In its playoff opener, Kinder Bologna did little to inspire any doubt that it is the team to beat in the Euroleague. A powerful second-quarter edge of 29-12 sent coach Ettore Messina's club to a resounding 113-70 victory that left Adecco Estudiantes of Spain looking for answers that may not be there in the span of a three-game series. It was Kinder's 24th consecutive victory between the Euroleague and Italy, and the 43-point margin combined with a similar one against Euroleague playoff team Muller Verona in Italy recently begs the question of just how good is this Kinder team.
Big guard Marko Jaric was the protagonist for Kinder this time, stringing together 21 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists and 6 steals in a display of athleticism that the Adecco Estudiantes guards had trouble keeping up with. Meanwhile, with Rashard Griffith (16 points, 7 rebounds) controlling the paint, even making steals and fastbreak dunks, and Emanuel Ginobili scoring 16 points in 19 minutes, Kinder had little left to do after halftime than keep adding to the lead. Matjaz Smodish chipped in 14 points, as did point guard Antoine Rigaudeau, giving every Kinder starter 14 points or more. About the worst that can be said for Kinder is that Ginobili suffered a hit in the thigh and may be sidelined a few days.
"I think we did a very good job using our physical power and technique" coach Ettore Messina said afterwards. "It was really imortant to win this game, now we are 1-0, and it was important beginning the playoff that strongly. In Madrid we'll hear different music. We'll go there to end the series, but they'll play better in their home, so we'll need to play another great game to win there."
Estudiantes looked good enough to compete in the first 10 minutes, and in fact only lost by 26-22. But it already had a problem in that veteran shooter Nenad Markovic couldn't play more than 1 minute due to a continuing injury. And after that first quarter, nothing seemed to go right for the Spanish club. At one point in that second quarter, Kinder shovelled in 15 points in less than 4 minutes, leading to a 31-8 run. Estudiantes managed only a single basket from the field during 8 minutes of the second quarter.
As usual, Alphonso Reyes led his teammates with 23 points and 9 rebounds, seconded by Rico Hill with 27 and 7, respectively. But Shaun Vandiver was no match for Griffth at center and the Estudiantes guard rotation looked more hopeful than in charge when the ball was in their hands. They ended up surrendering an incredible 30 turnovers, all due to Kinder's defense, which was credited with almost as many steals. At some point when the number of lost possessions kept adding up, Estudiantes was out of the game well before the clock ticked down.
Thursday, February 1, 2001