Play-Off Qualifiers preview: EWE Baskets v Avtodor Saratov
OLDENBURG (Basketball Champions League) - There weren't any complaints from neutral fans about the first Play-Off Qualifier game between Avtador Saratov and EWE Baskets Oldenburg.
As expected, the teams raced up and down the floor and put on a terrific show, with Avtodor prevailing, 87-84. The question is, when is a win not really a win?
There were certainly no celebrations on the Avtodor bench after the final buzzer of the first leg because the Russian club had led by as many as 13 points but had to settle for a 3-point win.
"We needed to win by a bigger difference but some mistakes on defense didn't allow us to," Avtodor coach Vladimir Antsiferov said.
Avtodor know that EWE Baskets are going to be tough customers on their own floor. Mladen Drijencic's team won five of its seven games at home in the Regular Season with its two defeats by a combined three points.
EWE Baskets guitar-playing shooting guard Vladimir Mihailovic, who was sensational off the bench and scored 11 points - 9 of those coming from 3-pointers - against Avtodor was not disheartened by the final score.
"I think minus-3 is not a bad result for us," the Montenegro international said.
Branden Frazier of Saratov and Mihailovic shone in the first leg
The reality is that no one really knows what the difference means from the first leg because both sides have been playing good basketball in the competition. Avtodor have prevailed in five of their last six games in the Basketball Champions League.
They have a lot of weapons, too. Nick Minnerath has stolen most of the headlines this season and deservedly so, but Branden Frazier and Evgenii Kolesnikov were sensational for much of the game against EWE Baskets.
There are others that simply know how to make plays like big man Vince Hunter, who has long arms that, combined with his terrific leaping ability, make him dangerous on both ends of the floor. Guards Maxime Kolyushkin and Josh Adams and forward Michael Carrera have the ability to make momentum-changing plays.
EWE Baskets had to be applauded, however, for the way they dug in and came back. Rickey Paulding puts the team on his back when necessary, as was the case at Avtodor in the first half, and Philipp Schwethelm, Maxime Dezeeuw, Brian Qvale have the ability to take over games in spurts.
Frantz Massenat wasn't as influential as he needed to be against Avtodor at point guard although he did play well in the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer in the waning seconds cut the Avtodor advantage in half and allowed EWE Baskets to leave Russia in a better mood.
Mladen Drijencic, the coach of EWE Baskets, said of the next game: "I think it will be a very, very hard game, a hard fight for every ball and every shot ... "
It has all the makings of one of the best second legs.