In this key game in the EuroLeague Playoffs race, Baskonia (8-10) and Milan (8-10) will break their share of a three-way tie for all-important eighth place. Baskonia comes off a convincing win against Gran Canaria, overcoming injuries and using a shorter rotation to win the game. With Toko Shengelia and Jayson Granger out, Vincent Poirier (20 points), Ilimane Diop (13 points, 10 rebounds, 25 PIR) and Marcelinho Huertas (24 points, 29 PIR) stepped up big. Milan needs to bounce back from two losses in a row. Two former Baskonia players – Mike James (19.8 ppg) and Vladimir Micov (14.6 ppg.) – have been Milan's leaders along with center Arturas Gudaitis (13.4 ppg., 7.6 rpg.), so expect an intense, thrilling showdown at Fernando Buesa Arena.
Huertas and James had the highest PIRs in Round 18 and now go against each other. James is an explosive scorer who will have extra motivation against his former team. He will seek to use his athleticism and quick first step against Huertas, a veteran pass-first playmaker with really high basketball IQ. Huertas's mission is to dominate the game tempo, not allowing Milan to run the floor as much as they would like to.
Earlier this season
Milan downed Baskonia 93-90 at home on November 21. As such, Baskonia will need a four-point win to get the tie-break advantage between them, which could be critical in the long run. Micov led the winners with 22 points. James added 20 while Curtis Jerrells had 13. Poirier and Matt Janning led Baskonia with 18 points apiece. Jerrells hit 4 of 4 free throws in the final 27 seconds to put the victory on ice for Milan.
Keys to victory: Baskonia
Last week, Baskonia was heavily outrebounded, allowing 20 offensive boards, but forced Gran Canaria into 15 turnovers and low shooting percentages (43.9% 2FG, 27.6% 3FG). With Johannes Voigtmann expected back in action after a sickness, Baskonia should be more powerful under the baskets. On offense, Huertas and Luca Vildoza will try to keep everyone involved, finding good shots and creating for themselves, too.
Keys to victory: Milan
Milan is the highest-scoring team in the competition (87.3 ppg.) but ranks second in points allowed (86.8 ppg.). Milan allows opponents to shoot with very good percentages – 56% inside the arc and 39.7% from downtown – which is dangerous against a team full of experienced players like Baskonia. On offense, Milan will keep running its offense through James and Micov, and will look to Gudaitis and Alen Omic for easy points down low.