Game Center, Round 27: Four seek to clinch playoff berths
The final two-round week of the season tips off on Tuesday with reigning champ Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul hosting playoffs hopeful Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, with that night’s action also featuring Real Madrid facing a tough Spanish derby trip to Valencia Basket. On Wednesday, there’s a tantalizing rematch of last season’s semifinal – and several more big battles in recent years – as CSKA Moscow rolls out the welcome mat for Olympiacos Piraeus.
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul vs Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
A big battle with plenty of meaning sees reigning champion Fenerbahce (18-8) renew its push for home-court advantage in the playoffs against visiting Maccabi (13-13), which is just hoping to be in the playoffs at all. Fenerbahce could clinch a top-four spot with a win and a combination of losses by the teams behind it in the standings. Maccabi has the edge on offense with 82.2 points per game compared to Fenerbahce’s 80.4 ppg, but the home team has a far better defensive record and Maccabi has struggled for form in recent weeks, winning just two of its last six games. Maccabi has a much better rebounding record – 37.1 per game against 32.2 – so can look to control the boards and proceed from there.
Zalgiris Kaunas vs AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan
After losing back-to-back games, Zalgiris (15-11) will look to take a big step towards playoff qualification by overcoming a dangerous Milan team (9-17), which has won three of its last five road games. In fact, Zalgiris will clinch a playoff berth this round if it wins and both Maccabi and Baskonia lose their respective games. The long-range shooting battle between guards Kevin Pangos (2.3 three-pointers per game) and Andrew Goudelock (1.8 triples per game) could be vital, and it should be a high-scoring teams between a pair of teams that both average more than 80 points scored and conceded per game. Milan will look to Arturas Gudaitis, who has blocked 8 shots over his last three games, to protect the rim against his former team.
Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens vs Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Fresh from a morale-boosting comeback road win, Panathinaikos (15-11) will look to formalize its playoff aspirations and while ending Zvezda’s (11-15) faint playoffs dreams. The Greens will clinch a playoff berth with a win if Fenerbahce defeats Maccabi earlier on Tuesday. Zvezda will be formally eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. Zvezda has reached triple figures in scoring in two of its last three home games, but has failed to produce similar offensive sparks on the road, scoring just 54 and 62 points in its last two away outings. Former Panathinaikos man James Feldeine will look to improve that statistic after taking MVP honors in the previous round, but the Greek champs have every incentive to restart another home winning run after losing to Olympiacos in their last home game.
Valencia Basket vs Real Madrid
A Spanish derby will see Madrid (16-10) try to punch its playoff ticket by overcoming host Valencia (9-17), which has lost three of its last four games. Los Blancos will advance Tuesday if Fenerbahce defeats Maccabi earlier in the day. Madrid has won three of its last four games through offensive production, averaging 91 points per game during that period to maintain its status as the second-highest scoring team in the competition. Meanwhile, Valencia has suffered defensively over the last few weeks, allowing at least 80 points in nine of its last 11 games. So it’s no secret that the home team needs to improve in that respect to have any chance of success.
CSKA Moscow vs Olympiacos Piraeus
League-leading CSKA (21-5) can ensure it owns first place at the end of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season by defeating an Olympiacos (18-8) team desperate to bounce back from a comprehensive home loss to Barcelona last week. The in-form Russian giant has won eight consecutive games at home and exceeded the 90-point mark in six of those contests. But Olympiacos won at Real Madrid and Panathinaikos in its last two road games and will be keen to claim another big-name scalp in a battle of giants which could well end up being repeated again at the Final Four.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs Khimki Moscow Region
Last-placed Efes (6-20) could see itself condemned to finish the season in last place if it loses to visiting Khimki (15-11), which is eager to tie up a playoff spot as soon as possible. Khimki will advance if its wins and Fenerbahce defeats Maccabi a day earlier. Efes has tasted defeat in its last five games, going down by at least 9 points on each occasion. Khimki is best known for the relentless scoring exploits of Alexey Shved (22.0 points per game), but has also claimed the second-highest number of steals in the competition – 7.3 per game. Efes has allowed its opponents to convert a higher percentage of three-pointers than any other team (42.2%), so Shved will look to profit from downtown again.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz vs Brose Bamberg
After finally breaking into the top half of the standings last week, Baskonia (13-13) will now attempt to hold onto that position by overcoming a Brose (10-16) team that has lost 10 in a row on its travels. Another Brose loss would see its slim playoff chances come to an end. The same would be true if Maccabi wins on Tuesday. Baskonia is the joint third-highest scoring team in the league, averaging 82.2 points per game, and has been particularly effective from long distance with an average of 9.8 triples per game. Brose, in contrast, ranks dead last in two-point conversion, making just 49.2% of its shots from inside the arc. Baskonia has won its last three home games by 19, 10 and 20 points.
Unicaja Malaga vs FC Barcelona Lassa
The second all-Spanish affair of the week comes between a pair of teams aiming for a strong finish to the season as Unicaja (10-16) looks to stay ahead of Barcelona (9-17). The visitors can secure a third consecutive win for the first time all season; Barcelona is arguably the competition’s hottest team after winning its last two games by 34 and 27 points. And although that’s too late for playoff qualification, Barcelona will look to avenge a Round 13 home loss against an Unicaja team that has lost three in a row, surrendering an average of 90.3 points in the process. Another Unicaja defeat would formally end its playoff chances.