|17 March 2014|
| Péter Lóránt was a massive factor in games 1 and 2 |
+++ Watch Game 3 between Tartu Rock and Szolnoki Olaj live on www.livebasketball.tv (Tuesday, 18:00 CET) +++
Tartu University Rock and Szolnoki Olaj will battle it out on Tuesday in Game 3 of their quarter-final play-off series to determine the holder of the fourth and last ticket to the EuroChallenge Final Four.
The Estonian side had prevailed 87-83 in Game 1 last Tuesday and then Szolnok tied the series at 1-1 with an 80-73 win in Hungary on Thursday.
Tartu, as the team with the home-court advantage in this series, play the decisive clash at home.
The winner of Game 3 will face Triumph Lyubertsy in the first semi-final, in late April.
We break down the key points of the do-or-die Tuesday encounter.
Unless a surprise factor is introduced on Tuesday, based on the form we saw in the first two games of the series, both coaches will expect big performances from the players involved in two direct match-ups, the first on the wing and the other at the '4' spot.
Tanel Kurbas vs. Justin Holiday
Kurbas has delivered two of his best displays of the season in the play-offs, averaging 18.5 points (up from 9.3 points in the first 12 games of the EuroChallenge season), 5.5 rebounds and three assists. Holiday on the other hand came up with one of his most well-rounded performances this season during Game 1, also on Tartu's court, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and two blocks. He did not receive so many balls on offence in Game 2 and finished with 10 points, but his team did not really need a bigger contribution in that encounter.
Vilmantas Dilys vs. Péter Lóránt
|Vilmantas Dilys has been well contained in the first two games of the series, but will be looking to rectify that in this do-or-die encounter |
Dilys appears to have performed below his usual high standards in this series as he has averaged 12.5 points and came into the quarter-finals averaging approximately 14.9 points per contest (if we exclude the first Last 16 game against Gaz Metan Medias, where he had a testimonial presence). While it is true that Szolnok's frontline is doing a very good job at defending Dilys, the Lithuanian averaged an efficiency index rating of 15.5 so far in the play-offs, which is among the top 15 best contributions at this stage. One of the few players who has been rated even higher in the quarter-finals is Lóránt. The Hungarian big man is averaging an outstanding efficiency rating of 23.5 in the play-offs and seems to be in fantastic form against Tartu. Lóránt is the only player to be averaging a double-double in this series, 19.5 points and 11 rebounds, while he's also drawn a total of 11 fouls in the two games so far.
Tartu came into the series averaging 80.4 points per game in the EuroChallenge and it is crucially important to them to perform offensively on Tuesday on a par with their season average. The Estonians have scored 80 points or more on eight occasions in this campaign (including Game 1 of the quarter-finals) and have won every single one of them. A high-scoring game however in itself is not a guarantee off success for the hosts, as Szolnok have improved on the offensive end in this series and actually scored one point more (76 points on average) in the play-offs than they did during the group stages. Szolnok's shooting percentage from two-point range has dropped slightly from 43.1% to 42.9%, while Tartu have shot an excellent 29-of-49 from inside in the first two games, but that is really not worrying the Hungarians, as Tartu rarely take that option. The Estonians were already the most trigger-happy team in the EuroChallenge from downtown, attempting 25.6 three-pointers per game before the play-offs, but have gone 24-of-61 from long
|Janar Talts will share third place on the all-time appearances list in the EuroChallenge when he steps on the court on Turesday|
range in this series. This means they have fired off an eye-turning 30.5 three-pointers per game in the quarter-finals.
Regardless of the final outcome of this series, neither of the two clubs will walk into uncharted territory as each one of them has already appeared in the Final Four previously. Tartu reached the end-of-season tournament in Cyprus in 2008 (the last year before the competition was renamed to EuroChallenge) and finished in fourth place behind Barons LMT Riga, Dexia Mons-Hainaut and Proteas EKA AEL.
Szolnok qualified to the 2012 Final Four and played host to the event, but also ended up finishing in fourth. Besiktas conquered the title in Hungary that year, Elan Chalon were the runners-up and Triumph Lyubertsy defeated Szolnok in the battle for third.
Should Estonian international Janar Talts play on Tuesday for Tartu, he will have featured in his 76th EuroChallenge game and draw level with former Antwerp Giants player Ralph Biggs in third place on the all-time table of players with most games played.