Seven takeaways from Tuesday: Nobody does it like Benfica
MIES (Switzerland) - Tuesday marked the return of the Basketball Champions League after the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers and the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Pre-Qualifiers, and saw road teams win three of the four games.
Here to help you cruise along the biggest news of the day are our Seven takeaways. As this is Season Seven of the BCL, we are breaking down all the Gamedays with seven crucial points about it.
#1 Road Warriors
The Portuguese champs were always going to be interesting, as we never had a club from Portugal in the Regular Season before. And if you considered their win on the road against VEF Riga an upset, you knew that it wasn't one when they went on the road and defeated Limoges CSP in France.
Now, show of hands - who's surprised they defeated BAXI Manresa in Spain, too? Yep. Nobody. Because we are talking about a team that completed a perfect Regular Season on the road, collecting three wins away from home, standing tall at 3-1 with two home games remaining and two chances to chase the number one spot in the group.
How crazy is that!? Newcomers to the BCL, placed next to perennial Latvian champs, French juggernauts and last season's runners-up... and we are talking about them being in a sweet spot to win the group? Crazy. Completely crazy.
Their game is hard to describe, because they play with an eight-men, nine-men short rotation, but never lose intensity in what they are doing, defensively nor offensively. They've got active hands, they've got big bodies, they've got elite wingspans, and multiple guys capable of just reaching and stealing a live ball.
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Offensively, they always find the hot guy. In the first half in Manresa, it was Aaron Broussard, who finished with a game-high 23 points, his only second 20+ point game in BCL, three years removed from the first one. Then, it was Ivan Almeida with his usual drives and finishes around the rim to collect 13 points and 9 boards.
Finally, it was the NBA veteran in Toney Douglas to knock down the difficult off-balance shots, finish the game with 17 points and 6 assists, seal the deal and set the final score at 92-82. It was the first time Manresa allowed 90 or more at home in BCL history. It was the first time they were beaten by 10 or more at home in BCL history.
SL Benfica aren't here to play play. They are here to play play. If that makes sense.
#2 Sweet Caroline
BAXI Manresa have two positives from this game, because (1) they didn't lose by 20, meaning they protected their lead from the first matchup with Benfica, meaning they are still in control of the tiebreaker, meaning they win the group in case of a tie with the Portuguese champs, and (2) they found a new fan favorite in Jordan Caroline.
The 26-year-old is listed at 201cm/6'7'', but plays above his size because of his size. Wait, what? Let's try this again. Because of his strong big body, it feels like he's a much taller man than the numbers indicate.
He had 11 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench in his first game with BAXI Manresa, finishing the game at +9. That was the best +/- on the team, by some distance too, which is understandable since they lost by 10 points.
Oh, and they play the Sweet Caroline song whenever he does something good. Another reason why he's a good fit over there.
#3 Matt Mitchell's MVP campaign
Are you too young to remember Larry Johnson? You know, the legendary member of the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks; the star of Eddie, the movie; the man they called the Grandmama in the 1990s?
Well, it seems that we found his stunt double in SIG Strasbourg. Matt Mitchell showed promise in his first BCL campaign, but only had one 20+ point game over his first 16 appearances in this competition.
However, he found another level to his game over the summer and turned into prime Larry Johnson, capable of playing between the lines, hitting shots from deep, playing tough defense and dunking down two-handed dunks as exclamation marks in big wins.
Mitchell has been on an MVP worthy run this season, getting 20+ points in each of his last three BCL games, scoring 25 on the road in Turkey, leading an 18-2 run late in the game that saw Strasbourg erase a 12-point deficit and turn it into a 79-75 win. Winning start for new coach Luca Banchi.
Double M is impressive. And get this, he's only 23!
#4 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from Bursa
Somehow, Tofas Bursa are both the best and the worst Turkish team in the BCL this season. The best, because they are right behind Turk Telekom, Fenerbahce and Anadolu Efes in the Turkish League, as the best-ranked BCL team over there.
The worst, because they are the only Turkish team down at 1-3 in the BCL. Rob Gray has had two 27-point games against SIG Strasbourg, they somehow lost both of them...
#5 Nate Reuvers' big day out
UNAHOTELS Reggio Emilia very much stayed in the hunt for a place in the next round with a 74-70 win over Pinar Karsiyaka. Both teams are now at 2-2, and Nate Reuvers is a big reason why.
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The 24-year-old in his second pro season went from friendly neighbor Nate to beast mode Reuvers when his team needed him, getting a big dunk, a big block and a big three-pointer, all in the final 90 seconds of the game. He finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks off the bench.
Some guys just have it in them, to become unbreakable when it's survival mode. Usually it's guys like Nate, youngest of five children. Hey, if he survived living with four siblings, Reggio Emilia can survive Group B, too.
|2||UNAHOTELS Reggio Emilia||4||2||2||50.0||311||321||-10||77.8||80.2||6|
|3||Telekom Baskets Bonn||3||2||1||66.7||240||225||15||80||75||5|
#6 What's wrong with Karsiyaka?
Speaking of Group B... Should we be worried that Pinar Karsiyaka are on a three-game losing streak and lost four of their last five games in all competitions?
Should we be worried that they missed 11 free throws on the road, including five in the last quarter, in a game which they lost by four?
Should we be worried that they basically played with a seven-men rotation? Should we be worried about Kenan Sipahi's less than ten minutes?
Should we be worried that they lost the rebounding battle for the third time in their four BCL games?
#7 A win, but a defeat
Finally, we go over to Group C, which saw a win that felt like defeat and a defeat that felt like a win. Legia Warszawa picked up their first BCL win ever, defeating Filou Oostende 71-66 in Belgium. However, the Belgian champs won the first rendezvous by nine points, meaning they've got the tiebreaker now.
Meaning, their defeat felt like a win. And Legia's win felt like defeat. Because the other two teams in this group are those with realistic championship ambitions, Hapoel Atsmon Holon and Galatasaray Nef. Legia need to upset at least one of those to have a chance of avoiding the last spot in the group.