Shields, Fall and Polonara stop Khimki and cut a three-game losing streak in the Euroleague (83-79)
Sunday's victory at the Wizink Center was what it was, an exercise in survival and sleepwalking, a small madness that came out expensive. A triumph reports confidence and feeds self-esteem, but does not establish foundations for a better future. This Thursday against Khimki (83-79), on the other hand, may well be a turning point for a Baskonia that for the first time in a long time was competitive for 40 minutes, without exceptions, and which is finally recognized in the mirror. It may be too late to set great goals in this Euroleague (or not), but this victory, which cuts a streak of three continental defeats, is undoubtedly the most important since Dusko Ivanovic returned home for Christmas.
If against Madrid I played Shengelia for 40 minutes of the game, this Thursday he stayed at 25. The Georgian contributed much, as always, but gave the prominence to three other partners. Shields (22 points and 6 rebounds) became the most reliable element of external rotation. Fall (15 and 8) was effective as long as his classmates knew how to find him in the painting. And Polonara (9 and 11) notes his new role as a reliable wild card, either as a Shengelia relay, either alongside him, either as an eaves or distributing the painting between them. Baskonia also had the fortune, all told, that Shved, the top scorer of the competition, saw the basket as a thimble: his three triples in 15 attempts say it all.
At first, however, the concern for the Vitorians was Jerebko, which dawned in the encounter with 10 points in the first quarter. Baskonia compensates him by effectively charging the offensive rebound and adding 16 between Shengelia, Polonara and Diop. Some defensive mismatches and their complete nullity from the triple prevented those of Ivanovic from grabbing the baton of the match much earlier. That and the low contribution in attack of two players that should be differentials, such as Stauskas and Janning.
Jerebko, the concern
The best news for Baskonia was to verify that Henry, by force hanged, seems already adapted to the role of organizing base that Vildoza and Granger's injuries have forced him to assume. The American is as he is, a specialist in theft, more scorer than assistant and with certain problems to find comfort when he throws the ball, but his efforts to reinvent himself are evident and deserve recognition. Ivanovic's, which is the one that matters most, has it.
Equality remained after the break, which Baskonia came with a three-point advantage (47-44). Shields noted after two triples that gave him some air but he found Shved's awakening, short but disturbing. At the eleventh attempt, the Russian escort scored his first triple and that always intimidates, because an ace player usually pops the can when he finally opens it. To the rdago I responded, already in the fourth quarter, Stauskas, who with his points put ahead the Baskonia in the decisive moments. With good defenses and without the need for Shengelia to be on the court, Ivanovic's team perfectly managed the last plays to certify a victory as necessary as it is exciting for the future.
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