|11 March 2013|
|Benas Veikalas twisted his foot in Bonn's Saturday loss and did not travel to Samara|
Any play-off series starts with one team having a slight advantage over the other, but the balance in the quarter-finals between Krasnye Krylia and Telekom Baskets Bonn tipped heavily in one direction over the weekend.
The Russian side, who already had the home-court advantage in this EuroChallenge play-off series and the psychological edge that derives from being the only undefeated team in the competition, now also have more options than their German rivals in terms of personnel.
Bonn coach Michael Koch will not be able to count on two key pieces of his roster for the Tuesday game in Samara, and possibly for Game 2 back at home.
Power forward Jamel McLean and shooting guard Benas Veikalas both suffered injuries during Saturday's 70-68 loss at TBB Trier in BEKO Bundesliga action and although the duration of their recuperation is yet to be determined, neither boarded the plane to Samara for Game 1.
The American quickly turned into Bonn's top rebounder since joining the German side during the winter break, averaging 6.6 boards to go with his 10 points per game.
The Lithuanian meanwhile was Koch's reliable option from the perimeter, shooting 45.8% from the field and contributing 9.7 points per EuroChallenge contest since the start of the season.
Both could have been instrumental in a series where their team needs to win - at least once - on the road, since they stay calm and flourish in hostile environments.
McLean averages just 4.5 points when playing at home but is converted to the team's top scorer when playing away, with 18.5 points on average, while Veikalas similarly explodes from 6.2 to 13.2 points per game.
Bonn find themselves in this predicament for the first time this season and to make things worse for them, they are facing a side with clearly defined roles, who have gone almost unchanged since the start of the season.
Coach Sergey Bazarevich has stuck to his plan with dedication and even when he was forced to make adjustments - like during power forward Andre Smith's two-month long absence - he chose to not vary the team's play.
Krasnye Krylia's results so far in the EuroChallenge, the VTB and the domestic PBL league are the best proof that the Russian coach's plan is as rock solid and trustworthy as his ball-handling was during his playing days.
|Bonn will also miss Jamel McLean who sustained a knee injury on Saturday |
After signing off their EuroChallenge Last 16 campaign on 26 February with their 12th consecutive win in the competition, 86-65 over Tofas Bursa, Krasnye Krylia went through a rough patch in the VTB League and a two-game losing streak that could cost them missing out on a top-two finish in their group.
They bounced back on Saturday though, overcoming a rusty start to prevail 83-73 over Kalev Tallin at home, in the same competition.
The encounter featured no less than 19 lead changes and there is little doubt Bazarevich would have expected a more convincing victory against the bottom-of-the-standings Kalev, but in view of the Tuesday clash with Bonn, what matters perhaps most is that his team restored self-confidence after going over a speed bump.
In the clutch, his players went back to what they know best during the clutch, and they executed to perfection, each one performing to the role that has been assigned to them.
Bonn meanwhile have nothing positive to take from Saturday, which cost them a loss and the injuries to McLean and Veikalas.
Up until he succumbed to injury in the fourth quarter, McLean was actually the top performer for his team with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Veikalas was also going through a good run of form and had actually led the team in scoring in their first game since the conclusion of the EuroChallenge Last 16, a 94-56 rout of LTi GIESSEN 46ers last Sunday.
SEASON SO FAR
Krasnye Krylia embody the concept of stability this year, with the team improving incrementally throughout the season by building on foundations laid during the pre-season.
They resemble a well-oiled machine in three competitions, following the same pattern in their game and philosophy.
Chester Simmons is the team's leading scorer on all fronts, averaging 14.6 points in the EuroChallenge and 17 in the VTB League.
Rebounding duties fall mainly upon Andre Smith, who collects 5.9 and 6.9 boards per contest in these respective leagues.
A team that performs like an orchestra that has been through hours of rehearsals needs an appropriate conductor, and this role is played to perfection by Aaron Miles.
|Aaron Miles perfectly conducts Samara's offence, dishing out a competition-high 6.9 assists per game|
Not by accident, the American point guard leads both the EuroChallenge and the VTB League in passing, with 6.9 and 7.1 assists per game, respectively.
In many ways, the match-up with his opposite number at Bonn, Jared Jordan, could prove decisive.
His fellow American is the third-best in assists in the EuroChallenge, with 5.8 per contest, and the instigator of all good things on the offensive end for Koch's team.
Bonn will likely need Jordan to execute more in this series in order to make up for the contribution of Veikalas and lot will depend on whether he can take on the extra weight while maintaining his excellent three-point shooting percentage (58.3%, third-best in the EuroChallenge).
Another player that will need to perform at his very best on Tuesday is forward Kyle Weems, who leads the team in scoring with 13.7 points per contest on 52% shooting from the field.
While good performances from Jordan and Weems will be necessary if Bonn are to contest the win from their hosts in Samara, a player who could tip the balance in their favour is Robert Vaden.
The small forward has Koch's full trust, staying on the floor for more than 28 minuter per game in the EuroChallenge, as the team's second scorer behind Weems.
He also takes more shots from behind the three-point arc than any of his team-mates, but would need to shoot on Tuesday better than his average so far, as he makes 39.7% of his shots from that distance and 46.9% from two-point range.