Euroleague welcomes Lokomotiv

TalkBasket’s Cagri Turhan wraps up his Eurocup final mission to Belgium with an insightful game report which is not to be missed. Read the full article.

Evgeny Pashutin continues his amazing coach career. First he carried CSKA Moscow that was considered on decline, to the final four in Paris. Then, he won the Eurocup with Unics Kazan, followed by a wonderful run next season in Euroleague, carrying them to playoffs. Now, he has won Eurocup with Lokomotiv Kuban, symbolizing the rise of a new power in Russian basketball. Those four years has been more than excellent for him.

“This is a big result for us in Krasnodar, a small city in the south of Russia. To reach the Euroleague is a big result. It’s tough to get into the Euroleague from Russia. We now have one more team in a city where the fans love basketball. This is big progress for basketball in Russia.” He said after the game, getting European basketball fans excited for a new color in next season’s Euroleague.

Lokomotiv Kuban had the control for whole game except the sequences that Raul Lopez took over the control in the first half, during Bilbao’s only lead in the game. Also, the miraculous comeback opportunity blown up by Milan Rakovic’s missed easy layup in the last minutes, which could have cut the lead to six where momentum was behind the men in black.

Nick Calathes has run the show after the confidence boost he got from three pointer after failing to convert the first two good looks. He read Bilbao defence excellent, basically decided the outcome. He was the best Dimitris Diamantidis type of performance we have seen in a while, showing the amazing development he achieved under legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic at Panathinaikos.

Tournament MVP got a major support from finals MVP Richard Hendrix and Aleks Maric, who basically outplayed the big men of the Basque side. Bilbao had hard time to coping with Lokomotiv’s offense. “It’s very difficult to pass inside for 40 minutes and Bilbao adjusted to that. Hendrix and Maric saw double-team traps in the third quarter. So it’s not as simple as posting up every time and scoring or receiving a foul or making a pass. It’s important to have balance with the inside and the perimeter game. If you depend only on the outside shot and miss, you’re done. The same if you go inside and it’s crowded. Our goal was to use both tactics. The first quarter was mostly pick-and-roll, the second we went inside, the third we spread the floor again. We adjusted to what Bilbao offered us.” said Pashutin during the post game press conference, explaining their offensive strategy.

Russian coach is one of the great new generation coaches with a modern approach to the game. He used two or three ball handlers very well to organize the offense and punish the mismatches.”I think especially when you play a team that puts a lot of pressure on the ball like Bilbao did in the third and fourth quarter, trapping and forcing you to play fast and out of control, you need ballhandlers who realize the situation, don’t lose their heads and keep going with the plan. If you have three ballhandlers, it makes it easier. If there’s a trap, the second and third one’s can handle the ball. It’s a tactic that takes away the aggressiveness of the defense. We have guys like Calathes and Kalnietis who are not pure point guards, but more like combo guards. They must know everything and have the skills for both positions. I think that’s the future.” 

He also evaluated his great improvement on coaching: “For every coach, you can’t stop. You must always learn. I always go to coaches’ clinics in Serbia and Spain. I learned from Ivkovic, Messina and others. If you stop, you are finished. You share ideas, what is new, and then I try to adapt it for myself. After that you have to read very well the game and know the weaknesses and strengths of the opponents. Everyone knows that, but it’s difficult to do. If you are able to stop their strong points, you have an opportunity to win.” We are going to witness his successes in the future a lot of times for sure.

Another great new generation coach Fotis Katiskaris was devastated as expected. He was sad for the excellent fans of Bilbao Basket primarily. More than 2000 fans made Spiroudome felt like Miribilla. Some of them had arrived after 16 hours bus ride. “We lived the trip here together and suffered together, always with our fans at our side. The elegance of those fans when they applauded Kuban showed what great fans we have. I want to thank them on the part of the team, but it’s sad. We wanted to give them the joy they wanted and reward the pride they showed being here and supporting us in Bilbao as they always do.” Greek coach expressed his feelings.

This is the third game Bilbao Basket fans give a lot of importance historically, lost with an awful pick and roll defense. First two was one in Vitoria, at Eurocup semis in 2010 versus Alba Berlin and Copa del Rey matchup versus Gran Canaria two months ago. “We knew that Kuban was a very good pick-and-roll team. They did it all year with great players. In general, we did a good job defensively. We just didn’t have the concentration to use our tactical fouls. We had the opportunity to foul, not yet in the bonus, before they got to the basket, and things like that are important in a final. I believe the pick-and-roll defense was correct. We used three different ones. We made the effort. But one more time, I don’t think we lost because of our defens, but because of our offense.”  said coach of the year about the subject. 

“What we missed today in addition to the shots and the percentage in field goals is that we didn’t have attention for the little details. In setting our picks and lacking patience, we didn’t take advantage of Alex (Mumbru). He missed in a couple situations under the basket: the defense was close and he received far from the basket. We tried to find a different way, to involve more players. We’re a team, after all. We tried to play inside-outside. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.” added Katsikaris. Bilbao Basket couldn’t find good looks in offense throughout the game. All Eurocup team player Lamont Hamilton, who was -19 at +/- column once in the first half, and experienced Gree guard Nikos Zisis, played with 2 for 9,  were big disappointments especially. As Bilbao offense struggled, the negative psychology affected whole team, players got away from their usual game after missing several good opportunities. Offense was the actual issue as coach Katsikaris mentioned.

Nevertheless, to keep in mind, it’s known that Bilbao Basket has financial troubles due to unpaid amounts by their main sponsor Uxue and players are not paid for months. Coach Katsikaris kept this team together and carried to the final, despite having lost major players from last season. His teams are known as overachiving teams but failed to live up to expactations in the big games where they were expected to deliver with Bilbao. When we asked during the training session, reminding two heartbraking losses in Vitoria mentioned above. His answer was same with three years ago after Alba Berlin loss. “We must suffer together, to be great one day.” Well, Charleroi can only be pictured with the devastated black and white fans everywhere. One day they will win but today they are only suffering.

You can follow Cagri Turhan @cagriturhan