EUROCHALLENGEThere is no time to celebrate, no time to lament the loss, there is indeed hardly any time for the eight EuroChallenge quarter-finalists to get some rest, as Game 2 is upon them on Thursday.
Triumph Lyubersty, Tartu University Rock, Royal Hali Gaziante and Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia were the four teams that emerged victorious from Game 1 on Tuesday and will have the chance to win their respective play-offs series with a second success within 48 hours.
We take a look back at the first four quarter-finals and pick some noteworthy events and figures from Tuesday's action.
|Branko Mirkovic led the way for Minsk but to no avail|
Keep An Eye On: Latvian forward Ojars Silins was having one of his worst games this season offensively, having scored just three points on 1-of-8 from the floor, when Krasnye Krylia drew level at 56 with Grisssin Bon Reggio Emilia, with 5:06 left to play. On the next possession, the 21-year-old Silins picked up the ball at the left shoulder and, without blinking, drilled a triple that not only gave Reggio Emilia some breathing space but also dealt a serious blow on the guests' morale. On a night that belonged to veterans, the Latvian concentrated on the defensive end and picked up five rebounds and a game-high three blocks to go with his six points and still managed to make a meaningful contribution to his team's big win.
Blast From The Past: While it's true that Tsmoki Minsk ended up abolishing a 21-point lead and lost 59-58 to Royal Hali Gaziantep, the Belarusian team would not have come so close to claiming a big win on the road were it not for a stellar first-half performance by Branko Mirkovic. With the likes of Keith Benson and Vincent Hunter sidelined through injury, the 31-year-old Serbian-born Bulgarian international stepped up for Minsk and sunk five amazingly difficult three-pointers en route to a season-best 19-point display. As fatigue begun to take its toll on Mirkovic in the second half and another veteran point guard, Baris Ermis, refused to let the game slip away, the balance begun to shift in Gaziantep's favour. The stat lines will tell you that the 29-year-old former Turkish international scored 13 points on a rather poor 5-of-13 from the floor and dished out seven assists but they do not reflect the manner in which his contribution in the clutch transformed the game or the fact that, simply put, the hosts managed to complete their incredible comeback and edge out Minsk thanks to Ermis's die-hard attitude and awe-inspiring late heroics.
Stat Of The Day: There were long stretches on Tuesday where Tartu University Rock and Royal Hali Gaziantep resembled handball teams on offence, as they were more than reluctant to step inside the 6.75m arc, let alone attempt a shot from mid or short range. The Estonians went 13-from-37 from downtown (14-of-24 from two-point range), the Turks were 10-of-31 from three-point land (12-of-26 from two) yet, somehow, they managed to win their respective games, in a way that defies established basketball logic. "Our shots were statistically unbalanced as we shot a lot more three-pointers, but if we score 87 points in the game then we can't really complain," commented Tartu head coach Gert Kullamäe.
Hitting The Headlines: Gaziantep's fantastic comeback victory over Tsmoki Minsk and Andrea Cinciarini picking up 14 points, in every way imaginable, during the last 5:24 of the game between Reggio Emilia and Krasnye Krylia, stole the limelight from Triumph Lyubertsy's achievement in Game 1 of the play-offs. Triumph were the only team to win on the road in the first game of the quarter-finals and they did so against Ural Ekaterinburg, a very ambitious side which wants to prove they belong in the top-flight of Russian basketball, and by putting in the best collective effort we saw anywhere in the EuroChallenge on Tuesday. Triumph stayed loyal to their game plan and were the only team on the opening night of the play-offs to have five players scoring in double-digits. The weight of the occasion forced most quarter-finalists to play largely unorthodox basketball on Tuesday and Triumph were not immune to the pressure, as they committed 17 turnovers, but their pluralism gave the impression they were the smoothest side in Game 1.
Quote Of The Week: "I hope that in the next two games we will show the basketball that we know," said Krasnye Krylia head coach Sergei Bazarevich, leaving no doubt as to his conviction that his team's series against Reggio Emilia will return to Italy next week for a third game.