Eurocup Notes: Partizan Belgrade – Zenit St. Petersburg

Our “notes” will be a regular feature on our site where we’ll share thoughts and clips on specific players, strategies or setplays that caught our eye while watching the games. 

In this first episode, we’ll look back at the Eurocup-clash between Partizan Belgrade and Zenit St. Petersburg from Tuesday night. The Russians were still the favourites going into the game although they were missing three important players in Brandon Jennings, Sergey Karasev and Sean Armand. Nevertheless, there were a few interesting players on the court we are now going to take a closer look on.

Jock Landale (’95, Big) – Partizan Belgrade
The rookie big man from Australia started this season with two 11-point performances where he already showed what he is capable of on offense. This was no different against Zenit as he hit a couple of long, tough jumpers over the outstretched arms of Jalen Reynolds to start the game. As the game went on, Landale showed that he can step out even further with hitting two nice rhythm three-pointers in three attempts. This can be a good addition to his skillset and spaces the floor even more for Belgrade.

On defense he will continue to have problems with physical big men like Jalen Reynolds. Landale needs to box out better to hold players like Reynolds away from the glass and stop them from getting easy second chances.

Marcus Paige (’93, Ballhandler) – Partizan Belgrade
Although he was part of the winning side, it was not an easy night for Marcus Paige in his second Eurocup game (3/13 FGs). You can clearly see how gifted he is as a ballhandler, making his moves to get past his defender into the paint. The problem was his finishing on Tuesday because he was not able to create the needed seperation to finish at the rim. Paige is just 1,85m with a small frame, leading to several very tough shots around the basket. Especially with the athletic Jalen Reynolds on the floor, there was no way Paige could get any easy baskets at the rim.

He needs to work on his decision-making, so he won’t just force shots up every now and then. From outside, Paige doesn’t hesitate to shoot and has the ability to make them although he only went 1-4 with a couple of very long threes on Tuesday. What stands out the most so far is his passing game. Paige is a creative passer who can thred the needle and find his teammates with nice bounce-passes.

Aleksej Nikolic (’95, Ballhandler) – Partizan Belgrade 
There couldn’t have been a better game for Aleksej Nikolic than this one. His team trailed by ten points in the second quarter and they needed exactly his energy and willpower to get back into it. Nikolic delivers a completely different skill-set than Paige, being way more physical on defense and doing a lot of the ‘dirty work’ in the game. So it was no surprise that the Slowenian guard was a big part of Partizan’s comeback as he took on offensive fouls, made the refs call an illegal screen that was set against him and just was kind of an emotional leader during that run.

Rade Zagorac (’95, Wing) – Partizan Belgrade
Without a doubt, it was his night. Zagorac finished with a crazy statline of 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and five steals with only one turnover. He started very slowly, didn’t hit much from three-point-range but than caught fire in the third and couldn’t be stopped. A big part of his game were his great hands on defense where he had some incredible steals that turned into easy points for his side. With his steal plus slam dunk for Partizan’s lead at 52:51 in the third, he had the whole Aleksandar-Nikolic-Hall on their feet and the momentum shifted.

Phil Scrubb (’92, Ballhandler) – Zenit St. Petersburg
Although this won’t go down as one of his best games, Phil Scrubb showed again that he can definitely compete on the Eurocup-level. He played 35 minutes, taking on a lot of the ballhandling responsibilities due to the absence of Jennings and Armand. Scrubb can run the pick&roll and pass the ball but his main strength is still his shooting. He connected on three of his five attempts from downtown with one of them being a “stand-still-clock-runs-out-in-your-face-three”.

Jalen Reynolds (’92, Big) – Zenit St. Petersburg
Jalen Reynolds was by far the most athletic player on the court and had interesting matchups with Jock Landale and Djordje Gagic. Both taller than him but more oldschool-like bigs who can’t match his strength and athleticism around the rim. Reynolds definitely made his presence felt in the first half but couldn’t continue that in the second as he wasn’t found inside like before. All in all, he had the clear advantage over Landale and could have used that even more with more touches down low.

Setplays:

Partizan Belgrade – “2 Up”
Belgrade’s offense looked pretty good in that game with several setplays that got them a lot of movement and created space for their main weapons. There were a few plays with double-pindowns for shooters that could also flow into spread-pick&roll action afterwards.

A nice one was also a set that started with an Iverson-cut from a wing along two screens. The first option out of this was a beautiful bounce-pass for the layup which they executed perfectly at the end of the first quarter (first clip). If that was not open, the guard came back to the top to receive the ball with a handoff and run the pick&roll (last two clips).

Partizan Belgrade – ATO for a shooter
Another set that caught my eye was this cool action after a timeout. With several doublescreens, Partizan created a good look for a shooter.

 

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