One of the most anticipated games played in the first round of the new ACB League season was the clash between Baskonia and Unicaja Malaga.
The Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria-Gasteiz was packed with more than 15.500 fans for the start of the new season. A reason for this high attendance might be the fact that Baskonia made many roster changes in the summer, bringing in a few players that had never played in Europe before, so the true potential of the team is still unknown. Also, the Basque team made (another) coaching change, replacing Neven Spahija with Joan Penarroya, the former Valencia coach.
The visitors Unicaja also underwent many changes in the summer, as the team from Andalusia is trying to get back to the Spanish and European elite after a few rather unsuccessful years for their standards.
Unicaja started the game much better and even took a 15-point lead towards the end of the first quarter (18-33). Baskonia turned the game around in the second quarter when they scored 37 points and entered halftime with a 59-47 lead. The lead increased in the second half and even with a late push from Malaga in the last quarter, Baskonia’s win was never in question. The game ended 103-89.
Newcomers Darius Thompson and Markus Howard finished as top scorers for the hosts, while Vanja Marinkovic, Tadas Sedekerskis and Arturs Kurucs added 12 points each. The best scorer for Malaga was also a new signing, Nihad Djedovic. The former Bayern Munchen guard scored 20 points, while EuroBasket gold medalist Dario Brizuela followed him with 12 points.
The next game for Baskonia is tomorrow in Barcelona. The Basque team will have the advantage after yesterday’s victory and Barca’s defeat in Gran Canaria. Still, a Barcelona win is likely, as the Blaugrana cannot afford another defeat after failing to win the Supercopa and losing in Round 1. Malaga will play at home on Sunday against Gran Canaria, another very tough and important test for Ibon Navarro’s men.
Also, both teams will start their European campaigns next week. Baskonia plays in the EuroLeague, where reaching a playoff place would be a huge success, but most people expect them to finish in the bottom 4-5 teams in the regular standings. Malaga on the other hand will play again in the Basketball Champions League, where the target is to win the trophy.
Image credit: Baskonia