Euroleague’s decision to schedule three playoff games within 30 minutes of each other was only the start of the madness on a wild Tuesday, writes Emmet Ryan
In reverse order…
Sasha Djordjevic is no longer coach of Panathinaikos
Fenerbahce completed a sweep of Real Madrid
Dimitris Diamantidis ended his career in pan European basketball
Baskonia swept Panathinaikos
Technically those last two happened at the same moment but there was a lot to take in on Tuesday night and we really need to start with the first one. The patience of both Athenian giants since the end of the Obradovic-Ivkovic era (2010-2012) hasn’t exactly been extraordinary but Panathinaikos were actually in the ascendancy here. Okay, they missed the Final Four again but they won the Greek Cup and are actively in the playoffs having finished the season with an identical record to Olympiacos who, in case you hadn’t noticed, didn’t even make the playoffs in Euroleague. Oly may hold the home court advantage in the Greek league post-season on, of all things, a head to head differential but that’s just not when you sack your coach. You give Sasha ‘The reason the editor of this site got hooked on European basketball‘ Djordevic the chance to finish the season if only because there’s no plausible way a post-season switch improves your chances. As a property, it’s really hard to gauge Djordjevic’s value. A post-season in Greece, especially the finals series, would have given potential suitors more to evaluate. As it is, he is…ummm…whatever he was before he got to PAO I guess?
Continuing the reverse mode. Wow, Fenebahce didn’t exactly look phased in Madrid did they? They had moments where Real got in the game but Fenerbahce who had a catastrophic end to their apparent dream season last year went to Madrid and exorcised their demons. Remember, this is the club that got pasted in the Final Four and then was sent packing in the Turkish playoffs 3-1 by Pinar Karsiyaka. This year they took the man who caused them the most damage in the latter part of that, Bobby Dixon, and paired him with the most confident man in Europe, Bogdan Bogdanovic. Together, they do a heap of damage so Gigi Datome and Ekpe Udoh can do the most violent clean up job in the sport right now. We talk about the eye test vs the numbers test all the time. Fener do great on the numbers test and are pornographic on the eye test. This three game display alone has to make them favourites for Berlin even with a tricky match-up.
Which, sadly, leads us to Triple-D. Our Twitter wallpaper says more than I can write with a bottle of Rioja and a couple of beers in me. Spanoulis had more highlight reel moments, Navarro had his own way to spark a team, but if you were on the other side of the ball and that man had it in his hands there was no-one more terrifying in European basketball than Dimitris Diamantidis. We’re both 35, he’s lived a somewhat healthier life than me, but we are greying at the same rate. DDD has been going through that phase where you aren’t sure if you know you are still young but look like you are getting old but feel younger than the years actually are. I’m really glad he had those moments this season, those times where despite all the miles on the clock he could still terrify kids across the continent. This Easy Jack IPA is for you DDD and we will pay you proper tribute when the season formally ends for you but make not mistake you are a true Athenian* Gangsta.
*Yes I know he’s from Kastoria but it’s a hip hop thing
And, lastly, the big one that actually kicked off this wild evening. Ioannis Bouroussis ‘only’ went 14 and 9 tonight as Darius Adams reminded the world that Vitoria’s had an extraordinary onions harvest this season. Bouroussis has to be a lock for Euroleague MVP now. The award was won, on merit, by the end of the Top 16. The ‘needs to be in the Final Four’ box was ticked emphatically in Athens tonight. It is never easy to go to the OAKA and win but, save for a few shakes in the opening minutes, Baskonia looked like a team that belonged at the top table of the sport on this continent. They really have been the inspiration this season, not just for the geeks but for people who like a team that knows how infectious confidence can be. As a story, Baskonia are a delight. As a team, they should scare the hell out of anybody in Berlin.