|11 March 2013|
An irresistible force will meet an immovable object on Tuesday night in Izmir, where the team with the best defence in the EuroChallenge plays host to the side with the most productive offence.
Pinar Karsiyaka, the hosts of the first game in this quarter-final play-off series, give up only 68.7 points to their opponents on average while their guests, Paris Levallois, score 86.3 points-per-contest in the competition.
Both the Turkish and the French side have had to make adjustments to their respective squads and game plans recently, to deal with injuries, but everything indicates they will stick to their guns and do what they know best in this series.
Karsiyaka welcomed back the backcourt duo of Caner Topaloglu and Can Mutaf at the weekend while Melvin Sanders, the player who was chosen to step in for another injured guard, Jon Diebler, debuted.
Paris on the other hand will, according to the latest information, have to make do once again without sidelined power forward Jawad Williams, but they can once more count on the multi-faceted contribution of Julius Hodge.
The American forward had been on the Parisians' roster for a two-month stint in the autumn as coverage for the then injured Jonathan Aka, and he returned to their line-up at the weekend.
This play-off series however could very well be determined by each side's ability to dictate the tempo that suits them, rather than individual performances.
Karsiyaka need to impose a slower pace and take the clash to fewer possessions, while Paris will want to run the floor and draw their hosts into a frenzied, by their standards, game.
"This game was an accident, we put it behind us and [now] focus on the two important games that we have in front of us this week," Karsiyaka head coach Ufuk Sarica said after his team's shock 66-57 loss at home to Royal Halı Gaziantep BŞB on Saturday.
There could be really no other way for the Turkish coach to turn his players' focus on the play-off series with Paris, but to forget entirely anything related to an inexplicably poor performance, their worst since the start of the season.
Karsiyaka retained their defensive intensity, but suffered a tremendous blackout on the other end of the floor against a side that is well below them in the BEKO Ligi standings and expected nothing out of this game.
In his attempt to turn things around, Sarica used both Mutaf and Topaloglu for much longer than he would have liked on their reappearance, 23 and 22 minutes respectively, and this reflected in their shooting precision as they went a combined 3-for-15 from three-point range.
Sanders meanwhile still needs time to adapt to his new surroundings and spent only seven minutes on the floor, contributing two points and one rebound.
Centers William Thomas and Ümit Sonkol were the only Karsiyaka players who performed well in defeat as they combined for 32 points and 14 rebounds.
Paris on the other hand travel to Turkey with a big smile on their face, as they not only registered a win in domestic league action at the weekend, but performed better than they have in recent games.
Hodge featured for 24 minutes and seemed to be everywhere on the court at times, as he finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in the 84-70 victory over Cholet in the French Pro A.
"I have to say a big thanks to Hodge," said Paris head coach Cristophe Denis after the game.
"I fought to bring him back to the team and you saw the impact that his intelligence and versatility have on our play."
Crucially, center Sean May led the team in both scoring (26 points) and rebounds (seven) in a dominant performance reminiscent of his excellent displays earlier in the season.
|William Thomas (left) is set to make a EuroChallenge record on Wednesday night, needing just three more boards to become the first in tournament history to collect 500|
SEASON SO FAR
Neither Karsiyaka's defensive wall nor the free-flowing offence of Paris are coincidental, but are rather the result of conscious style choices by Sarica and Denis, respectively, and have largely to do with the philosophy of each coach.
So while Paris are actually stealing more balls (9.3 to 7.7), blocking more shots (2.9 to 2.5) and rebound better on the defensive end than their Tuesday hosts, Karsiyaka's efficiency on defence is down to intangible -in statistical terms- efforts.
The Turkish side stays competitive thanks to their fighting spirit; they hassle their opponents mercilessly, to force them to commit turnovers or minimise their open looks and force them to take bad shots.
Paris meanwhile feel comfortable to take the game inside, and want to do so very fast. They take approximately 15 more shots than Karsiyaka from two-point range and hit them with 52% accuracy.
Williams is instrumental to the success of this approach and there is little really Paris can do to alleviate the side-effects of his absence, as he is the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder.
There are four players though that will take to the floor on Tuesday and could provide us with two fantastic match-ups to watch closely.
In the battle of point guards, Robert Dixon of Karsiyaka and Andrew Albicy of Paris are of similar body structure and speed, but the first is his side's leading scorer with 18.6 points-per-game, while the Frenchman is a typical play-maker, averaging 6.6 assists-per-contest, second only to Aaron Miles of Krasnye Krylia in the EuroChallenge.
Inside the paint meanwhile, Sean May, who leads the competition in scoring (among players on teams that advanced to the Last 16) and field goal percentage, will go up against a rock-solid big man like William Thomas.
The Karsiyaka center will most likely reach an impressive individual milestone on Tuesday, as he needs three more boards to become the first ever player to collect 500 rebounds in the history of the EuroChallenge.