assist totals of 17 in 2017 and 2019 respectively - but what made this performance from Steven Gray stand out above all we have seen before, was the contribution in every aspect of the game.
He also led Peristeri with 5 steals (those 5 steals led to 6 points). He was everywhere on defense, jumping passing lanes and reading pick-and-rolls. In summary, 39 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, and +47 efficiency (a new BCL record). He shot 72% overall and equaled Baron’s record with 10/13 from 3-point range. An utterly flabbergasting stat line. He did, however, miss a free throw. Must try harder next time, Steven.
2020 has done it again, all of the French clubs won their fixtures in the opening round of games. Believe it or not, this has never happened before. There is a slight caveat with Cholet yet to play but we won’t let that take anything away from the October fête we just had.
JDA Dijon got things started with an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to beat newcomers Keravnos.
Then Limoges got off to a fine start with an 80-75 win against another newcomer Igokea. Jerry Boutsiele made the Team of the Month with 25 points and 7 rebounds. Limoges also win twice to start the season as they have also won the unofficial award for best Jersey. These retro-style BCL edition strips are absolute 🔥🔥🔥.
Then to complete le triple threat in October, SIG Strasbourg saved the best for last. The SIG men have never been ones to do things the easy way in the BCL and it seems new head coach Lassi Tuovi is keen to uphold the tradition. VEF Riga held the lead for 32 minutes and were up by as much as fourteen at one point. But somehow, and someway Strasbourg rode the back of Deandre Lansdowne’s 26 points and Bonzie Colson’s fourth-quarter heroics (more about those later) to steal the game at the death.
Another new season, another scarily efficient performance to kick things off from Tenerife. The black and yellows have now won more games in October (12) than any other team in the BCL. A 98-73 win over Bakken Bears with Giorgi Shermadini putting up 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists was as routine as it was ruthless for Txus Vidorreta’s squad. Just look at the execution coming out of a timeout in the clip below. Bakken looked to disrupt the play call by using a 2-2-1 zone press and also dropping into a halfcourt zone defense. Tenerife just ran the same set they had planned to, but adjusted on the fly to the zone and found Shermadini under the rim anyway - the exact thing Bakken’s zone was trying to avoid. Teams aren’t meant to look this slick in October.
Tenerife are yet to lose in the ACB after six wins on the bounce and despite the strength of the newcomers in this season’s BCL, they (as usual) already look a strong contender to hunt for a second title in May. Spencer Butterfield looks like another excellent addition as well.
After missing out on the Play-Offs last year, Brose Bamberg came out with a point to prove. A 37 point win on the road at Fortitudo Bologna is the second biggest road win in BCL history. Only bettered by Tenerife’s 47 point win over Capo d’Orlando in 2018. Tyler Larson put up 23 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds on his way to making the Team of the Month, but Dominic Lockhart, Chase Fieler, and Michelle Vitali were also exceptional. Lockhart in particular shot 100% from the field and the line en route to 19 points and 6 assists. Bamberg also scored from an assist on 74.4% of their FG’s. This was a total team performance where they also shot 52% from deep. When we consider that only David Kravish didn’t attempt a shot from three for Bamberg, don’t be shocked to find this team at the top of the 3-point shooting rankings for large chunks of the season.
The Adjusted Regular Season Format
45% of the games in the first round fixtures were decided by 5 points or less. That is the highest percentage of any of the five seasons so far. The next nearest season was 2017/18 with 38%. We also had an overtime game, two walk-off buzzer-beating game-winners, a 3-point shooting record equaled, and a new efficiency record. Not bad for the first 11 games of the season. From the first look, it looked like the new format with reduced group sizes and fewer games would likely increase the intensity and level of play. We weren’t disappointed.
With Brose Bamberg and Peristeri both scoring over 100 points, it is only the second time that the 100 point barrier has been broken twice on the opening round of games (2017/18 was the other). It is the only time that seven players scored over 25 points in the opening round. Teams also averaged over 84 points per game across all fixtures with four teams recording Offensive Ratings of 130 points per 100 possessions, the highest scoring average ever to start the season. 9.4 made 3-pointers across all teams is also a record-breaking opening. October was great for BCL offenses, less so for defense.
Speaking of defense… Sorry, Fortitudo fans. We are as excited as you guys to see you back in Europe again but this wasn’t the way it was supposed to start. You guys had to make the shakers list on account of your defense that was, well… shaky.
A lot of this one can go down to the huge hole left by Ethan Happ’s temporary absence. Some of it can also go down to it being early in the season and Meo Sachetti still figuring out who and what this team can be.
One positive, however, has to be the new jersey. We can’t mention Limoges’ new strip without talking about this one, it’s a beauty. The colorway looks akin to San Lorenzo in Argentina, a bit like a distant cousin thing between the BCL and the BCL Americas.
Muchas equipaciones nuevas para esta nueva edición de la @BasketballCL, algo que se agradece.— Gerard Solé (@gsole14) October 30, 2020
Pero me llaman la atención varias, como la de la histórica FORTITUDO BOLOGNA, inspirada parcialmente en la del titán sudamericano @CASLABasquet. pic.twitter.com/AZ729AKDrx
Six of the eight new teams in action during October came up empty-handed. Keravnos led for the best part of 33 minutes and were up by 18 points at one stage. Dijon didn’t take the lead until the fourth quarter, then delivered a harsh wake-up call to the reality of life in the BCL. Galatasary constructed a roster that had many people picking them as pre-season favorites (and they may still be a major threat come the Play-Offs) but Sassari let them know in no uncertain terms that trips to the Island can be a horror movie if you aren’t at the top of your game. Rytas Vilnius walked headfirst into “that” Steven Gray/Peristeri performance and Start Lublin also put up a very strong performance before a DJ Saved Zaragoza’s Life in the fourth quarter.
Fouling Up 2
Whilst we are on the topic of game-winners, as mentioned earlier in the article when we spoke about Bonzie Colson’s heroics for SIG Strasbourg, the ex Milwaukee Buck delivered for coach Tuovi when it mattered most. At 6’5” (1.96m) with a 7 foot (2.13m) wingspan, and an offensive skill set with very few weak spots, Colson looks like a freak in the context of the BCL. So much so, that his former Greek teammate of a similar persuasion was in the comments on Bonzie’s IG post about his walk-off game-winner. Freak recognizes Freak it seems.
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But what has that got to do with fouling up 2? and what even is fouling up 2? you may be asking. Well, watch the video below and you will notice that VEF Riga and coach Janis Gailitis took the strategy to foul SIG when they were up by 2 points. It’s commonplace to foul when up 3 to send a team to shoot free throws and prevent a game-tying 3-pointer. There is a new school of thought that forwards the idea of fouling up 2 to put the pressure on the free throw shooter and ensure that you have the last shot. And it would have worked to perfection here for VEF Riga if it wasn’t for Bonzie Colson’s 7-foot wingspan pulling in the offensive rebound and then having the cold-blooded nerve to drain the 3-ball with Michale Kyser in his grill.
We have to finish by giving an extra shout to the one and only Jeff Taylor calling the game, if that didn’t make you smile then you are watching the wrong sport. Also, it's fantastic to see young coaches doing the business in the BCL. Lassi Tuovi at 33 is our youngest coach and picked up his first win against Janis Gailis, who at 35 is our second youngest and has his team playing an excellent brand of basketball. For those of you with an X’s and O’s interest, Riga scored a league-high 14 points coming out of timeouts in this game. Go and check them out.