The Faurie Files: Spartak Attack

06.04.2009

 Dominique FaurieDominique Faurie has covered women's basketball all over Europe and will write regularly for FIBAEurope.com during the EuroLeague season. Dominique Faurie can be reached at dominique.faurie@gmail.com 

The level of this Final Four makes me more and more regret this obvious fact. That's all folks, for the 2008-2009 campaign. 

This Final Four had it all.  Competitive semi-finals, great offense all the time and even when the defences were strong it was not a war, but a show.

In the last 18 years, only three teams have won by scoring 80 points or more. Spartak did it on Sunday, Valenciennes did it in 2004, and Ekaterinburg managed it in 2003. In the last four season, the points scored in Final were under 140 (138 last year), but it was 155 this time around.

It's not a surprise for me to see a third victory for Spartak, though it was far from easy.  Nothing is easy in a Final Four, and nothing is ever easy in EuroLeague Women.

But Spartak's win is probably even more impressive than last year if only because they played more as a team in dispatching Ekaterinburg and defeating Salamanca with their five players on the court and sixth behind the bench.

OK, you may say that you could win a Final Four as coach if you had in your team Bird, Taurasi, Jackson and Fowles.  I'm not so sure about that when Bibrzycka, Pondexter, Taylor, Gruda and Stepanova are standing in the way.  Ratgeber got what he was looking for when he left Pecs for Moscow, the Crown. He deserves it and so do Bird and Taurasi after exceptional performances last weekend.

I won't be very original telling you that Taurasi was amazing. Do you know what Diana Taurasi, Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have in common?  Each of their jersey numbers end in a 3.  Of course only Diana could start it with a one, as in number one.

The American Star was huge in the Semi-Final and terrific in the Final.

"We couldn't just stop her," admitted Bibrzycka.

She made everything, realizing her best Final Four with 33 and 31 points. It was even better than her wonderful final in 2007 against Valencia when she scored 23 points and was  4 of 6 on three-pointers.


Last season, in Brno, Jackson was the star as Taurasi only managed five points in the Semi-Final and 14 in the Final. In Spain, Taruasi was queen.

If you're a coach, just ask your player to play like her! And if they tell you she's not human show them that she lost a ball for an eight seconds violation in the first quarter of the Semi-Final, without defensive pressure. Queens are sometimes absent minded.

Before the end, I just would like people to remember one word. Especially for those who were disappointed by the fourth place finish of Sopron.

Coach Ratgeber told me one day: "When I look back, I see that every time we qualified for a Final Four with Pecs, it was a really great performance. You have to be sure of it!"

The guy who told me that is now a EuroLeague Women champion.

By the numbers

0

Minute played by Leuchanka and Abrosimova for Ekaterinburg in the Semi-Final. Are they only bench players?

1

Minute played by Petrovic in the Final, after her knee injury. She couldn't play this season. Same for Streimikyte.

2

Points scored by Milovanovic in the Semi-Final. The young Serbian player from Sopron, who killed Bourges in the Quarter-Final, was locked down by Salamanca. But she'll have time to play many Final Fours, and to win one someday.

3

The number of players who managed a double-double in this Final Four. Bird (13 points, 10 assists in the Final), Snow (17 points and 18 rebounds in the Semi-Final) and Gruda (16 points and 14 rebounds in the bronze medal game).

4

4 shots over 4, 8 points. These were the stats of Tatiana Shchegoleva of Spartak Moscow in the Semi-Final. All that in only 12 minutes, and she added 2 steals, 3 rebounds and an assist.

5

Only five players scored for Spartak in Semi-Final.

12

Points scored by Russian players in the semi-final: 8 for Shchegoleva and 4 for Stepanova.

15

As "usual", the margin of the winner in Final. The average in the last 3 seasons was 14.33 points. 15, 14 and 14.

45

Points scored by Lecoe Willingham in two games (20 and 25). The American forward was a key player in Salamanca's great season.

50

Percentage at three-pointers for Spartak in the Semi-Final (10/20). It was 42.9% in the Final (9/21), more than their average for the season to that point (41.3%). Their number of three-points shots was in their standard (21.3 attempts).


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