We had a good regular season, as we tied the best record with Panathinaikos and were ranked first before Top-16 draw thanks to a better points difference. It's a very good result if we take into consideration that we missed several key players (Matjaz Smodis played only in 2 out of 14 games. Savrasenko missed more than half of our games, Papaloukas and Siskauskas missed some games as well). We're extremely happy that we managed to achieve this result under such circumstances, especially to win at Vitoria, Siena and Kaunas, where nobody won except us.
Like every other year, we had an early loss this year to Olimpija, last year to Pau-Orthez, my first year here to Siena and Panathinaikos. As we've already discussed this many times, it's a necessary condition for the team to get together. But every year, as soon as we find our rhythm, our game becomes solid. Once again I would like to mention JR, who has been having a great regular season until now, leading us both in Russian league and Euroleague. I see him every day. He is relentless, he's working like crazy.
This year we organized our offense a little better. As a result we turn the ball over less frequently. Plus after 4 or 5 games our defense is back to the usual standards. For the third year in a row we lead the Euroleague in terms of points allowed. Remaining the best defensive team of the Euroleague means a lot to me. I've always believed that you cannot win if you don't have a strong defense.
We've fulfilled everything we were expected to despite all the injuries. Of course, we have to start it all over again in Top-16 and the first game will be extremely important, because there will be a lot of pressure on us as we play at home and are expected to win. However, all in all, we enter Top-16 with confidence and optimism.
As for the performance of other teams during the regular season, Siena was a major surprise in our group, especially for those who don't know this team well (though I did expect them to finish on the second or third place). Another major surprise was Olympiakos, one of the two strongest clubs in Greece. They also had a lot of injuries: Macijauskas missed many games, as well as Tsakalidis and Lynn Greer. The results went up and down. Eventually, they dismissed one of the most prominent European coaches Pini Gershon and replaced him with Panagiotis Giannakis, which became the biggest news this season so far.
Giannakis used to be an incredible leader on the court as a player of Aris, Panionios, Panathinaikos and Greek national team. As a coach, he led Greek national team to Eurobasket gold medals in Belgrad in 2005 and to silver medals of World Championship the next year. Considering the deep Greek roster Olympiakos has, Giannakis will for sure strengthen the Greek soul of the team. If he finds the necessary adjustment to Pini's philosophy in a short period of time, Olympiakos will be extremely dangerous in Top-16.
In group C, Panathinaikos did not experience any problems. They were like a sleeping lion. They struggled in many games, usually won by a tiny margin, but they were always in control. In the first three quarters they would try to find some balance in terms of sharing the minutes and the opportunities. But in the last quarter they proved extremely efficient and aggressive every single time. I'm sure they will step up in the crucial moment of the season and will be number 1 enemy for every team who will try to win the title. Real Madrid also confirmed that they are on the right way to make it to the Final Four at home.
Group B was extremely balanced. Another team with rich history, Maccabi, replaced the coach. After Oded Katash resigned, Zvika Sherf, who took over the Maccabi bench, one more time has proved to be an experienced and smart coach, knowing how to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. So Maccabi is in the very good mood now, with a lot of confidence. They will be extremely dangerous in Top-16. As well as Lietuvos Rytas who deserved the first place for their consistency and the good basketball they showed in many games. It's going to be a very tough Top-16, especially for groups G and H. Honestly, I don't see any team that you can win easily even at home.