Though it's looking like the lockout might finally be over, the Euroleague season is still going strong, and Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka are still with their respective clubs.
This Thursday, the Euroleague season went into it's second of ten rounds of games that are to last through December. These are just the preliminary groups, with each team facing each of the other teams in a home and away series. The top four teams advance to another group stage, which commences in January.
We'll take a quick look at how Thabo and Ibaka did, and to say the least, it was impressive.
Serge Ibaka (Real Madrid)
Video Courtesy of DejanBodyAgain
3:30 played, 0 Points, 1 Rebound, 1 Block, 1 Foul
After arriving just barely in time to play with his new team, it's no surprise that Real Madrid decided to use Ibaka only sparingly tonight. But the three minutes he did play were interesting, to say the least. On his very first play, he was fooled by the simplest of pick and rolls by Omar Cook and Mason Rocca. On the next defensive possession, he refrained from falling for the same trap, but he was called for goaltending while playing help defense. It was almost a sure lay-in though, so I can't blame him for the attempt.
But after those initial bumps, we saw the Ibaka we all know and love. He proceeded to have an authoritative-looking block on Stefano Mancinelli, which was Mancinellis only two point miss of the entire game. After his block, Madrid looked to beat Milan down the floor. The ensuing layup attempt missed, but the remarkable thing is that Ibaka almost rebounded the missed layup. That's right, he almost completed a fast break play OFF OF HIS OWN BLOCK. Now if that's not Thunder Basketball, I don't know what is.
Below: More on Ibaka's Night, Sefolosha going off for 17 Points and 12 Rebounds!
Mason Rocca attempted to fool him on an ensuing fast break with a fancy reverse layup, but Serge followed the shot the entire way and forced the miss. The Spanish colour commentator couldn't say anything but "Bueno". I'm not sure if he was complimenting Rocco or Ibaka, but it was a darn good play all-around.
There wasn't much else notable about his night. It was, after all, only 3 minutes long. He got the ball at one point, but was fouled immediately. It was obvious that he still had a lot of work to do to be integrated into the team's system, but for what it was, it was a great show to see. If Ibaka does end up having another game in Spain, I would be very interested to see what he could do on that level.
Real Madrid is 2-0 and atop Group C heading into Week 3.
Thabo Sefolosha (Fenerbahce Ulker)
Video Courtesy of TheDrizzleisLocal
26:54 played, 17 Points, 5/7 2PT FG, 1/2 3PT FG, 4/6 FT, 12 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 4 Turnovers, 4 Fouls
I don't remember who said it, but I think one of the players did. "Thabo Sefolosha is considered a great offensive player in Europe, so it just shows you how good you have to be to score on an NBA Level." Or something to that extent. Even though I'm a Euro basketball lover, I didn't believe it. Thabo is terrible at driving, and his corner three is shaky at best. Certainly all of that couldn't change just because the players are a bit lower in skill, right?
But, surprisingly enough, the quote was right. Thabo Sefolosha lit it up last night against Olympiakos, one of Europe's most powerful teams. Of course, his team didn't do it with him, but his individual performance spoke for itself. He spent time driving in the paint, hitting backboard jumpers, and doing fancy-looking hooks in the paint. Where was this Thabo Sefolosha last season?
And oh man, his defense was even better. He's always had an excellent nose for those rebounds that fall out of the reach of bigs, but here, he took rebounds out of the air where bigs should have gotten it. And though some in Oklahoma City like to criticize him for how he only really defends bigger guards well because he has a low center of gravity and can post them up, he showed last night that his skills go beyond that, picking the pocket of his defender once and grabbing a loose ball. Well, they go beyond that in Europe, at least. His starting matchup, Kostas Papanikolaou, didn't score a single point, though he had a bit more trouble with Georgios Printezis, the backup.
I think this game confirms what we should already know: Thabo is a GREAT European basketball player. You'd be insane not to have him on your team in at least some role. But as far as NBA basketball is concerned, he's still a work in progress offensively. I don't know what it is, but perhaps we're not using him in the right way. With the Thunder, if he ever drives, it's always baseline or during a fast break. I saw a lot of him on the break here, but none of the plays had him coming from the baseline. Of course, there's not as much of an advantage to going baseline in European basketball, as the 3 Point Arc is a perfect arc, and not shortened on the sides, like in the NBA.
Nevertheless, he had great success when receiving the ball in the middle of the post or when coming in on the wing from the mid-range area. It's not something you see a whole lot of in the NBA, but it's something Coach Brooks could at least try out in order to keep Thabo offensively involved, even if it's just a couple of plays a game. With how bad our late-game offense was last year, what do we have to lose? He's not as good as the Honey Badger, but he would be a nice offensive surprise every once in a while.
What did you think of Sefolosha's and Ibaka's performances? Post a comment!