Inside the eighthfinals: Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir – Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius

Feb 23, 2015 by Print
Inside the eighthfinals: Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir – Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius

Expect offensive fireworks when two of the best offenses and three-point shooting sides in the competition - two-time Eurocup champion Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir, which went undefeated in the Last 32 - go head to head in the eighthfinals.

Ready for some fun?

If Karsiyaka and Rytas continue what they have been doing during the Last 32, three-pointers will be raining and baskets will be scored in bunches during this series. A look at the Last 32 stats tells the story: Karsiyaka ranked third in points (89.7), second in assists (22), second in three-point accuracy (47.1%), while making fourth-most three-pointers (10.8). Rytas was even better. It was tied first in points (92.17), and no team made more triples (13.3) and at the better rate (47.3%). Neither has any Eurocup team scored more points than Rytas this entire season (1393, 87.06). Both teams significantly increased their scoring in the Last 32. Rytas raised it by more than 8 points after averaging second-best 84 points in the regular season, while Karsiyaka was ranked middle-of-the-pack (78 ppg) in the regular season but finished third in the Last 32 after a stunning increase of almost 12 points per game. Productive offense, however, often starts with stingy defense which can lead to many transition baskets, and both teams are great at forcing turnovers. Karsiyaka is the best team in the competition with 15.81 for the season, and Rytas is not far behind, ranked fifth with 15.31.

Maintaining momentum

Each of these teams, in its own way, enters the eighthfinals with momentum that they hope can be maintained. Rytas scored 111 points in crushing Ostend in a do-or-die Last 32 Round 6 game. That was the highest total in a single game that Rytas scored in any of its seven Eurocup seasons. Karsiyaka stormed through the Last 32 as one of just three teams to record a perfect 6-0 record. It won each game by at least a seven-point margin, despite locking up the eighthfinals berth with two games to spare. However, with three weeks between their final Last 32 games and this eighthfinals series, which team can keep the momentum?

Shooters on fire

Martynas Gecevicius led the Last 32 in performance index rating (25.0) after averaging 19.2 points and dishing 6 assists. He was also making a fantastic 4.7 three-point shots per game on incredible 66.7% accuracy. That's the best any player has ever shot behind the three-point arc during any group stage of the competition. Gecevicius went on a run of hitting at least 4 triples in each of the last five games, sinking 26 of 38 three-pointers during that stretch. Lamayne Wilson of Turk Telekom in 2009-10 regular season (4.2 per game at 61.8%) is the closest any other Eurocup player has come to what Gecevicius has done. The next in line? This season, Jon Diebler of Karsiyaka made 3.5 triples per game at 61.76% during the Last 32. It has been the best season of Diebler's professional career, and so far he has made 45 three-point shots. His teammate Bobby Dixon has made one more, 46. Between the two of them, 91 triples - or 5.7 per game for the season - is more than any other pair of teammates in the Eurocup.

Simas Jasaitis - Lietuvos Rytas - EC14 (photo Lietuvos Rytas - M. Kulbis)

Karsiyaka's starting five

The Turkish side relies heavily on its starters. With his average of 16.4 points, point guard Bobby Dixon is the second-best scorer among the players still in the competition, and has played the most minutes (33:35 per game). Dixon is in his third season with Karsiyaka, just like his backcourt partner Diebler, and both of them quickly clicked with last summer's additions: forward Juan Palacios, who arrived from Rytas, another big athletic forward, Kenny Gabriel, and swingman D.J. Strawberry. Going into the eighthfinals, Dixon, Palacios (14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals) and Diebler (14.3 ppg) are all among Top 15 in total points scored this Eurocup season. No other team comes close to having three players ranked this high in scoring. Add Gabriel and Strawberry to the mix, and five players that started each Last 32 game account for 78% of Karsiyaka's scoring and have attempted 74.7% of team's shots.

Rytas experience

When the season started, the Rytas roster had no player under the age of 24 and just two Eurocup rookies – guard Billy Baron and forward Mike Moser. The core of the team was made up of Gecevicius, a former two-time Euroleague and Eurocup champ; swingman Mindaugas Lukauskis, a two-time Eurocup champion; and center Antanas Kavaliauskas, who had five Eurocup seasons' worth of experience in the paint. And if that was enough veteran experience, after the end of the regular season Rytas brought in Ksistof Lavrinovic, a former two-time All-Euroleague forward, and swingman Simas Jasaitis, a two-time Eurocup champion. Using both to give the team spark off the bench, and with forward Gediminas Orelik providing for 14.1 points in a starting role, Rytas developed a combination of depth and veteran experience few teams can match.