EUROCHALLENGE FINAL FOUR
One way to look at the encounter that lifts the curtain on the 2013 EuroChallenge Final Four is as a relentless shoot-out, where whichever one between two offence-oriented opponents outscores the other, wins.
BCM Gravelines Dunkerque are the most productive team in the EuroChallenge, averaging 84.6 points per encounter; Krasnye Krylia Samara are the second-best offensive side, tied with EWE Baskets Oldenburg, with an average output of 84.1 points per night.
These high figures are not skewed by the fact that both teams were involved during the play-offs in games that went into overtime and ended with high scores; BCM were scoring an average of 83.1 points per game and Samara 83.5 points per encounter going into the quarter-finals.
Both the French and the Russian side have the potential to sustain a high-tempo for 40 minutes, take the game to a high number of possessions - and field goal attempts - and turn it into a true run-and-gun affair.
However, they both have defensive tools at their disposal to destroy -or limit drastically- each other's main offensive weapons.
Krasnye Krylia small forward Chester Simmons is the complete package on the offensive end.
He averages 15.4 points and 2.4 assists per night in the EuroChallenge and has the tendency to step it up in the big games and take (and more often than not, make) the crucial shots.
Simmons's varied repertoire might be enough to see him prevail in one-on-one situations against his opposite numbers at BCM, Kennedy Winston and Julius Johnson, but Gravelines coach Christian Monschau could just have a way to prevent these situations from even taking place.
To achieve it, Monschau will want to stop Samara point guard Aaron Miles from distributing the ball as effectively as he usually does; BCM combo guard Yannick Bokolo seems like the most logical option to take on this difficult mission.
|Yannick Bokolo is most likely to be entrusted with guarding Aaron Miles |
Miles, the recent Russian Cup Final Four MVP, leads the EuroChallenge in passing with an eye-popping 7.1 assists per game and if BCM succeed in limiting his vision of the court, the whole Samara offence could short-circuit and the ball might never arrive in the hands of Simmons or power forward Andre Smith, their second-leading scorer (14.2 ppg).
On the other end of the floor, Krasnye Krylia have the size and athleticism it takes to close down their paint and prevent BCM point guard Dwight Buycks from driving to their basket.
Buycks leads his team in scoring in the EuroChallenge with 15.1 points per game and has been in demonic form in the last two games in the French Pro A, scoring a season-high 28 points against Dijon and 21 points against Lyon-Villeurbanne.
Krasnye Krylia will much rather he takes most of his shots from long range, as his shooting percentage drops to 34.5% from behind the arc (51.4% in two-point field goals) and, in any case, no team manages to hit more than a meagre 29.4% of their three-point attempts against the Russian side.
The two contenders arrive at Izmir for the Final Four with their morale sky-high following achievements on the domestic front.
BCM lost 67-65 to ASVEL in their latest game before departure last Friday, but still left France as leaders of the Pro A and their position will not change while they are in Turkey, even if both of their pursuers win at the weekend.
Point guard Aldo Curti has been fighting off an injury since March and is doubtful for the Final Four but otherwise they are facing no problems.
Krasnye Krylia on the other hand suffered a defeat of no major consequences to CSKA Moscow in the Russian PBL at the weekend, but it came after they had achieved one of their major goals this season.
Sergey Bazarevich's side defeated Spartak St. Petersburg 86-80 in the final of the Russian Cup in Vladivostok last week and, most importantly, saw their major stars firing on all cylinders in Final Four conditions.
|Complete package: Red Wings forward Chester Simmons|
SEASON SO FAR
Krasnye Krylia's EuroChallenge campaign has been nothing less than enviable.
They became the first team to reach the Final Four of the competition undefeated since fellow Russian side Spartak St. Petersburg in the 2004/05 season.
Interestingly, their narrower-margin victories came in the first two games of their campaign back in November, 79-74 against Keravnos and 79-76 away at CSU Asesoft Ploiesti.
They cruised through the rest of the Regular Season and continued their impressive march during the Last 16, with the only true big scare coming in Game 2 of their quarter-final play-off series with Telekom Baskets Bonn, when the gutsy Germans took the game into over-time.
Samara however outscored their hosts 10-0 in the extra period to avoid the risk of a third game in the series and maintain their perfect record untarnished.
BCM on the other hand did not have such a smooth ride until the Final Four but, somehow, always seemed to be in control rather than scrape through.
They suffered two defeats in the Regular Season and one in the Last 16, but never really found themselves stressed about qualifying, and actually topped their respective groups in both phases.
The French team faced surprise package Joensuun Kataja in the play-offs and won the first game with a 29-point rout of the Finnish side.
In Game 2 however, Gravelines only managed to force overtime by the skin of their teeth and then, true to form, won the encounter -and the series- in overtime.
If there is morale to their story this season it's that when they appear to be beaten, they are to be feared the most.