EuroLeague’s October schedule is behind us, and like any good Halloween movie, it was fun, thrilling and bloody.
With four rounds in the books, some teams have frightening 0-4 records, while others are scary good. Let’s jump around the league and look at some of the biggest storylines from Round 4.
Cold-Blooded Mike James Beats Khimki
The headline of my Round 1 column was “Mike James is cool.”
Ice cold Mike James made Andre 3000 proud. He made 3-of-3 free throws with 3.3 seconds left to beat Khimki Moscow 81-80.
Milano’s star signing was awesome all game, dropping 25 points and eight assists to out-duel Khimki’s Alexey Shved (19 points, 10 assists).
It was another well-rounded performance for Milano, who are now 3-1 and look like a playoff team. Khimki, however, are staring down the barrel of an 0-4 start.
Zalgiris Upset Panathinaikos On The Road
In Lithuania, where basketball is religion, construction of St. Saras Cathedral is probably near completion.
They needed overtime to do it, but head coach Sarunas “Saras” Jasikevicius and Zalgiris marched into Athens and won at OAKA, perhaps the most intimidating arena in Europe.
Panathinaikos were 29-3 at home in EuroLeague over the past three seasons. Zalgiris had not won there this century, going 0-10. But that was the old Zalgiris, before Saras built them into a well-oiled, giant-slaying machine.
Brandon Davies led the way, just as he did in last year’s playoffs when sixth-seeded Zalgiris upset No. 3 Olympiacos. The Greek air suits Davies, who put up 18 points and made some clutch plays on both ends of the court. His late tip-in sent the game to OT, and he played great defense against Nick Calathes late in overtime.
Outside of Davies, Zalgiris are deep and talented. They retained a good portion of last year’s F4 roster, and the new guys passed a big test at OAKA.
Derrick Walton Jr. was a revelation in his EuroLeague debut, with five points, five assists and good defense in 14 minutes. He did commit three turnovers, but the former Michigan Wolverine and Miami Heat guard looks like a great early season signing.
This is how you make friends in your debut:
Zalgiris’ other unproven new guards Thomas Walkup and Nate Wolters also played their roles well, hustling on defense while combining for 24 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and just two turnovers.
Both teams are 2-2 now and expect to fight for a playoff spot in March, so this was a massive win for Zalgiris.
Roddy Buckets Leads Efes Over Fenerbahce
In another upset, Efes won the Istanbul derby, beating cross-town rivals Fenerbahce 89-83.
Rodrigue Beaubois, who won my heart as a Dallas Maverick, is still ridiculously smooth. After winning co-MVP in Round 3, Monsieur Buckets carved up Fener with 17 points and four assists.
Efes are the little brother in Istanbul, while Fenerbahce make the Final Four almost every year. Efes still have a lot to prove, but maybe the tide is turning.
October MVP: Walter 'Edy' Tavares | Real Madrid
Shoutout to October MVP Edy Tavares.
The Sultan of Swat (sorry Babe Ruth) has completely dominated during Real Madrid’s 4-0 start. He’s averaging 10.3 points per game, shooting 70 percent from the field and he leads the league in rebounds (9.5) and blocks (three) per game.
With the 7-foot-3 Tavares patrolling the paint, Madrid are well on their way to back-to-back titles.
Top 3 Games Of Round 5
Why you should watch: These are two perennial Final Four teams and championship contenders. With David Blatt leading a revamped Olympiacos, there are new faces in an old rivalry. There’s a great matchup between two of the best big men in the league: CSKA’s Kyle Hines (UNC-Greensboro) and Olympiacos’ Nikola Milutinov (Spurs stash). Both teams also have a ton of firepower on the perimeter.
Why you should watch: There’s an awesome matchup at point guard: former Gonzaga Bulldog Kevin Pangos (Barca) vs. former Florida Gator Scottie Wilbekin (Maccabi). Both are entering their primes and are All-EuroLeague level players. This is also a battle between two historic clubs who are trying to return to the playoffs after missing out in recent years. And for NBA Draft nerds: Check out Maccabi wing Yovel Zoosman. He’s a versatile 20-year-old wing who could be drafted in 2019.
Why you should watch: Zalgiris, last year’s Final Four Cinderella story, host the defending champions in what should be a fast-paced shootout. Zalgiris are fresh off their big road win at Panathinaikos, so they’ll be confident, but Real Madrid are destroying everyone (3 of 4 wins by at least 16 points). Can Zalgiris score on Tavares? Can they contain Sergio Llull? Huge test for them in front of their amazing home fans.
Why you should watch: Two of EuroLeague’s most electric backcourts go head-to-head. Both teams have explosive former NBA guards with Milano’s Mike James and Nemanja Nedovic facing Efes’ Shane Larkin and Rodrigue Beaubois. Last season, these teams finished 15th and 16th (last) in EL. But after great summers, they hope to fight for a playoff spot. With both teams at 3-1, this should be an intense game.
Austin Green is an international journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe and Australia. You can follow him on Twitter @LosCrossovers.