Faurie Files: Being Offensive


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

Is EuroLeague getting more and more offensive?

That's the feeling many people got. Defense no longer seems to be the key. The best defensive team of the regular season, Bourges, didn't even reach the Final Four, and the second best, Ekaterinburg was eliminated in Semi-Final. More attacks, more offensive skill, more pleasure, this might be the new face of EuroLeague Women.

"You'll never be able to keep a team with Taurasi, Bird, Jackson and Fowles under 60 points." That's the perfect resume of this column.

By the numbers

155 points scored in the final between Spartak and Avenida.  It's not a record in the last 10 years. The total was 162 in 2003 and 2004, when Valenciennes (Feaster, Le Dréan, Lawson, Wauters) and Ekaterinburg (Baranova, Griffith, Milton-Jones) had dream teams as well.

But the difference, when you look at the lay-off, is clear.  This year, none of the last four games of the Quarter-Finals, or the Final four, totalled under 133 points. In 2003, two games were played where the total was less than 114 points. In 2003, three teams in the Final Four scored 57 points or less in the Semi-Final games.

155 points is, and easily, the best total in the last five years, and Spartak is one of three teams, in the last 18 years, who have won by scoring 80 points or more.

Ten years ago, only 111 points where scored between Ruzemberok and Como (63-48), and the two Semi-Finals were along the same lines (54-47, 70-53). It's almost sure that we won't see such scores in the future.

You can also notice this increasing number of points in many fields. This season, four teams scored in average 80 points or more (Spartak 86.1, Ekaterinburg 83.6, Valencia 82.1 and CSKA 79.9). In 2005, only one team was over 80 (Samara 81.3), and there were none in 2006. But the arrival of new clubs (there are 24 teams in EuroLeague Women now) can also be an explanation, with bigger differences of level.

Rule of star players:

"The best players of the world are now in EuroLeague Women," says Edwige Lawson, the French point-guard of CSKA Moscow, and a three time EuroLeague Women winner.

"So it's very interesting and very fun to watch.  So much talent in one place! "

The arrival of Taurasi, Bird, Jackson, Fowles, Pondexter and the rest has improved the level, and changed the style of play. Along with that the European Stars have also developed their skills in the WNBA.

"Players attack more one on one," explains Ivana Vecerova, who arrived in Valencia this season and won EuroLeague Women with Brno.

"So the defence is more important in 1-on-1 situations."

Play fast, or just play.  That's one key, according to Lazlo Ratgeber, the coach of EuroLeague Women champions Spartak Moscow.

"All the best teams are playing transition offences, finishing earlier, not playing a control game and shooting in the last seconds. That's first tactical change. There are more attacks."

During this year's final, Spartak shot 65 times, and got 24 free throws. It was 52 times for Salamanca, and 29 free throws.

The philosophy of the game also had to change:

"You will never be able to get a team that have Taurasi, Bird, Jackson and Fowles together under 60 points," continues Edwige Lawson.

"So you don't have a choice but to score a lot of points if you want to beat them."

Don't forget defense

So it seems that nowadays the best defence is a great offence. If it's not possible to win a game only with defence, it's still a very important part of the game.

"I still believe that to play a great defence with a lot of fast breaks can win games and championships too", says Ivana Vecerova.
"Don't forget that the number of points is not meaning that there's a bad defence," Ratgeber reminds us and he agrees with Vecerova.

"Without a good defence you can't win. You don't have fast breaks, you don't have breaks-transition game.  The good prepared defence is the first step of the great offence."

So everything is linked you think?

"The smart well organised offence is the key of the excellent defence-transition," says Ratgeber.

Offense for offense is nothing. To me, basket-ball is not a game of "take the ball, and shoot."

Some NBA games can be terrible to watch, while some tactical games can be a pleasure. Defensive variations, zone, man to man can be so interesting.  The only thing is to avoid defence that looks like a war in the paint, with bad intentions. The rule of the referees is very important. To let the attacker play and the defender defend.

EuroLeague Women 2009 was no doubt an offensive release. It will be interesting to see what will happen at EuroBasket Women 2009, between European players.  Don't hesitate to send me your opinion.

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