Last night’s insights: Round 8: Thursday

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Playing on the road for your second game in 48 hours is never easy, but Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz rose to the challenge to start Round 8 with respective road wins. Then came Real Madrid, which returned home to rebound from a 30-point drubbing to win by 32! The EuroLeague gurus focus on the players, the defense and the shots that tell the story of those Thursday night victories.

All-around display – plus Doncic magic – gets Madrid back on track

There was a moment early in the second quarter of Real Madrid’s 89-57 battering of Unicaja Malaga which neatly summed up the many differences between the two Spanish teams on the night. Patient passes from Luka Doncic, Jaycee Carroll and Felipe Reyes allowed Rudy Fernandez to send up a two-point shot which hit the rim, but Trey Thompkins battled hard to win a strong offensive rebound, recycled the ball and then received a whipped pass from Doncic to sink a three-pointer from the corner. That play had everything good about Madrid’s performance on the night: crisp teamwork to set up the initial shot, hard work from Thompkins to win the rebound, a precise pass from Doncic to create a good look, and a clean three-point strike at the end of a passage of play which had seen every home team player touch the ball.

With its winning blend of collective play, creativity, determined hustle and end product, this was an impressive performance from Coach Pablo Laso’s team. And it was extremely timely, too, coming after a worrying three-game losing streak in the midst of a serious injury crisis which has sidelined three big men and last season’s EuroLeague MVP. The only way to respond in such a situation is as a team, and Madrid certainly did that to play with purpose, tempo and an impressive level of confidence considering its recent problems.

Of course, it helps when you can call upon the services of the hottest young player on the planet, and Doncic again showed there’s nothing he can’t do by producing an outstanding all-around display. With three big men missing, the ability of an 18 year-old to come in and grab 10 rebounds was just what Madrid needed, and he could well have finished with a triple-double if he hadn’t been rested by Laso for the whole of the final quarter. Perhaps most impressively, though, Doncic didn’t try to do too much all by himself, instead making good decisions throughout the game and thereby contributing significantly, but selflessly, to the team ethic which played the biggest role in the emphatic outcome.

Three-pointers explain Baskonia’s turnaround

Both Zalgiris Kaunas and Baskonia arrived to Zalgirio Arena with good momentum. Zalgiris came off a big overtime road win against Unicaja Malaga and Baskonia had handed Real Madrid its worst loss in Turkish Airlines EuroLeague history, 105-75. Baskonia got off to a strong start and led 11-21 late in the first quarter. Zalgiris got within 23-24 early in the second quarter and only then, Baskonia started to hit three-pointers, one after another. Rodrigue Beaubois opened fire with his second and third bomb from downtown, then another one by Jayson Granger started a 1-20 run in which Baskonia would hit 4 more shots from beyond the arc – by Matt Janning, Granger, Toko Shengelia and Janis Timma. All of a sudden, Baskonia led 30-52, and the visitors boosted their margin to 36-62 when Johannes Voigtmann and Rinalds Malmanis also struck from downtown. Baskonia had hit 12-of-17 three-point shots until that moment and 10-of-13 since the start of the second quarter. Always proud and getting great support from its crowd, Zalgiris rallied to get within 64-71 with over eight minutes left. Baskonia went back to its main weapon in this game to seal the outcome: Beaubois hit three more, Janning added another from downtown and Granger buried the visitors’ 17th triple with a minute left. When the dust settled, Baskonia had broken the club record for most three-point shots in a EuroLeague game with 17. It had previously had 16 against Khimki Moscow Region last week and in a road win against Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv back in December 2009. Baskonia also dished 26 assists, which was just 3 away from its club record, and only committed 10 turnovers.

Baskonia has won three of its last four games – and only lost to Khimki by 1 point – since Pedro Martinez became its head coach. Baskonia hit just 23 of 82 three-point shots in its opening four games (28%), but buried 58 of 118 in the next four (49.2%), which explains its great turnaround since Martinez joined the team. “I think we played a good game, with a great three-point percentage. We had some problems in the second half when Zalgiris pressed fullcourt. We lost our rhythm, made some turnovers and left us without confidence for some moments, but in general, I think a good game on offense and defense and for some minutes, we did great on offense,” Martinez said after the game. “I think that if we keep playing like this – like I said, as a team, offensively and defensively, we can beat anybody,” Shengelia added. If they keep making all those threes, that is surely the case.

The incredible Nick Calathes leads Panathinaikos

Nick Calathes had a career-game, coming a rebound shy of a historic triple-double, and Panathinaikos needed every single statistical input of his to snatch an 81-82 road win over Anadolu Efes Istanbul. There have been only two triple-doubles in the EuroLeague this century, both by Maccabi’s Nikola Vujcic, and the last one came in 2006. Calathes scored a career-high 29 points, had 10 assists and 9 rebounds last night. It’s is the second time he was that close to this historic feat, after posting 13 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists last year in Bamberg. “The triple double does not matter, the win is what it counts,” Calathes said after the game. “Me getting a triple-double or not getting a triple-double, for our team to get a win is a lot more important.”

Calathes was awarded his last rebound in the very last second of the game, when he took control of the game-sealing blocked shot by his teammate James Gist. His potential triple-double looked a lot more likely with 1:30 left in the third quarter, at that time he already had 16 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. However, in the final quarter, as Efes went up 69-62, Panathinaikos needed scoring, and Calathes delivered. He scored 13 points in the final 5:06 of the game. With his team down 71-67, he first made a pair of free throws, then had an easy-looking driving layup. His triple from way downtown put Panathinaikos up 73-75. After the hosts regained the lead, Calathes drove through the Efes defense for another layup, before beating the shot-clock with his third three of the night, 79-82. No Efes player managed to contain Calathes, let alone stop him: “Calathes played an incredible game, I feel that he had control of everything, had good mentality on defense and offense,” coach Xavi Pascual praised his point guard who played 36 minutes on the floor. “This is why I kept him a lot of minutes today. And I am very happy for him, because he is an incredible worker. When a guy like him has a night like this, you must be happy for him.”

Maccabi defense comes through at Khimki

If you peruse the box score from Maccabi’s road win at Khimki Moscow Region, the one number that should jump out is 20. That is the number of turnovers the hosts committed – which is tied for the second-most ever by a Khimki squad in a EuroLeague game – and more than a third of them came from Alexey Shved. Khimki’s star guard is second in the league in scoring and bettered his average with 21 points in addition to 4 assists, but his 7 turnovers put a damper on his performance. Maccabi’s also silenced Khimki playmaker Stefan Markovic, who did not score in 19 minutes and tallied 2 assists with 4 turnovers.

After the game, Maccabi let loose on the game plan to work Shved hard. “He is a great scorer. He can score in multiple ways,” Pierre Jackson said. “Our job tonight was just to throw a lot of defenders at him and make him shoot tough shots.” At times, that backfired as veteran forward Sergey Monia took advantage of Maccabi defenders overplaying Shved on the wing. On three different occasions in which Shved had the ball above the elbow, Shved made backdoor cuts and Monia delivered precise passes for layups of dunks. However that proved to be a small price to play as otherwise Maccabi made Shved and Khimki work so hard to get shots that the turnovers piled up.

”We knew before the game everything about Alexey [Shved],” Maccabi head coach Neven Spahija shared after the game. “He is definitely one of the best, probably the best player in Europe. I think we prepared the game well. Also we executed well. You can plan whatever you want, but if the players on the court are not following the instructions, it doesn’t go well like in the previous game.”

And his comment dives right into the second point. Maccabi had the right game plan and worked Shved and Markovic hard to disrupt the Khimki offense. To that end, five perimeter players spent at least 19 minutes on the court and took part in the defensive effort: starters Pierre Jackson, John DiBartolomeo and Michael Roll and off the bench DeAndre Kane and Norris Cole, the latter of whom collected 6 steals. Maccabi had a fairly average game on the offensive end, but team defense was worth a big win on Thursday.

source:-.euroleague

Last night’s insights: Round 4: Thursday

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There is always a question on the back end of the two-games-in-48-hours in packed EuroLeague weeks as to how will players hold up. Well we certainly saw some young guns at their best with Luka Doncic and Nikola Milutinov leading their respective undefeated squads, Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus, to victory. But veteran Taylor Rochestie played a leading role as Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade came from behind to win as home, as did Jordan Theodore in a similar situation for AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan. Want more insights on Thursday’s games? The EuroLeague Gurus have you covered.

Crvena Zvezda. Where everybody knows their role

When building a team and team chemistry, among the many things that coaches look for is for every player to understand his role. That is the case for Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, for which 10 players contributed in their come-from-behind victory over Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Some roles are easy to spot and define. Taylor Rochestie is the ball handler and go-to scorer; he delivered with 22 points and 5 assists. Milko Bjelica is the savvy big man with a sweet outside shot; he produced 16 points on 4-of-4 shooting from behind the arc. Center Mathias Lessort is the physical presence in the paint; he neutralized Maccabi’s starting center, Art Parakhouski, who came into the game leading the lead in blocks and finished with just 4 points and no blocks in 12 minutes. And then there are the starting wings, James Feldeine and Branko Lazic, who made sure that Maccabi’s prime scorers, Pierre Jackson and Norris Cole, had limited impacts for much of the night. On top of that, Feldeine produced the best offensive game of his EuroLeague career with 19 points, 8 assists and 4 steals, which were all career bests. And then there’s the bench… Nikola Jovanovic’s physical presence inside made things tough on the Maccabi centers. He also soared for the rebound on Maccabi’s last possession to in essence wrap up the victory. Pero Antic buried a pair of three-pointers and helped set the defensive tone with a tough foul on Maccabi power forward Jonah Bolden, who had 10 first-quarter points and none in the second half. And then there was Stefan Lazarevic, who spent less than six minutes on the court, but his defense on Michael Roll inbounding the ball on Maccabi’s final possession forced the visitors to inbound the ball three times and allowed his team to prepare its defense accordingly.

Zvezda is a young and hungry team, but kudos to Coach Dusan Alimpijevic for harnessing the skills of his players and making sure they all know their roles and are ready, able and willing to contribute everything they have from the opening minute till the final buzzer. And don’t forget, Zvezda won last night with injured forwards Marko Keselj and Nemanja Dangubic. So this team can only get better!

Madrid’s domination comes from different sources

Real Madrid is the most dominant team in the early stage of the new EuroLeague season. If for some unknown reason previous wins of 14 points on the road against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, by 13 at home against CSKA Moscow, and scoring 100 points against Milan on Tuesday left any doubts, the way Madrid handled Zalgiris in Kaunas on Thursday really stands out. Yes, Luka Doncic shined again, scoring 24 of his career-high 28 points in the second half, and had a run of 9 consecutive points midway through the third quarter when he singlehandedly extended Madrid’s lead from 9 to 16 points. However, even though the 18-year old was unstoppable in the second half, Madrid had a 31-40 lead at halftime despite Doncic not being that big of a factor in the first two quarters.

“I think tonight Doncic had a great game because he was hot shooting,” Coach Pablo Laso explained after the game. “But Campazzo played a great game for us, he controlled the rhythm. Felipe and Ayon were awesome underneath the basket, Maciulis, Radoncic, Taylor on defense. It’s more of a team thing, although Luka rises a little bit above the rest.”

In those first two quarters it was Gustavo Ayon and Rudy Fernandez making plays, while Facundo Campazzo hit long distance shots. Already in the first half Madrid had a 6 to 13 advantage in assists, and finished the game with 23 assists to only 13 by Zalgiris. The ball movement allowed the offense to repeatedly score with ease and find open players who nailed the open jumpers and three-pointers, a total of 15 shots behind the arc to be precise. Four different players had at least 3 dishes, with Campazzo leading the way with 6, and Ayon right behind with 5 passes his teammates turned into baskets. Doncic had 4 and Rudy Fernandez 3 assists. Madrid wins, and wins big, but evidence is there that it is a lot more to its 14.5-point margin of victory than just Doncic’s fantastic numbers.

Rebounds and sharing the ball keeps Olympiacos undefeated

Khimki Moscow Region arrived undefeated to Peace and Friendship Stadium after three big home wins, but Olympiacos Piraeus was ready to show the Russian powerhouse that life on the road is not easy for anyone in the EuroLeague. Not only did Olympiacos live up to the expectations with its trademark defense, but the Reds were able to run the floor and share the balls like few times before. Indeed, Olympiacos limited Khimki to very low shooting percentages – a season-low 44.4% from two-point range and 28.6% from downtown. Khimki averaged 24.5 assists in the last two games, but only dished 12 against Olympiacos. On the other hand, 10 Olympiacos players had at least 1 assist in this game – all but center Nikola Milutinov and, surprisingly, playmaker Vangelis Mantzaris. Sharing the ball (17 assists) and controlling the defensive boards (a season high 30 defensive rebounds for Olympiacos and the fourth-best mark this season) allowed the Reds to dominate the game, especially in the third quarter, in which Georgios Printezis and Nikola Milutinov combined for 14 points to break it open. Milutinov hit all 8 of his two-point shots to finish the game with 17 points, while Printezis added 15, but 11 Olympiacos players scored in this game. Olympiacos made 27 of 42 two-point shots, with the fourth-best percentage of the season (62.8%).

“In the third period, we showed all of our quality, defensively and offensively. We played great defense, they scored only 15 points and we had the chance to run in the open court and score fast break and transition points,” Olympiacos head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos said after the game. “That gave us a bigger lead. After that, we controlled the tempo of the game in the fourth period and continued to be focused on both ends of the court,” he added.

“We allowed, in the beginning of the game, 32 points in the first half from low post offense and transition through our turnovers,” Khimki head coach Georgios Bartzokas, who won the EuroLeague title with Olympiacos in 2013, added. “We tried to prepare our players for the different style of basketball that Olympiacos plays, especially in its home court but obviously, our approach was completely wrong.”

Milan’s Theodore joins the elite

AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan’s meeting with FC Barcelona Lassa on Thursday night was one of those games that kept you guessing. As the final minutes approached, nobody could have said with any confidence which team was going to win, or who would take the starring role. Apart from a bizarre second quarter which saw Barcelona race into a 15-point lead, but Milan immediately fight back to level before the break, the game had been closely contested all the way. Several players had briefly shined, notably Barcelona veteran and EuroLeague scoring king Juan Carlos Navarro with 11 points in less than four minutes during that second quarter charge, but as the final minutes arrived the game was very much in the balance and something – or someone – had to give.

In the end, that something proved to be Milan point guard Jordan Theodore, who delivered a masterful fourth quarter to round off an excellent all-round display and emphatically announce his arrival in Europe’s elite competition. It’s taken a while for Theodore to get there. At the age of 28, he is certainly not a fresh-faced novice, and his journey to the top level encompassed six different clubs in the last five years. The most recent of those was Banvit, where he finished last season as the Turkish League’s leading assister. His performances over the last two or three seasons more than warranted an opportunity to shine on the EuroLeague stage, and with Milan’s main scoring threat Andrew Goudelock watching from the stands through injury against Barcelona, he seized that opportunity with both hands. Theodore was particularly impressive in crunch time, scoring 9 points in two minutes midway through the final period to establish a lead that Milan would not relinquish, and his overall stats of 19 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals reveal everything about his effectiveness all over the court. As a late arrival into the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Theodore is making up for lost time – and he’s doing it in a hurry.

[“Source-euroleague”]

Food delivery start-up Swiggy raises Rs230 crore in latest round

The funding comes at a time when venture capital firms have become more cautious about investments. According to industry experts, the mandate has now shifted to earning revenue and reducing cash burn.

The funding comes at a time when venture capital firms have become more cautious about investments. According to industry experts, the mandate has now shifted to earning revenue and reducing cash burn.

Food delivery start-up Swiggy, owned by Bundl Technologies Pvt. Ltd, has raisedRs.230.34 crore in a Series C funding round, with existing investors SAIF Partners, Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Apoletto Asia Ltd together pumping in about Rs.181 crore, according to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies.

The company attracted two new investors, New York-based venture capital firm Harmony Partners Ltd and Singapore-headquartered venture capital firm RB Investments Pte. Ltd, who together accounted for the remainder.

News of the possible fund-raise was first reported by The Economic Times on 30 November, although details such as the identity of the investors are just coming to light now.

Swiggy co-founder and chief executive Sriharsha Majety confirmed the development. “Our first two cities—Bengaluru and Hyderabad—will become operationally profitable by April. We will want to stamp our presence and become an undisputed number one in all the eight cities where we are present. We will be hitting a million monthly orders in the next two to three months,” said Majety.

According to the documents, SAIF Partners India invested the most (Rs.66 crore) followed by Accel India (Rs.59.39 crore) and Norwest Venture Partners (Rs.49.50 crore). Apoletto Asia invested Rs.5.93 crore while Harmony Partners and RB Investments put in Rs.26.40 crore and Rs.23.10 crore, respectively, the documents show. Avendus Capital advised Swiggy on the deal.

Harmony Partners is also an investor in San Fransisco-based delivery start-up Postmate. RB Investment and Accel Partners had backed online furniture store Capricoast last December.

The funding comes at a time when venture capital firms have become more cautious about investments. According to industry experts, the mandate has now shifted to earning revenue and reducing cash burn, as against splurging millions of dollars on customer acquisition.

Some food tech start-ups have shut down following a slowdown in investment while some have been acquired by well-capitalized rivals. While Internet-first kitchen Spoonjoy (Emvito Technologies Pvt. Ltd) was bought by hyperlocal delivery start-up Grofers (Locodel Solutions Pvt. Ltd) in October last year, another start-up, Dazo, shut shop the same month. Eatlo Tech Solutions Pvt. Ltd closed down in December.

Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd, which is also the most well-funded home-grown food tech start-up, with about $224 million in its kitty, has cut some jobs. So has Tinyowl Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which raised $20 million from Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners.

Even for Swiggy, existing investors accounted for more than three-fourths of the latest round, an indication that the market is still choppy. Usually, existing investors prefer a new investor to lead the round.

“There is a funding slowdown. Typically, in a soft market, new investors do not like to invest a lot early on. When the market is soft, they enter with a small sum and ask existing investors to pump in most of the money. Once they spend enough time, they will step up the investment. This is bound to happen in soft markets,” said Abhishek Goyal, co-founder of Tracxn, a start-up tracker. “Again, for the top performing companies, existing investors need to commit more to get external interest. New investors putting in more money holds true when markets are normal,” he added.

And they are far from normal now.

The fresh infusion of funds is likely to give Swiggy an edge over Tinyowl and Foodpanda. With the latest round, Swiggy has raised at least Rs.340 crore.

The company raised a Series B round of Rs.101.60 crore in June last year. Norwest Venture Partners led that round with Rs.46.80 crore. Accel Partners put in Rs.20.28 crore and SAIF Partners Rs.26.52 crore. Apoletto Asia Ltd invested Rs.8 crore. The company had raised about Rs.12 crore from Accel Partners and SAIF Partners in a Series A round in April 2015.

Swiggy faces stiff competition from Zomato, which entered the food delivery business in April last year. In an interview with Mint in December, Zomato co-founder Deepinder Goyal said it will invest $40 million in food-ordering over the next six months to capture a dominant share of the market in India and the UAE.

With Foodpanda battling several cases of internal fraud and systemic issues and Tinyowl struggling to raise fresh capital, the food delivery industry has largely been reduced to two firms: Swiggy and Zomato.

Zomato, backed by Temasek and Infoedge, currently handles close to 12,000 orders a day at an average ticket size of Rs.500-600, while Swiggy gets 15,000-18,000 orders a day at an average value of Rs.300-350, according to industry estimates.

Industry experts say food tech start-ups have been faltering because of poor unit economics, which leads to high cash burn. The burn rate could be as high as $1.5-2 million a month as they splurge on gaining market share.

[“source-Livemint”]

Nightingales plans to raise $20 million in second round funding

The promoters of Medwell Ventures have invested around $3.5 million in Nightingales.

The promoters of Medwell Ventures have invested around $3.5 million in Nightingales.

Hyderabad: Nightingales Home Health Services, part of Medwell Ventures Pvt. Ltd, on Tuesday said it plans to raise around $20 million to fund expansion by the end of this year.

Medwell Ventures acquired Benguluru-based Nightingales in April 2014, for undisclosed amount.

Medwell Ventures, founded in April by investors Vishal Bali, a former group chief executive officer of Fortis Healthcare Ltd; Ferzaan Engineer, former CEO of Quintiles India; Lalit Pai and Himanshu Shah raised $10 million from Fidelity Growth Partners India (FGPI) and Fidelity Biosciences, Boston, by diluting a significant minority stake in June.

The promoters of Medwell Ventures have invested around $3.5 million in Nightingales.

“The way that we are growing, we are looking to raise another round of funding towards the end of the year,” said Vishal Bali, co-founder and chairman of Medwell Ventures.

Medwell Ventures plans to invest around $30-35 million in Nightingales, which aims to spread its presence to 10 cities across the country, reaching 500,000 patients in the next two-three years.

The company has reached 12,000 patients so far, said Lalit Pai, chief executive officer of Nightingales.

[“source-Livemint”]