Last night’s insights: Round 8: Thursday

Image result for Last night's insights: Round 8: Thursday

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.


Last night’s insights: Round 4: Thursday

Image result for Last night's insights: Round 4: Thursday

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.


From YouTube to VR, in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep

From YouTube to VR, in Search of a Good Night's Sleep

Are you feeling stressed out? Need a way to find inner peace? Or maybe something that can help you to sleep? You’ve probably heard a lot of people telling you about the benefits of meditation, but it’s not something that all of us can do. If you’re able to meditate regularly and feel the benefit, that’s great. For the rest of us, technology can offer a helping hand, and potentially even let you get a better night’s sleep.

In the past, we’ve talked about using an app like Sleep Cycle to help you track your sleep, and to wake up feeling well rested. It works pretty well – but it only deals with the waking up part of the equation. Going to sleep is not any easier, and for many of us, it’s a real issue. That’s where a whole other set of apps comes into the picture. If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping or want a little help meditating to get a little more rest at night, this is what you need: good headphones, and an open mind.

Everybody knows YouTube, and if you’re sitting on your computer, it’s probably the easiest thing to use for most of us. Once you have a nice pair of in-ear headphones, there are two types of videos that can be of help:

1) ASMR is short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is a very scary and technical sounding term for the physical sensation that you can feel on your head, or scalp (or perhaps on the soles of your feet) from audio inputs. The ASMR tingles are usually mildly pleasing, and also relaxing, and there’s a cottage industry of videos now on YouTube that help to stimulate this sensation.

You’ll find videos of people cleaning out ears, or perhaps starting a fire. This virtual barbershop democan also trigger a strong reaction. ASMR is hugely popular, and it’s not actually very clear how or why it happens. Not everyone experiences this at all, and different people find ASMR triggered by different videos. But there’s clearly a growing audience for ASMR videos – a search on YouTube for ASMR brought up nearly 4 million results and there are nearly a million when you search for ASMR sleep. Using these videos helped us to relax a little, and it’s particularly good when you’re lying in bed at night; a video or two running in the background while reading would leave a well-rested feeling. But the problem with ASMR videos is that they don’t work for everyone, and we noticed that the videos become less effective over time – for us anyway – meaning you have to keep finding new videos that suit you.

asmr_sleep_youtube.jpg2) While we were reading around ASMR, one term came up quite a few time – binaural beats. Many swore it was a much more reliable and effective way to feel rested. A binaural beat is an auditory illusion that you perceive when two different frequencies (under 1500Hz, with a difference of under-40Hz) are playing in your ears. The difference causes your brain to fill in a pulsing beat between the two ears, so it sounds like you’re listening to a pulsing wave instead of a steady tone in each ear. It sounds strange, but the results are incredibly restful, and we’ve tested this with a number of people now and received positive feedback from nearly everyone.

There are nearly a million videos that turn up when you search for binaural beat on YouTube. It’s easy to find one, and by and large, we found them all to be pretty good. We didn’t like the videos that come with too many extra bells and whistles – simple, plain sounds worked the best for you. This one is a personal favourite, but if you prefer wind sounds, or gentle music, there is plenty that you can choose from on YouTube.

To listen, don’t turn the volume all the way up on your earphones – the sounds should be loud enough to be heard, but not at a distracting level – this is supposed to be the background sound. It can also be pretty handy to use in the office for this reason – we’ve found it a relaxing way to block out excess chatter at work, while still being present enough that you can hear if your phone rings or if someone is speaking to you.

binaural_beat_wave.jpgBoth these audio aids can be very helpful if you’re trying to relax and feel rested. Many of the people we demonstrated binaural beats to found the experience instantly restful, and said it helped them focus. If you’re sitting in office and having a tiring day, this might just be what you need to get your focus back.

The problem with both of these is, of course, that you’re stuck streaming video from YouTube every time you want to relax or sleep or meditate, and that’s not really ideal. What’s more, you’re wasting bandwidth on video for the ‘relaxing’ visuals that accompany many of these clips – but by and large, most people found the video component quite unnecessary or even a hindrance to relaxing. To get around these problems, you could of course download MP3 files from various sources, but we’d instead recommend getting one of the many apps available.

Mobile apps
The binaural beat generating apps are available on both iOS and Android. The apps are pretty small as well, since they don’t need to store large audio files – they just need to generate fixed tones from your speaker. This means that they’re convenient even on Android phones with relatively limited space on them, and once again, all you really need are a nice pair of in-ear headphones.

binaural_beats_android.jpgThe advantages of using an app are that you’re not reliant on a working Internet connection, and you’ll always have your phone with you, so the sound is always available. This is also convenient to use in bed, and most of the apps we found will run in the background, so you can easily set the up, and then read a book or just turn off the display on your phone and rest for a while.

On Android, our favourite was an app called Binaural Beats Therapy. It’s free, and comes with a number of different presets that it says can help with various issues – there’s Sleep Induction to help you fall asleep, Power Nap to give you a quick 20 minute rest, even an Acid Trip preset to simulate a dose of LSD. Now, first off, let’s just say that that last one really does not work. Sorry if you got excited. That being said, the Power Nap preset has been super-effective in our (thoroughly unscientific) trials with different volunteers. And it’s become a regular feature on the daily commute as well.

The app includes some video effects, and a few additional sounds over and above the binaural beat you’re listening to which can be a little annoying, but Power Nap doesn’t have this. And it works even with the screen off, so it’s great to slip the phone into your pocket and relax on the way to work.

binaural_iphone.jpgOn iOS, Binaural (which was featured in Apple’s Sleep Better collection) is easily the app to pick. It’s also free, though there are some paid features you can unlock for a Rs. 190 in-app purchase. This is not necessary but if you want to support the developer, it’s certainly a good option.

Binaural is a really nice looking and minimal app that lets you easily set the frequency you want to listen to by simply swiping across the screen. It takes seconds to set up, and there’s nothing extra to take you out of the experience – you just listen to the audio that you wanted, and come away feeling rested. From all the basic options we’ve talked about so far, Binaural is definitely our favourite.

VR meditation
All the methods that we’ve talked about so far don’t require anything out of the ordinary – just your phone or computer, an Internet connection, and a good pair of in-ear headphones. But we recently came across one more application that really impressed us, but it has a bit of a barrier to entry. It’s an app for the Samsung Gear VR, which means that you need to have one of Samsung’s high-end phones, and also the Gear VR itself. If you’re an early adopter who’s got both these things though, you can check out an app called Dream. This is a VR experience, in the Oculus Store’s experimental ‘Concepts’ section, and it’s a free app you can try out. The app itself is pretty mesmerising.

gear_vr_dream.jpgWhen you strap on the headset and launch the app, you’ll find yourself walking on what looks like a cloud. There’s a slow, smoky waterfall in the distance, and you’ll see little motes of light floating around you gently. This sounds cheesy – and it is – but somehow when you’re strapped into VR, it doesn’t feel stupid, it feels relaxing and almost hypnotic. You’re slowly moving forward in this misty cloud, with the mores of light swirling around you, and a gentle wind-sound plays, on top of a binaural beat. That’s all there is to dreams – it’s a very simple, and relaxing experience, which manages to make good use of the visuals as well – a first, in our opinion.

After the first five to ten minutes, we stopped looking around, and just sat down and enjoyed the gentle ride we were on. It felt almost like being on a boat, gently being rocked to sleep, and while it would be a bad idea to go to sleep with a VR headset strapped to your face, it was pretty tempting. We didn’t really want to remove the headset, but after 30 minutes we started to feel quite sleepy, and had to pull it off.

Overall, Dreams was simply the best and most relaxing app we’ve experienced so far, and if you’re able to try it out for yourself, we’d strongly recommend it. This might not help everyone, but the few people we tried this with had a similar experience, and it really shows how VR could have a number of uses outside of gaming, as it could help people to rest, sleep, or meditate.

Download the Gadgets 360 app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with the latest tech news, product reviews, and exclusive deals on the popular mobiles.

Tags: ASMR, Binaural Beats, Dream, Gear VR, Health, Meditation, Relaxation, Sleep, Virtual Reality, VR meditation,YouTube