Last week, TalkBasket writer John Hobbs wrote a detailed preview for Greek publisher BasketPlus. The company have agreed to also publish it on the site too.
Key Player: Andrei Kirilenko is the heartbeat of the CSKA Moscow line-up on both ends of the floor. The Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year and overall MVP in waiting has contributed in virtually every stat line this season and has done so with consonant ease. In what looks most likely to be his last season with the Russian giants before he heads back to the NBA, he will want to sign off in style by winning a Euroleague title with his hometown club.
The scary part of this CSKA team though is even with Kirilenko out; they have the depth to win games, as proven in their last five Euroleague regular season contests, led by Milos Teodosic and his Serbian teammate Nenad Krstic. Teodosic is a weapon on the offensive end and is rightfully regarded as one of the best floor generals in the Euroleague. Krstic is one of the smartest big men in the Euroleague with smart shot selection and great leadership on both ends of the floor. He was the stand-in leader when Kirilenko was injured.
Key Play: Offensively, CSKA are the best in the Euroleague, and it’s reflected by the stats, they average 85 points a game and 39 percent from 3-point range (444 shots attempted). They rarely lose control and share the ball at regular loops. Moscow also have several scoring threats in Teodosic, Krstic, Alexey Schved, Kirilenko, Ramunas Siskauskas, the list goes on. If one is struggling, another one steps up and comes good. Offensively, there is no one better right now.
Defensively, they have the Defensive Player of the Year in Kirilenko who leads the Euroleague in blocks at just under two per game and is averaging just over five defensive boards a contest. His average of 24 in the performance index rating stat this season is something to behold. Along with the suffocating half-court defense of Milos Teodosic, who can get a bit over-zealous at times, CSKA have two solid defenders there, but all of them play their part, the basketball saying of defense wins games relates to CSKA Moscow.
Role of the coach: Jonas Kazlauskas is a veteran coach who knows how to get the best out of his players. As long as he keeps his stars fresh, his role players fresher and gets them used to their respective defensive assignments, CSKA could very well be the 2011/12 Euroleague champions.
Key Player: Dimitris Diamantidis is a big game performer and will need all his big game experience to help steer the current holders to victory against the favourites. His ability to score the basketball from all angles and unselfishly dish the ball out to his colleagues is something Panathinaikos thrives on.
Diamantidis is also a defensive mastermind, having won it countless times, including last season. When the game goes down to the wire, don’t be surprised to see coach Obradovic assign DD on Kirilenko.
Key Play: The Diamantidis-Baptiste pick-and-roll is legendary and despite its fame, these two veterans find new ways to make it work, whether it’s finding the open guard for the three-point attempt, finding the trailer inside or dishing it to themselves or shooting the lights out from behind the arc. Panathinaikos can match-up well with anyone.
Defensively, Panathinaikos keep their shape well; they like to play suffocating defense around the perimeter allowing for easy steals and fast break baskets normally led by Diamantidis and Romain Sato. The beauty of the Panathinaikos defense, is how well they can all recover from screens and still contribute defensively, it leads to deflected passes, blocked shots and turnovers. The Greens are amongst the hardest working teams in the league at that.
Role of the coach: Zeljko Obradovic is a Final Four regular, like all four coaches this season and will know how to motivate his troops. If Panathinaikos are to make a splash and retain their crown, it’s all about keeping their perimeter players fresh and rotates them at regular intervals and keeps the big men from foul trouble.