Our Finnish Sportswriter sends us news that Petteri Koponen and the Honka Playboys have advanced to the second round of the Finnish League Playoffs. For those who don't get those games televised, here's the report:
After losing three out of last four regular season games, Honka Playboys showed some character in the first round of Finnish League playoffs against last year finals runner-up Namika Lahti, known as a strong, gutty defensive team. Petteri Koponen, who finished his 180-day military service just hours before Game 1, showed much improvement from last year's playoffs. Here are short game recaps focused on Petteri's performance in first round including Petteri's stats.
Game 1 Espoon Honka - Namika Lahti 77-72 (22-10, 41-35, 58-60)
Q1: Honka steamrolled to an easy start, with Koponen draining a couple of open shots and feeding team's best scorer, Jukka Matinen beyond the arc. Defensively, Koponen focused on guarding Lahti's long range expert Teemu Laine. Laine got no open shots and Honka's team defence forced Lahti to take the ball to post, where they really had no scoring option.
Q2: Lahti's notorious defence created major problems for Honka's 5-on-5 offence. Koponen turned the ball over three times in under two minutes after some effective ball pressure, which lead to Lahti fans chanting "N-B-A, N-B-A". Lahti's Ed Williams had four or five easy backdoor buckets in a row.
Q3: Lahti took control of the game. Blue collar forward Vesa Mäkäläinen forced Koponen to play 1-on-1 while Lahti's help defence denied him penetrating to the basket. Koponen couldn't get the ball moving and if it wasn't for a couple of hustle plays by Honka forward Ben Perkins, Lahti could've extend the lead to ten.
Q4: Lahti played with big heart and took a couple of six-point leads which lead to Honka timeouts. Honka was able to crawl back after big buckets by Perkins. Koponen had hard time creating plays throughout the whole second half, Lahti defence gave him quite a lot of space but they kept all the other guys in check really well. Lahti extended the lead to 64-71 with four minutes remaining, but Honka focused in defensive end and took the final minutes home 13-1. During the four-minute run, Koponen had a gutty layup from traffic which cut Lahti lead to 68-71 and a shot clock beating off the glass 3pt which gave Honka 76-72 lead with 26 seconds remaining.
Honka: P.Koponen 19/0/3as, J.Matinen 18/8, K.Muurinen 13/10.
Lahti: E.Williams 24/7, S.Pekkola 13/3, I.Vuori 11/3.
Koponen: Min 37 FG 7-13 (3p 3-5) FT 2-3 Pts 19 As 3 To 4 Pf 1
Game 2 Namika Lahti - Espoon Honka 72-85 (13-18, 35-40, 53-60)
Game: I wasn't personally in the game, but based on game recaps, here's the story. Honka's defensive approach was great during the whole game. There were a couple of exceptions in the 1st half: Ed Williams had his patented backdoor buckets and Davont Jackson made three open treys. Anyway, it was Honka controlling the whole game. Koponen was extremely comfortable playing point guard, finding open guys, standing tall against pressure defence and taking it to the hole when needed. Six Honka players scored over ten points and in 2nd half, Lahti just couldn't answer Honka's arsenal. Petteri finished with line of 21 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. He had two consecutive turnovers in the middle of 4th quarter, but his 6/3 AS/TO-ratio was his best of the series.
Lahti: D.Jackson 16/2, E.Williams 15/2, Vi.Mäkäläinen 13/2/5as.
Honka: P.Koponen 21/4/6as, K.Muurinen 16/10, A.Scott 15/1.
Koponen: Min 37 FG 6-10 (3p 4-7) FT 5-6 Pts 21 Reb 4 As 6 St 1 To 3 Pf 2
Game 3 Espoon Honka - Namika Lahti 81-73 (22-17, 44-37, 62-52)
Q1: Honka really tried to end the series and they controlled the game early on with good defence and quick ball movement. Koponen seemed fatigued after playing 74 minutes in last two games (in consecutive game days), so he focused on getting everyone involved. Lahti rolled back after 13-6 Honka lead when defensive miscommunications lead to open 3pt shots. Honka's tiny, but lightning-quick back-up PG Akeem Scott paired with Koponen in the backcourt as 2-guard and scored Honka's last nine points in the quarter.
Q2: Koponen and Scott formed an impressive duo and made Lahti struggle with the tempo of the game. The refs called nearly everything and while Lahti players used half their energy complaining about the calls, Honka extended the lead to 41-32. Lahti made two hustle baskets just before halftime and cut Honka lead to seven.
Q3: It seemed like Honka switched on cruise control. Their defence stayed as tough as before, Koponen concentrated on playmaking (he had just two shot attempts the whole quarter) and Akeem Scott drained shot after shot. Lahti couldn't find a stable offensive player to help them.
Q4: After Matt Williams drained a 3-pointer with 8:16 remaining, Honka was leading 69-52 and the game seemed to be over. Coach Pavicevic moved fatigued Koponen from point guard to two-guard and gave Akeem Scott the chance to play point. Lahti turned to their trademark 4th quarter 3-2-zone. Pavicevic told Scott to dribble out 14 seconds out of every offensive possession and play pick and roll after that. The tactical approach wasn't very good: Honka had four turnovers in next six possession and Lahti cut the lead to 71-64. Lahti forced Honka to the free throw line trying to get the ball but Honka players calmly sank their FT's and won the game 81-73.
Side note: With 21sec remaining and Honka leading 77-73, Lahti players had a huddle near half court and Koponen walked near the huddle to listen what they would be saying. Lahti center Pierre Jallow noticed Koponen and pushed him to the chest, which lead to refs separating the players and Lahti crowd protesting loudly. This was the first time Koponen was engaged to something skirmish-like during his Finnish League career.
Honka: A.Scott 29/4/5st, B.Perkins 16/7, P.Koponen 13/3/3st.
Lahti: E.Williams 22/6, I.Vuori 16/4, P.Jallow 13/4.
Koponen: Min 39 FG 4-8 (3p 2-5) FT 3-4 Pts 13 Reb 3 As 2 St 3 To 3
Koponen's playoff stat line so far
Good stuff as always! Many thanks!