Semifinals breakdown: Valencia Basket vs. UNICS Kazan

Mar 16, 2019 by Print
Semifinals breakdown: Valencia Basket vs. UNICS Kazan

Valencia arrives at this series after 12 consecutive wins - it is undefeated in the EuroCup since November. UNICS has a 16-3 record so far this season. Are you ready for a great playoffs series?

First time since the 2014 Finals

Valencia Basket and UNICS Kazan have not faced each other since the 2014 EuroCup Finals, played in a two-way format. UNICS had the home-court advantage, so Game 1 was played at Pabellon Fuente de San Luis. Valencia played perfect basketball for 28 minutes, getting a 70-37 advantage late in the third quarter. But Unics never stopped playing and held Valencia to a single basket over the final five minutes. Valencia won 80-67 behind Justin Doellman’s 28 points. Pau Ribas netted 14 points, and Rising Star Bojan Dubljevic finished with 12 points. Vladimir Veremeenko paced UNICS with 17 points. Luke Harangody scored 14, while Chuck Eidson collected 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. Valencia had to defend a 13-point deficit in Kazan and did it in style, winning Game 2 73-85 to sweep the series. Doellman led the way with 26 points, 5 assists and tied a Eurocup Finals record with 4 steals. He was chosen as the 2014 EuroCup Finals MVP. Eurocup MVP Andrew Goudelock scored 22 points for UNICS. Valencia won its third EuroCup title, its last to date.

Jamar Smith: Know Your Enemy

Playing a EuroCup playoffs series against Valencia is a well-known situation for shooting guard Jamar Smith - some of his biggest basketball memories came that way. In 2017, Valencia and Smith's squad, Unicaja Malaga, faced each other in the 2017 EuroCup Finals. Valencia took Game 1 but Smith went on fire in Game 2 in Malaga, leading Unicaja to a no-doubt-about-it 79-71 home win. Smith fired in 5 bombs from downtown on his way to 20 points, adding 4 rebounds and 4 assists for a PIR of 24. Smith also shined in Game 3, as Unicaja rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 9 minutes to win the game, 58-63, and lift the trophy. Smith had 8 of his 10 points in the final 7 minutes, making sure Unicaja finished the day on top of the podium. Smith is in a very similar situation - best-of-three series against Valencia without the home-court advantage - but wearing UNICS's jersey this time.

Lack of experience? Not an issue

Both teams have players that know what it takes to lift the EuroCup trophy - or being really close to doing that. Smith lifted the trophy with Unicaja in 2017 but he is not the only EuroCup champion wearing UNICS's jersey. Errick McCollum led Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul to the 2016 title, earning season MVP honors. Anton Ponkrashov played a EuroCup final with Khimki Moscow Region in 2009, losing against Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. Kostas Kaimakoglou helped UNICS reach the 2014 Finals but couldn't play in the title series due to injury. Pavel Sergeev and Maksim Sheleketo were in UNICS's roster in the 2014 finals. Sheleketo won two EuroCup titles - with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2013 and with Khimki in 2015. Valencia still has three players - Sam Van Rossom, Bojan Dubljevic and Rafa Martinez - who lifted the EuroCup title in 2014. Martinez also won the competition with Valencia in 2010. Martinez, Van Rossom and Dubljevic also reached the 2017 finals with Valencia, along with Will Thomas, Antoine Diot, Guillem Vives, Fernando San Emeterio and Joan Sastre. Three of these players - Diot with Strasbourg in 2015, Sastre with Cajasol in 2011 and San Emeterio with Girona in 2008 - also played EuroCup Finals without Valencia.

Two different basketball brands

Valencia is not the most athletic teams and the numbers prove it in all hustle stats. Out of 24 teams, Valencia ranks 18th in offensive rebounds (9.4 orpg.), 15th in steals (6.78 spg.) and 23rd in blocks (1.89 bpg.). On the other hand, Valencia averages fewer turnovers (11.1 per game) than anyone in the 2018-19 7DAYS EuroCup, ranking second in assists (20.8 apg.). Its great care of the ball matches Valencia's superb shooting percentages - it ranks 2nd in two-point shooting (58.2%) and 5th in shots from downtown (40.4%). Valencia's assist-per-turnover record (1.88) is on track to be the best ever in the EuroCup, but it will also need aggressiveness and physicality against UNICS. The Russian powerhouse has the best defense in the competition, allowing just 73 points per game. It has been improving as the season went on - UNICS allowed 76.2 points in the regular season, 71 in the Top 16 and just 66.3 in the Quarterfinals. UNICS forces opponents to hit just 49.1% of their two-point shots and 34.9% from downtown. Valencia scores with ease and UNICS is an expert on making opponents miss shots to get easy points in transition. Coincidentally, both teams have a very similar scoring average - Valencia scores 82.94 points per game and UNICS averages 83 per night.