Top 16 closer look: Partizan NIS Belgrade

Dec 31, 2020 by Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Top 16 closer look: Partizan NIS Belgrade

Ambitious Serbian powerhouse Partizan NIS Belgrade takes momentum into Top 16 Group F, having won four of its five games since new head coach Saso Filipovski took over. Partizan progressed to the next phase from fourth place in Group A, but a team with plenty of room for improvement will not shy away from trying to meet the high expectations it had set before the season.

Until now

Partizan had an up-and-down start to the season. After it squandered a double-digit second-half lead in a season-opening 85-82 road loss against Joventut Badalona, Partizan beat Umana Reyer Venice by 22 points before losing at UNICS Kazan by 23. A 13-point home loss to the hands of JL Bourg en Bresse dropped the team to a 2-3 record and led to a coaching change when Saso Filipovski replaced Vlada Scepanovic. The team responded by going on a three-game winning streak. Marcus Paige led that effort, knocking down a club-record 8 triples in a dramatic 89-86 home win in Round 8 against UNICS. Partizan took control of its destiny 48 hours later with a 78-75 triumph over Joventut in a rescheduled Round 6 game. An 88-75 win over Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul in Round 9 locked up Partizan's third straight trip to the Top 16.

Hotshot

It's hard to argue that any Partizan player has performed better so far this season than power forward Rashawn Thomas. Any time Partizan has made a big, game-changing run this season, it has been Thomas fueling those efforts on both ends of the floor. He is averaging 13.1 points to rank second on the team in scoring; he is Partizan's top rebounder with 5.7 per game; and he ranks second in the EuroCup with 2.2 steals per game. He has consistently been an on-court energy source igniting the team and his performances are a big reason for Partizan's optimism going forward.

Sleeper

Marcus Paige turned into Partizan's main perimeter threat during the second part of the regular season. After a slow start in which he averaged 7.3 points per game on 38.9% three-point shooting in the first four games of the season, Paige took his game - and shooting - to another level in the last six games. Coming off the bench, the lefty guard scored in double-digits in four of those six, posting 12.5 points on 55.6% three-point shooting over that span. None was more important than his club-record 8 triples on 10 attempts in a win over UNICS. He is one of four Partizan players averaging double-digits in scoring, but no one has been more consistent and more important for Partizan's shaky shooting confidence than Paige so far this campaign.

Did you know?

Partizan is one of three former EuroLeague champions in the Top 16 - along with Joventut and Virtus Segafredo Bologna - and there is quite a connection between these three clubs associated with Partizan's triumph. When Partizan won its EuroLeague crown in 1992, it did so in a dramatic fashion in the championship game against Joventut. Virtus head coach Sasa Djordjevic forever captured his status as a Partizan legend for hitting a miraculous game-winning three-pointer to lift his hometown club to a historic 71-70 victory.

Outlook

Partizan takes momentum into the Top 16, having won four of its five games under Coach Saso Filipovski. The team struggled offensively for most of the regular season, but Partizan still won six games and lost two more in last-second dramas thanks to its relentless defense. Partizan is a big, athletic and physical team, and as such is capable of playing defense that can keep it in any game, against any opponent, on any court. With the team openly searching for point-guard help, and with starting swingman Ognjen Jaramaz and center Eric Mika settling back in after being sidelined for much of the regular season, Partizan has plenty of room to improve as the team tries to meet the high expectations set before the season.