SECOND SEMIFINAL FOR BOTH
Both Galatasaray and Gran Canaria are entering their second Eurocup Semifinal. Galatasaray had to wait eight seasons to get back to this stage. Back in the 2007-08 season, Galatasaray eliminated Gran Canaria in the two-game Last 32 with a 99-74 home win Game 1 behind 27 points from Chris Owens to take full control of the series. Gran Canaria won Game 2 at home, 88-79, but could not qualify to the Final Eight. Galatasaray went on to edge archrival Besiktas Cola Turka 60-61 in Turin, Italy, on a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Cuneyt Erden that got a wild celebration started. Eventual champion DKV Joventut stood in its way to success, 90-83, in the semifinals. Gran Canaria reached its first-ever Eurocup Semifinals last season by sweeping its eighthfinals and quarterfinal series against Cedevita Zagreb and Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir. Gran Canaria also swept Unics Kazan in the semifinals to reach the title series with a 21-1 record, but Khimki stopped it in its tracks, winning the Finals by an aggregate score of 174-130.
Of the squad that reached the semifinals last season, four pieces remain with Gran Canaria for this campaign; Eulis Baez, Brad Newley, Brad Oliver and Oriol Pauli know what it takes to carry the weight and get through the Eurocup semifinals series. But no player among the semifinalists is more familiar with success in the Eurocup than Gran Canaria power forward Pablo Aguilar, who is gunning for his third title with third different club after winning the 2007 ULEB Cup with Real Madrid and the 2014 Eurocup with Valencia Basket. Galatasaray’s locker room also has a few guys with experience, which comes in handy at this stage, and two of them played in the semis last season. Curtis Jerrells was wearing the Unics Kazan uniform last season, and was ousted in the semifinals by Gran Canaria, while Chuck Davis was a member of the Banvit Bandirma squad, which lost to Khimki Moscow Region. A few other players have been battle-tested at the biggest of stages. For Galatasaray’s Stephane Lasme this is the first Eurocup season, but the big man has four Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs appearances with Partizan Belgrade, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Panathinaikos Athens, and Vladimir Micov played in a pair of Euroleague Final Fours with CSKA Moscow. Meanwhile, Gran Canaria’s Xavi Rabaseda played in a pair of Euroleague Final Fours with FC Barcelona.
THE BEST OF THE REST
At least one of these two teams is ranked near the top in nearly every major statistical category for the Eurocup season, and either Gran Canaria or Galatasaray lead the four teams still in the competition. Gran Canaria enters the semifinals as the only team with at last 15 wins. Head Coach Aito Garcia Reneses’s men are also the highest-scoring team of the four in the semifinals, with an average of 85.3 points per night. Among the semifinalists, Gran Canaria dishes the most assists (19.4 apg.), pulls down the most total rebounds (36.5 rpg.) and makes the most three-pointers (10.5). It also is the most-accurate shooting team from three-point (37.8%) and two-point (53.6%) range, and has the highest average performance index rating (97.4) of the four semifinalists. On the other hand, Galatasaray leads all semifinalists in blocked shots (3.6 bpg.) and free throw accuracy (81.4%) and also has the highest assist-to-turnover ratio (168.3%) and commits the fewest turnovers (11.6) per game.
GALATASARAY: SCORING MILESTONES
Galatasaray features three of the best scorers in Eurocup in history and all of them could reach some milestones in the remainder of the 2015-16 season. Big man Chuck Davis ranks third on the all-time scoring list with 1,103 points. He needs 25 points to overtake third-ranked Rado Rancik and 36 to go past Todor Stoykov, who is second (1,138 points). Mire Chatman's first place seems to be safe for now, as he accumulated 1,187 points. Blake Schilb needs 10 points to crack the Top 50. He has scored 665 points until now; Cedomir Vitkovac and Tariq Kirksay are tied for 49th place with 675 points. Errick McCollum is 63rd at 626 points, but just needed 32 games to reach that number. Indeed, McCollum is the best per-game scorer in competition history (19.6 ppg.), with Igor Rakocevic (19.1 ppg.) second. McCollum must keep doing what he does best in order to keep his privileged position.
SOME LIKE IT HOME, SOME AWAY
Galatasaray has been stronger than anyone else at home – and that has allowed the team to rally from Game 1 deficits in both elimination series thus far. Galatasaray has been almost indestructible at home with a 9-1 record. Following its only home loss against Neptunas Klaipeda, Galatasaray won its next six games in front of its fans by an average margin of 24.8 points. Its home strength has allowed Galatasaray to overcome Game 1 deficits against Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir in the eighthfinals and FC Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals. On the other hand, Gran Canaria has been rock-solid at home over the years, winning 24 of its last 28 games in front of its fans in Eurocup action, but three of those losses came in the last five games. The four teams that were able to beat Gran Canaria at home since 2011 are Khimki Moscow Region 66-91 in last season's Eurocup Finals, another semifinalist Strasbourg in this season’s Last 32 opener, Limoges CSP in the return leg of the eighthfinals series, and Stelmet Zielona Gora in the second leg of the quarterfinals. However, Gran Canaria is 8-2 on the road, and has won seven in a row away from home. Five of those seven wins have been by a double-digit margin.