January 22, 2022 

First quarterfinalists come out of a disrupted ELW Week 12

Another week of postponed EuroLeague games allowed just 10 of the 14 teams to take the court, and three of them to qualify for the 2022 postseason.

The standings give you headaches. The numbers make no sense. The head-to-head tiebreakers are there only to add even more complications to the calculations. But even though the EuroLeague couldn’t catch a break throughout the past few days, we got to watch enough basketball to have a few teams already clinching postseason berths. Yay!

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We had three postponed games in Week 12, making way for five others to go down as scheduled. The six teams left out of this week’s slate (because of, you guessed it, COVID-19) were UMMC, MBA Moscow, Umana Reyer, KSC Szekszard, Fenerbahçe and Famila Schio. As you see, Group B squads kept getting the worst of it and now two teams in that are group stuck at just 10 games played (Fenerbahçe and Famila Schio) with none at 12 (compared to Group A’s two such teams in TTT Riga and USK Praha).

No game was played at higher stakes than the one between Praha and Avenida, with both teams fighting for the No. 2 seed and, in the improbable case that UMMC flops through its remaining three games, a chance at leading Group A. So it makes sense to start right there with the match that pitted the Czech and Spanish clubs against each other.

Avenida wins fourth-straight; Praha qualifies to quarterfinals even in defeat

You read that right, folks. Avenida got the best of Praha in a tightly contested game that saw the Spaniards keep the W at home after defeating their Czech foes by 10 points. Don’t let that double-digit difference fool you, though: the game was as close as it got and Avenida could only separate from Praha with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Katie Lou Samuelson hit a three to put the Spanish side five points ahead — a distance that never got lowered by Praha.

Katie Lou Samuelson blows by Sabrina Ionescu and rises in front of and over a vertically extending Natasha Howard to take a layup
Katie Lou Samuelson. (Photo credit: Neil Enns | Seattle Storm)

Now, if you remember what happened all the way back in Week 5, you know this was an important game but most probably not one in which things would change that much in terms of these two teams’ season-matchup. Praha defeated Avenida in W5 by a ridiculous 25-point difference, 80-55. Given Praha’s great run of results of late, it was hard to see Avenida winning this one by such margin, and of course, it didn’t. That means the tiebreaker benefits Praha because of that point difference (+15 for Praha on the two-game series) and that is why the Czech team is now sitting in Group A’s second place.

Avenida is third with the same amount of points over the season (20 each) as I am writing this. The peculiarity, though, is that in the ELW every team gets a point every game only for competing, while the winner gets a bonus point to make it two. Alas, Avenida’s true point tally should be 21 instead of 20 as the Spanish club has only been able to play 11 games to date compared to Praha’s 12. If you’re lost, I feel you. This season has been too much of a crazy trip, but by the time the dust settles with Avenida’s postponed game taking place and leveling the field of teams to 12-games-played each, the standings will read (assuming a worst-case scenario in which UMMC and Avenida lose their postponed games) like this with two games remaining on the schedule:

  1. UMMC – 12 GP, 23 points
  2. Avenida – 12 GP, 21 points
  3. Praha – 12 GP, 20 points

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, we still have a UMMC vs. Avenida game scheduled for Week 14, which could be a season-deciding match as the no. 1 seed (as things stand right now) could still be up for grabs if both teams achieve the same results/points in the next two games before that one takes place.

We couldn’t watch UMMC this week because of a postponement, but Avenida showed us how it is possible to defeat one of the hottest ELW teams of late without any singular otherworldly performance against Praha: Kahleah Copper led the team in efficiency with a “low” mark of 17 (24 points, eight rebounds), Emese Hof (14 points, five rebounds, three steals) logged an efficiency of 16, and no other player from the Spanish side topped 15 (though Katie Lou, Maite Cazorla, and Andrea Vilaro all reached 10+ efficiency figures and scored at least 11 points each).

As for Praha, they also got their ticket to the quarterfinals because of the rest of Group A’s results. Alyssa Thomas came back to the court and paired with Brionna Jones they combined for 38 points, 22 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and one block. The two WNBA imports were, simply put, unstoppable in 36 and 31 minutes of respective playing time reaching efficiency marks of 27 (Jones) and 23 (Thomas). Not enough to get the W, but nothing to worry about given that no. 5 seed TTT Riga lost to MLBA and cannot get past 21 points compared to Praha’s minimum of 22 when the regular season is over.

Speaking of MLBA and Riga…

MLBA Montpellier destroys TTT Riga; No. 4 seed still undecided

The game between these two was marketed as the Game of the Week by the ELW. Made sense, considering the two teams are the only ones still fighting for a spot in the quarterfinal round among those playing in Group A. Had Riga won this match they would be sitting above BLMA with 18 points to the French’s 16, but that wasn’t the case and now it’s all tied at 17 points (though BLMA has one fewer game played, so we can count 18 points as the French’s side tally).

All of this means that BLMA is at least going to finish with 20 total points by the end of the regular season while TTT Riga will have no fewer than 19. BLMA can reach up to 23 total points compared to Riga’s maximum of 21. Math 101 here: the only chance Riga has to make it to the postseason is by winning out its two remaining games, while hoping BLMA drops both of theirs (a tie in the standings would benefit BLMA as they are 2-0 against Riga).

Haley Peters had an out-of-left-field performance for BLMA and was good for a top-3 finish in the weekly efficiency leaderboard with a mark of 32. She finished a 32-minute performance having 26 points to go with eight rebounds, four steals, and one dime for a plus-minus of 26. The former WNBA player only had two other games prior to this one in which she had topped an efficiency of 15, one of those taking place in the first-leg game against TTT Riga when she finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

On the negative side of things, Riga’s Jasmine Thomas turned the ball over a season-high nine (!) times which now ranks as the worst performance on that front this campaign — prior to it five players were tied with eight turnovers in a single game each.

Natasha Howard directing traffic.
Natasha Howard. Photo credit: The New York Liberty’s Twitter account, @nyliberty.

Other results and news around the ELW from Week 12

Dynamo Kursk fell to Sopron but stayed put at Group B No. 4 seed

With two games already discussed above, both of them from Group A, it was all about the other Group in the remaining three matches played this past Wednesday, starting in Russia with Dynamo Kursk hosting Sopron.

Natasha Howard did literally everything she could in Kursk’s defeat to Sopron. Howard, a clear-cut MVP candidate for the 2022 ELW season, put up 26 points and 17 rebounds on top of two steals, two blocks, and one assist in her 34 minutes of playing time. The 37 efficiency mark is now tied for the third-best figure of the regular season.

Howard’s efforts weren’t enough, though, as four Sopron players finished with efficiency marks of 15 or higher on the day, including WNBA imports Gabby Williams, Briann January (both 15 EFF), and Bernadett Hatar (22) who finally came back to her early-season levels of play putting up an über-efficient 14-point, 8-rebound, 3-block, 1-assist line in only 24 minutes on the court.

Sopron virtually leads Group B with 18 points above Fenerbahçe, Girona, and Kursk all with 17. Virtually, I said, because Fenerbahçe has one fewer game played and thus will be leveled with Sopron once they bridge that little scheduling gap and by virtue of the “loser-point” mentioned above.

Galatasaray got a much-needed win against Girona to keep its postseason hopes alive

First things first: welcome back Kelsey Plum!

Plum showed no rust at all, despite her long layoff, finishing with a rather solid 12 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in a more than healthy 35 minutes of play. Galatasaray’s Tina Krajisnik was as good as advertised and put up a 15-10 double-double of points and rebounds (plus she blocked three shots and added one assist and one steal), but the true gem from the Turkish side was Pelin Bilgic: 34 efficiency mark, 18 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, and two steals for her in what surely was her best game to date this season.

Girona has now lost two in a row, coincidentally to both Istanbul teams in Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. Three players scored 10 or more points for Girona on Wednesday, including Kennedy Burke‘s team-leading 22, but it wasn’t enough for the Spaniards who fell by 12 points after doing so by 14 the first time they met Galatasaray back in Week 5.

Basket Landes handed Arka Gdynia its ninth defeat while still having a chance to finish inside the top-4 of Group B

As I’m writing this, only one team in Group B is out of postseason contention: Arka Gdynia. All other seven squads already have at least 15 points over the regular season with varying 10-or-11 games played to date. If we account for the loser-points still to be awarded through the remainder of the season, all teams will have between 21 and 18 points by the end of Week 14 games. A potential best-case scenario for all teams (that is, every team winning out the remaining of their scheduled games), then we’d be talking about that same group ranging from 25 to 21 points.

Thanks to their win in W12, Basket Landes still has a shot at reaching 21 points, while three other teams, in their worst-case scenario, could finish with 20 and thus below Basket Landes in the final standings. Again, crazy ELW is crazy. What a surprise! Too bad for Landes, they only have one game against one of those three teams (Girona), so the French side is not in control of its own destiny.

Marine Fauthoux (whose WNBA rights belong to the New York Liberty) led Landes with an efficiency of 24 (22 points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals) while Megan Gustafson was the best player in Arka Gdynia’s rotation posting an efficiency of 26 (18 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two blocks), with no other W imports appearing in this game.

Written by Antonio Losada

International freelance writer covering the WNBA overseas. Bylines at places, touching different bases. Always open to discussion over @chapulana || Full portfolio

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