The second day of the Nike International Junior Tournament in Paris is history and the games today were a lot more undecided than what we have seen yesterday. The play of the day was certainly the buzzer beating win of FMP versus KK Split.
- The defending champions of FMP Belgrade had a really tough test today against the Croats from KK Split. In a first half, where the Croatian defense was doing an excellent job, FMP managed only to score on fast breaks and through free-throws mainly. In a moment where KK Split was taking the lead, some highly discussable referee decisions helped the Serbs to stay in the game as Miljenovic was awarded an imaginary +1 while the Croats suffered an unsportsmanlike and a technical foul in really short time. However, they managed to stay ahead at half time by five points mainly lead by the once again excellent Danish guard Esben Reinholt. In the paint, it was Filip Najev who despite having two very quick fouls did his job with his fighting game style. But what to say about Nenad Miljenovic? Even if he is jacking up some bad shots, the 1993 born guard finished once again top scorer of the game, especially because of his accuracy on the free-throw line where he made 16 out 19. So besides his game winner, he could however only make two shots in the game as his shot selection was not very good. Another interesting fact in this game was the choice of FMP to use a lot more 1994 born inside player Nikola Jankovic instead of the older Siladi and Bezbradica. A choice that is understandable as Jankovic is really the player you want to have on your team with his fundamentally-sound game and rebounding presence. He finished with 15pts and 11rebs. But KK Split showed that this FMP team is vulnerable but so did it look last year when ALBA Berlin nearly created the upset to only really launch the Serbian machine afterwards. I have some doubts though that it will end up the same this year.
- Watch the last seconds of the FMP – Split game with the incredible buzzer beater by Nenad Miljenovic in the Video below
- As we followed the full game of FMP versus KK Split, we could see only glimpses of the clash between Benetton Treviso and Unicaja Malaga. The Italians did however a fine job as they were leading at halftime but could not reach their first victory in the end. The Bulgarian Pavlin Ivanov had 13pts and 8rebs for Benetton while Alessandro Zanelli had 14pts but 5tos. On the Spanish side, it was Rafa Freire who stepped up with 18pts and 10rebs while Deme Mambaye finished with 14pts, 7rebs and 3blks.
- Zalgiris Kaunas managed to beat Union Olimpija where Gezim Morina was back in the Starting Five but was certainly not fully reestablished as he only played the first 3 minutes of the game, minutes that Kaunas used to be ahead 15-2. Olimija however fought back in the game with Jan Span doing a terrific job on the PG position dishing out 10 assists while scoring 19pts. He got support by the sharp-shooting Filip Petrovic who had 19pts and 6rebs while Bojan Radulovic finished with 13pts after his high-flying game yesterday. For the Lithuanians, it was once again a great team effort with every player being extremely involved on both ends on the court. Rolandas Jakstas showed his nice potential as athletic inside player that is on the way to become also dangerous from outside. Jakstas finished with 20pts and 15rebs and is on the clear way for an All-Tournament team spot. Edgaras Ulanovas stepped up today with 19pts and 7rebs while Dovydas Redikas did his usual job with 13pts, 2stls and 5asts.
- The last game of the day went to Overtime as neither INSEP nor Cajasol could create the decisive advantage in the first 40 minutes. The Spaniards were lead by a nearly unstoppable Pablo Villarejo who finished with 31pts giving the French defenders a lot of trouble to stop him in his old-fashion type of play. Tiny PG Manuel Rodriguez was a bit more on the scoring front today with 13pts but completed his stats sheet with 4stls and 3asts. On the French side, Mathis Keita did a good job as scorer with 15pts but we still really miss the necessary PG skills to play on the high level. He got excellent support by 93 born Livio Jean-Charles who had 17pts, 3rebs, 3asts and 3stls while Hugo Invernizzi had his best game of the tournament with 11pts, 6rebs, 4asts and 1 block.
- Tomorrow, the tournament will continue with the two decisive games to see who will reach the final on Sunday. In Group A, Unicaja will play against FMP in a real semi-final while in Group B, there are still some different constellations possible. But Zalgiris can reach the Final by beating INSEP while Union Olimpija still has no more chance to be present on Sunday with a win over Cajasol and a defeat of Zalgiris because they would end up in a three-team constellation depending on the point differential and they can not improve their -12 situation anymore.
- The tournament in itself is not a really a big popular success compared to what we have seen last year in Berlin. The attendance is mainly composed of basketball professionals and journalists. A multitude of NBA scouts and executives could be seen in the building but the number of real basketball fans is somehow limited to some family members and occasional French basketball enthusiasts. The presence of Dule Vujosevic and Panagiotis Giannakis this afternoon created some excitement in the stands that are louder through the chats of the agents with the scouts than through support and applauses.