Tactics Board: Road Warriors
MIES (Switzerland) - During the Regular Season it's always difficult to ascertain the difference in levels of teams in each respective group. You can see who is playing good basketball against teams in their group, but until you see matchups from mixed groups in the later rounds, you can never be entirely sure how to properly rank teams.
Then along come the Play-Ins and five of the eight ties are won by the road team. Last year, only two teams (Darussafaka Lassa and Filou Oostende) lost their homecourt advantage and, of those two, only Darussafaka managed to convert that into a berth in the Round of 16.
This increase in unpredictability doesn't tell us yet about the threat these teams carry in the next round, but it does possibly point towards a more even level across teams able to make it out of the Regular Season.
Let's take a look at some of the eye-catching X's and O's from our road warriors in Game 1.
Road Warrior 1: Peristeri bwin
We start with Spanoulis, Peristeri and most importantly, Joe Ragland. At the start of the season this columnist predicted that this Peristeri roster and coach could do some damage this season.
Up until this point we had seen flashes, but maybe not the full fireworks show. Joe Ragland's performance and orchestration of his team on the road in Vilnius had all the Sparklers, Roman Candles, and Catherine Wheels we had expected to see from the outset.
Ragland dropped 25 points and 15 assists, becoming in the process the first player to record a 15 and 15 game with assists, and also the first player with multiple 15-assists games. Not bad when you think of some of the other passing greats that have graced this league.
The assist in the clip below is one that really stood out for several reasons. Firstly, it's an assist from the halfcourt line, over the top of the defense, and perfectly landed in Nemanja Dangubic's hands right under the rim. This is the basketball version of the deep-lying playmaker pass, like Andrea Pirlo spraying them in the San Siro.
Now watch it again and keep your eye on #2 Dangubic as he sneaks and snakes from one side of the court to the other, then walks his man into position.
From the moment Ragland catches the ball and calls the play, he never takes his eyes off his Serbian teammate, waiting for the perfect timing and element of surprise. The chemistry and execution don't look as impressive as a half-court set with all five players running every option of a play in sequence, but it was just as effective.
Road Warrior 2: Banco di Sardegna Sassari
Sassari's assist average before the Play-Ins? 19. In Wednesday's win at Cholet Basket though, Piero Bucchi's team dished out 29! Whilst Brandon Jefferson's arrival with a double-double surely had a part to play in the dramatic improvement, the thing that really stood out from an X's and O's perspective was how well they utilized the post to create shots for each other.
In the video below we see three examples of Sassari using the post to draw defenders in, then quickly moving the ball on and then finally making an extra, killer pass. Each of them different and all three of them slicker than a squid.
That's even more true of the last one in particular, as they run a staggered screen into a ball screen to get the post touch, then run staggered off-ball screens (in the paint) to create the pass out of it.
To cap it off, the extra pass is also in the paint with a drop down into Alfonzo McKinnie for the dunk. Hands up who had Sassari morphing into the 2014 San Antonio Spurs on their Play-In bingo card?
Road Warrior 3: Galatasaray EKMAS
We finish out with the most dramatic of the road wins, as Zvezdan Mitrovic's team stole a last-possession win at Bertram Derthona Tortona.
There is some debate over here at BCL towers as to which one of Galatasaray's recent acquisitions might be the mid-season signing of the year but, in reality, it looks like it's both David McCormack and Klemen Prepelic.
In the video below we picked out just two of the excellent possessions of execution that the two were involved in.
Clip one sees Prepelic running an "Iverson" cut along the FT line and then sprinting to the other side of the floor, flaring off a screen from McCormack and knocking down a three.
In clip two, we see the game on the line and again McCormack screening for Prepelic, only this time to create space for himself to catch it in the post and ice the game. Trying to pick your poison when defending these two in screening actions is an impossible conundrum for any defense. Expect to see plenty more of it from Mitrovic and the crew.
We can't end the column without a head nod to Tofas Bursa and Promitheas Patras. Both had equally impressive road wins and were deserving of their own columns. Shout out to Hunter Hale's career-high 25 points and Marcus Denmon's arrival at Tofas taking PAOK mateco by storm.