Lokomotiv Kuban won Game 5 against Barcelona in bizarre style, fortunately Emmet Ryan reflects on a good night to be Giorgios Bartzokas
This game was over so many times. At the buzzer for the half, there was the cold blooded dagger by Malcolm Delaney. Then Barcelona ran riot in the third, making Loko look like an inexperienced side not used to the big occasion. Xavi Pascual’s zone had done it, Barca were back on top. Then Chris Singleton went beast mode and Loko went Loko. How odd was this game? This was my end game assessment
— Ball in Europe (@bie_basketball) April 26, 2016
The final score by Delaney, a three that had the most fortunate bounce possible, summed this game up pretty neatly. A whole bunch of crazy stuff happened but Loko did more to make it matter and that’s why they are going to Berlin. Over the past two seasons the assumption has been that as goes Delaney, so goes Loko, but this series has reminded everyone that this team is so much more than that. There was Anthony Randolph’s explosion in Game 4 before Singleton’s step-up display tonight. When the questions have been asked, there have been plenty to answer the call. Ryan Broekhoff was only hitting bricks from deep through the first four games but opened this decisive encounter with a pair of threes.
There’s a calm to Giorgios Bartzokas when real pressure is on. On Sunday, in what was essentially a meaningless game with VEF Riga, the Loko coach was anything but a happy man in the fourth. Bartzokas was imploring to his players to push it harder, that “this game isn’t over” even though the bigger game was barely 48 hours away. His troops looked less than enthralled and in the moment an unfamiliar observer would have thought they didn’t care. Far from it, these are players who are so familiar with the methods of the man in charge that they know it’s getting real when Bartzokas isn’t raising his voice. When the veteran Greek, who has ample experience of pressure jobs, is collected is the time to take notice and buy in 100 per cent.
That’s what we saw when Barca had their run on Tuesday night. Bartzokas wasn’t happy but he wasn’t on the edge. He was the one forcing Xavi Pascual’s hair to get out of shape. Bartzokas has his guys, he knows what they can do, and he knows they occasionally don’t do it. His job is about putting them in position to do it more often than not. That’s all you can expect when you’re supposed to be the third tier Euroleague side in your country but you are trying to be the best team in the whole competition. You’ve got to have a bit of a free hand.
Tonight Bartzokas rode the emotion early and then got his guys to keep it together when they could have broken. Barcelona, Euroleague royalty, were held to just 5 points in the final quarter of a do or die game. That’s “Tonight we shut them down” Miracle on Ice stuff. That’s a coach knowing his guys can do their job and giving them the right spark to do it. Loko are nobody’s favourites going to Berlin but everybody should fear them in a one and done situation. That’s all this veteran on the bench wanted when the season started. Now he’s playing with house money.
Photo credit Timur Rustamov