Jokic-Giannis Duel, Bogdanovic Clutch Return and Underrated Jakob Poeltl

Uygar Karaca
2022-01-31 17:30
Credit: USA Today Sports, AP - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration
Credit USA Today Sports, AP - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration

There is still some way until the All-Star weekend, but hell broke loose when the All-Star starters were revealed last week. 

While all the members of the big Euro trio of NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, were somewhat unsurprisingly named as starters, Luka Doncic was not on the list as Ja Morant, and Stephen Curry took those backcourt positions.

However, Andrew Wiggins was voted to become not only an All-Star for the first time in his career but also as a starter, which caused a stir. If you are wondering how, here is an explanatory article

Alperen Sengun

Alperen  Sengun
Team: Houston Rockets
Position: PF, C
Age: 19
Height: 206 cm
Weight: 109 kg
Birth place: Turkey

As another emotional aspect for Luka's week, he also met with Rick Carlisle on the Pacers bench, the coach who helped him to excel to stardom, throughout his first years in the NBA.

As far as the games are concerned, Dallas Mavericks' resurgence led by Doncic stalled by the losses against the Warriors and the Magic alongside wins against Pacers and the Trailblazers.

Aside from Doncic's 30+ points double-double in the games against Pacers and the Magic, his three-point shooting accuracy was remarkably good as he finished the game with 4/9 beyond the arc. 

This is the third time in his last four games that Doncic remained above 40% in 3 FGs, a four-game stretch that happened last time at the very beginning of the season.

Some other Euro-NBA players hit the headlines for various reasons, like Willy Hernangomez.

The Spanish center made most of his extra minutes, made available by the injury of Jonas Valanciunas, by bringing his A-game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Nevertheless, his 29 points and 10 rebounds career night double-double felt short against an unassailable Joel Embiid on the court 42 points 14 rebounds.

In the next two games, Hernangomez carried the momentum and remained on the court beyond 30 minutes for the first time this season. Yet, his 18 and 14 points against the Nuggets and the Celtics were not enough for the Pelicans to cut their 5-game losing streak. 

Euro All-Star Duel: Jokic vs Giannis

On the other hand, the reigning all-star MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, who was named an All-Star 4th time in a row, came against each other last night.

The Serbian Joker was triumphant over Greek Freak, where the former led the Nuggets for a blowout win against the Bucks, with a season-high 15 assists. 

For the Bucks, it was the second loss out of three games last week, with the exception of the win against the Knicks. Antetokounmpo had his 20th game where he scored 30 points or more, but it was not enough. 

On the other hand, Jokic did not particularly focus on scoring against the Bucks as merely 18 points were sufficient to orchestrate his team for a third win in a row.

Jokic called Giannis' brother' in the post-game press conference, but this brotherly rivalry keeps carrying the both of them on the very top of the NBA.

This game also epitomized the MVP race between Jokic and Giannis, where this week we also witnessed that Jokic superseded Giannis in the first place.

His 10th triple-double of the season that came against the Pelicans with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, surely helped. 

Before continuing with some more detailed stories regarding the NBA-Euro players, we should not overlook Alperen Sengun.

As the reports suggest, Sengun is now practicing with Houston Rockets legend and NBA Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Just like The Dream, isn't it?

Hawks remembered winning with Bogdanovic

Bogdan Bogdanovic has an injury-plagued season where he missed 18 games already, and the Eastern Conference finalists of last season are struggling without him consistently.

After the latest 12 days' absence, his return was direly needed for the Hawks, as the game against Sacramento indicated.

Bogdanovic showed his value with an impactful 20 minutes where he scored 16 points that included 3/5 three-pointers, 4 assists 2 rebounds, and a steal. All in a half.

The Serbian guard finished the game with 18 points and season-high 7 assists eventually, and the Hawks won after losing six games in a row.

In the next two games against Boston Celtics and LA Lakers, there was another aspect of Bogdanovic's skillset, the clutch scoring.

Celtics coach Udoka kept sending Robert Williams against him on the switch in the last quarter, and he just cut the bill with 10 decisive points to lead his team for a back-to-back winning series.  

Against the Lakers, Bogdanovic looked a little bit messy through 3 quarters with 0/6 from deep, but his crucial threes inspired a comeback for the Hawks, from 10 points down at the beginning of the last period. 

Overall, Bogdanovic's plus-minus index was +32 for these last three games, which was his best stretch on these terms since the end of November.

Bogdanovic's shooting figures from all ranges (short-mid, long-mid, or threes) are still lower compared to last season, but this week could be the beginning of a new surge towards higher levels of accuracy. 

Poeltl's Offensive Exploits Helping Spurs

San Antonio Spurs is on a knife-edge situation regarding the playoffs, as currently, they are out of the play-in spots in the West.

It would be very hard for them to miss post-season action for the third season in a row, especially if we consider that the Spurs did not miss post-season action for 22 years.

Under these dire circumstances where they could not get back-to-back wins since the end of December, extra support from predominantly role players counts even more than ever. 

Enter Jakob Poeltl.

After having his career night in the previous week against the 76ers where he reached 25 points, 10 rebounds double-double, the Austrian center carried the momentum to last week and stretched his double-digit scoring series to 7 games. 

The 2.13 center exploited those undersized matches against Joshua Christopher and the Rockets quite well to add 18 points for a comfortable win.

In the next game against red-hot Grizzlies, he managed to contain a much tougher opponent, Steven Adams, on the boards as well as scoring 18 points with 8/8 field accuracy. Alongside rim finishes, those mid-range floaters did not look bad at all.

Poeltl finished the week with another double-double, this time against the Bulls with 21 points and 11 rebounds. He gave a lot of headaches to his Montenegrin opponent Nikola Vucevic by pulling 4 offensive rebounds over him, 6 in total.

It is currently the best season of Poeltl in terms of scoring and rebounding (13.2 points, 9.1 rebounds), and his offensive efficiency is pretty remarkable with basic stats and advanced ones.

As a pick and roll roller, he is scoring 1.24 per possession (per Instat; 1.16 per Synergy), a big jump compared to last season's figure, 1.19 (1.11 per synergy). He is now the sixth-best player in the entire league as a roller, right after Domantas Sabonis

Also, his presence on the court makes a +9.8 point difference per 100 possessions on the court in the offense, a team-best on/off the figure, well beyond Dejounte Murray (who has +4.6).

Those figures also reveal his contributions are underrated among all centers in the NBA when we also consider that he is on an 8.75 million $ contract for this season, which he really outplays that amount.

It remains an intrigue whether Poeltl will continue his exploits under the helm of Greg Popovich or somewhere else after the trade deadline, as Toronto Raptors is reportedly interested in bringing him back to bolster their struggling frontcourt. Popcorn material. 


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