With the last 2011-12 Euroleague Final Four spot to be decided in tonight’s climactic game five between Panathanikos and Maccabi Tel Aviv, BallinEurope takes a look at some recent prognostications by experts and observers – plus a modicum of analysis as to how well some have done. O, and of course, the official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™ for the game…
• Before the Euroleague Playoffs tipped off, Pini Gershon told Greece-based Eurohoops.net that “[Sarunas] Jasikevicius is the key for the Greens and Sofo is […] for Maccabi. There is a difference in the playing style of Maccabi when Sofo is the court and a different style when [Richard] Hendrix is playing. Panathinaikos still relies on the pick-and-roll. Hendrix is a better defender than Schortsanitis, but [Schortsanitis] is in very good condition lately.”
At least in terms of the Greek side, Gershon appears dead on: After tormenting Maccabi in the game one win, Saras was indeed crucial in PAO’s stay-alive game four win. Oftentimes sharing the floor with Diamantidis, the pair went 7-of-13 for 25 points. DD racked a nice 19 performance index rating but Jasikevicius was at his best for the nth time in his long championship-laden career in orchestrating the half-court offense.
BiE supposes that Schortsanitis was important in game four, committing a quick four fouls and totaling zero points in just over eight minutes. While the big guy was instrumental in forcing the PAO frontcourt to body up on him to their detriment in the slowed-down uglied-up game three, he was still on the floor for less than 20 minutes.
Game four was a microcosm of Sofoklean woes, as he racked up four quick fouls in just about 8½ minutes: Big Sofo has played for 54 minutes total in the series and been whistled 13 times (that’s 13.5 minutes per game and one foul per 4.25 minutes). And at no time, with the possible exception of a flash of brilliance over about four minutes in game two, has Sofoklis been the dominant force some were expecting – how can a dude that big be so invisible?
Unless David Blatt’s ready to do an about-face on his use of Schortsanitis, reckon the big guy will be sitting lots tonight in favor of a speedier offense; Blatt goes against his former boss and more with his former player Doron Perkins (see below) on this one.
• Over at Eurobasket, former Maccabi guard Doron Perkins reckons that “I think Panathinaikos has a better chance of winning and advancing to the Final Four because they’re playing at home and they will get the benefit of the calls from the referees, so in a sense, they have the advantage.”
Perkins goes on to state that “The X-factor for Maccabi is David Blu. He’s one of the best shooters in Europe and the only pure shooter on the team. Blu’s ability to knock down shots can also spread the floor for the guards. … It’s known that when Blu plays well, Maccabi’s chances of winning dramatically increase.”
Blu’s former teammate appears to be correct in his analysis here, but it’s been a bit hard to tell lately. Tel Aviv has gone 6-0 in Euroleague play in 2011-12 when Blu’s PIR is 10 or higher, but Blu’s 16-point, three-board, 35½-minute performance in game two of this series represented his first standout game on offense since the regular season ended.
For Maccabi to win, Perkins opines that they must “play the run-and-gun style of basketball,” going on to echo Gershon in assessing that “Richard Hendrix has to start. Rich has been playing extremely well this season and therefore bringing Sofoklis Schortsanitis off the bench would be more efficient since the game slows down down the stretch, allowing Sofo to have a much bigger impact both on offense and defense. Second, Yogev Ohayon needs to play exactly like he’s been until now. Going up against Sarunas Jasikevicius and Dimitris Diamantidis, he has nothing to lose.”
Like BiE, Perkins figures that “Regardless of who wins Game 5 [between Panathinaikos and Maccabi], Barcelona and CSKA will make the finals.” Unlike BiE, he has “to go with Barcelona to win it all. Basketball wise, they’re the best team that matches up pretty well with CSKA and can cause them a lot of problems.”
• Back to before this series tipped off, “The Master,” a.k.a. current Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Ettore Messina analyzed the teams, seeing things as matchup against matchup. In similar fashion to Gershon, Messina tabbed Saras and Sofo for special mention and naturally described the Blatt vs Obradovic sideline battle as akin to Spassky vs. Fisher. In his Batiste vs. Hendrix matchup, the latter has overcome, and PAO has mostly won the Diamantidis-Calathes vs. Langford-Ohayon tussle Messini imagined.
• Finally, checking in with the masters … the
wise guys “Wise Men” panel assembled over at Euro-Step did a fairly Nostradamian job in forecasting this series. Five of the nine (Slovenian coach Luka Bassin plus writers John Hobbs, Nick Gibson, BallinEurope pilgrim father Christophe Ney and yours truly) had the series going five games – and all of us took Panathinaikos to win.
• Thus, the BallinEurope Official Fearless Prediction™ remains the same: “a grind-it-out series goes to the last bucket in game 5.” More descriptively, BiE’ll say Maccabi opens the floor again but Panathinaikos keeps up as Diamantidis is player of the game. And on that last game-winning bucket, that Lithuanian guy’ll be involved somehow … Panathinaikos 82, Maccabi Tel Aviv 80.