2019 EuroLeague Playoffs: Key Performances from the Quarterfinal Series

Rounds 1 and 2 of the EuroLeague playoffs are on the books.

The first week of the quarterfinal series held a bunch of stunning, truly historic upsets that leave room for a potential surprise regarding the teams that will advance in the Final Four.

Heavy underdog Zalgiris Kaunas stunned mega powerhouse Fenerbahce Beko 82 – 80 after losing Game 1 76 – 43. Baskonia forced CSKA Moscow to its first playoffs defeat (78 – 68) at home since 2008 to tie the series. And in Istanbul, a certain San Antonio Spurs longtime stashed player emerged as a hero for Barcelona in the team’s first playoffs win since 2016.

Adam Hanga winning Game 2 for Barcelona

There are six Barcelona players that have actually been in a Final Four before, Adam Hanga being one of them. He’s learned to walk the walk of big playoff games, and it seems he remembers the steps quite well.

Barcelona traveled to Istanbul for Games 1 and 2 of the EuroLeague playoffs against Anadolu Efes, looking to grab at least one win, claim homecourt advantage and then settle things in a Palau Blaugrana packed with thousands screaming fans. After falling to Vasilije Micic’s efforts Wednesday, Barca won Game 2 with Hanga making a splash on both ends.

Hanga has been mostly known as a defensive cleaver, able to shred enemy attacking plans into pieces. Against Efes, the Hungarian stepped up by making buckets as well, scoring a team-high 17 points (4 of 6 on 2-pointers, 3 of 5 on 3-pointers), apart from grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Oh, and he hit the game-winner: With 50 seconds left to play, Hanga posted up Shane Larkin, used a brilliant spin move to slip around him, drove to the basket and made the layup.

After missing a 3-point shot in the first half, the swingman entered the second half in an all-guns-blazing mode.

He hit 3 of 3 treys then—the third arriving during a crucial moment. Efes had erased a six-point deficit early in the second half to go up by five. Then Hanga drained the downtown shot to keep his team close and, more importantly, rip some of the momentum that his opponents were building.

Hanga essentially punished Efes’ defense for giving him space to execute beyond the arc. Yet, it was natural for Efes to treat him in that way since the Barca wing attacked closeouts with rapid speed to finish plays at the rim during the first half. Those layups forced Efes to change the defensive approach on him and not close out so aggressively.

Perhaps they also underestimated Hanga, who hit just 24.6 percent on 3-pointers in the regular season and is far from a feared shooter.

Despite his game-winning performance, Hanga didn’t seem very pleased with his overall game.

“Obviously it feels good to help the team on offense but I made a couple of mistakes on defense so I have to get better on that part of the game,” he said in the post-game flash interview for EuroLeague TV.

Hanga was too harsh on himself. From the moment he came off the bench in the first quarter, he constantly harassed opponents, shut down every player he guarded and, when he switched on center Bryant Dunston, he brilliantly used his length to overplay the American big, barring him from even getting the ball.

There was no player that scored on Hanga. None except one certain Serbian guard…

Vasilije Micic’s late redemption effort falls short

When I was watching Vasilije Micic’s shooting struggles early in the game, I was thinking that perhaps I jinxed him a bit by writing a piece after his grandiose, MVP performance in the Game 1 for Efes.

Barcelona came well-prepared for Micic in Game 2 and managed to nullify both his scoring and passing action. The 25-year-old failed to get into a rhythm, and the more the game progressed, the more difficult it was for him to return to form.

By the beginning of the fourth quarter, Micic had made just 1 out of 5 twos and 1 out of seven threes.

With the game approaching its final stretch, however, Micic tried to rally Efes into getting the 2-0 lead via some heroics. First, he beat Hanga at his own game, moving fast enough to take advantage of his opponents’ screens and draining a triple. In the next play, he once again disposed of Hanga, drove to the basket for an and-one basket for the 72 – 71 lead:

These were the last points Efes scored in the game, unfortunately.

Despite his buggy performance, Micic finished with a +4 for Efes since he helped the offense’s flow in a way not depicted on the stat sheet. But Efes will require him to bring a much stronger mojo in Spain since the Turkish side will need at least one win at Palau Blaugrana.

Given his leadership role for Efes and his Game 2 woes, this will be the biggest challenge in Micic’s career so far.

Rick Pitino learns who Facu Campazzo is the hard way

“Who are you talking about? Who is that? Oh, Campazzo OK. He’s a tough little kid. In one play our power forward went up with him for a loose ball off a rebound. And he [Campazzo] came up with the ball. I don’t know how tall he is, 5’7″, 5’8″ (he’s 5’11”) but he came up with the ball over 6’7″, 6’8″ guy.”

This was Rick Pitino’s answer when asked about Facu Campazzo. Pitino’s Panathinaikos had just fallen to Real Madrid 78 – 63 in Game 2, with Campazzo practically destroying the “Greens” on both ends.

Granted, Pitino had faced Campazzo and Real thrice this season, though the Argentinian guard was much more noticeable this time. He had 13 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, five steals, plus some tough-as-nails defense all over the place. Especially when it came to helping stop Panathinaikos’ mastermind Nick Calathes.

The Greens’ captain suffered under Jeff Taylor’s and Campazzo’s pressure and was forced to take one long-range shot after the other. Campazzo helped block Calathes’ passing view and refused to let him post him up.

Calathes finished 0 of 11.

Campazzo’s game was such a spectacle to behold, it inspired EuroLeague to ask:

Most plays were indeed highlight-worthy material: The surgical passes when it looked like he sent the ball through spaces as small as keyholes; The hesitation dribbles where he made fools out of his opponents; The way he beat even two opponents at once under the basket to score the ball. Or grab a rebound, as Pitino mentioned.

In light of Sergio Llull’s absence, Campazzo had to undertake increased duties, not only as the main floor manager but also Real’s “go-to-guy”. (Unlike Micic, this is a guy I certainly didn’t jinx when I picked him for the featured photo in the piece about NBA players.)

Pitino will definitely remember Campazzo’s name next time. And I bet any NBA scout or front office guy who watched that match was highly impressed as well.

Campazzo isn’t as invested in the idea of going to the NBA as he was a couple of years ago, but maybe the NBA will come calling anyway.

Photos courtesy of EuroLeague.net