The EuroLeague is a club basketball competition that mimics the Champions’ League in soccer. Basically, this league takes the 16 best teams in Europe (mostly league champions with some leagues getting two or three spots) and allows them to play each other to determine Europe’s club champion. While the regular season for EuroLeague doesn’t start until October 17th, last week had 16 teams fighting for the final two spots (14 teams automatically qualify, two teams have to fight through qualifying rounds) in a single elimination tournament. Here is the best and the worst from that tournament.
Lietuvos Rytas’ Quick Hitter to Close the Quarter
Up by six points with the third quarter winding down, Lietuvos Rytas had the ball looking to get a big bucket to extend the lead. Opting not to go for two, Rytas made sure they worked the clock and got a really good look out of it.
Once the ball gets to the top of the key, Predrag Samardziski sets a screen for Simas Buterlevicius, allowing him to pop out on the wing and make himself available for the basketball. In this set, Samardziski is basically your designated screener.
Once Buterlevicius gets the basketball, Samardziski sets a backscreen for the man who initiated the offense. After he sets his screen, Samardziski pops out behind the three-point line and makes him available for the pass.
The reason why the pass is going to him is because the offense wants to swing the ball to the other side of the court. The offensive player on the opposite wing does a very good job of walking his man down then popping out, putting himself in position to receive the pass.
After Samardziski makes the pass, he sets another screen off the ball, this time for Arvydas Siksnius, who uses the screen and gets open at the top of the key.
Once Arvydas Siksnius makes the catch, Samardziski comes over and sets yet another screen. However, this time it is a ball screen and Siksnius and Samardziski play the pick-and-roll, and the result is an easy basket for Samardziski as he rolls to the rim. Here is the play in real time:
What I really like about this play is that Lietuvos Rytas ran a simple play, but they masked it in a lot of complex movement, both player and ball. Think about it. They score off of a simple pick-and-roll, but all of the movement and screens off the ball, and the fact that the ball went side to side, means the defense has to move with it and respect everything, putting them out of position to help when the pick-and-roll actually does happen.
Cholet Mismanages the Clock Late
With about one minute left in their game against Cibona, Cholet found themselves down seven points. After a three to cut the deficit to four with 50.8 seconds left, Cholet needed to make a decision — play defense straight up or foul. Cholet found a way to do neither of those things.
It looks like Cholet opts to play defense straight up, but as the clock starts to wind down, they commit a foul 30.2 seconds left. If I was Cholet, I would have fouled right away. Being down four is a two possession game, but even if Cibona make both free throws, it remains a two possession game.
At this point, you know you are going to need the ball at least two times no matter what happens. If you foul with 50 seconds left, you know that you will get the ball back twice. If you let the clock run down and then foul, you are now rushing to try to get your two possessions, and that is exactly what happened with Cholet.
Knowing that they still need to get the ball back even if they score, Cholet rushes up a three that misses. If they would have fouled with 50 seconds left, they would have had at least 20 seconds to try and get a good look from three, make it, and put themselves in a position where they wouldn’t have to foul, get a stop, and get another look at a three-point shot to tie the game.
Coming back from being down 6 points is a big task, and the only way you are going to do it is if you manage the clock perfectly. Cholet was far from perfect at the end of this game.