History will likely be made this week, whether by clubs, coaches, players or all of the above! Learn more about the firsts waiting to be accomplished, milestones set to be passed and records that could be broken in Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs.
What are their chances?
With two series tied at 1-1, we now know we will be watching playoff basketball at least until Friday. The teams that did not have home-court advantage in these playoffs are feeling pretty good going into this week’s games. It’s mostly due to their success last Thursday and Friday when we saw three road winners – all Istanbul teams – Fenerbahce, Anadolu Efes and Darussafaka Dogus. CSKA Moscow was the only team to win Game 2 at home. For comparison, in 2011 all four road teams won playoff Game 2, and three of those teams without home-court advantage went on to make the Final Four that year: Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena and Panathinaikos Athens. However, historically Game 2 road wins have not helped those winning teams too much. Before this season, there were 10 road winners in Game 2 of best-of-five series, but only four of them went on to win the series. Apart from those three 2011 teams, only one more team that won Game 2 on the road went on to win the series: Olympiacos Piraeus over Barcelona in the 2015 playoffs. The other six Game 2 winners failed to win their respective series and two teams even lost both Game 3 and Game 4 at home, which happened to Siena against Panathinaikos in 2009 and Real Madrid against FC Barcelona in 2010. Interestingly, both Panathinaikos and Barcelona went on to lift EuroLeague titles. So, Efes and Darussafaka are in good situations, but Madrid and Olympiacos still must feel good about their chances. As for Fenerbahce…
Never seen before
Fenerbahce winning both games in the Greek capital last week was one of many EuroLeague playoff firsts and Fenerbahce could very well accomplish a few more this week. This is the ninth season of best-of-five playoff series and this marks the first time a team without home-court advantage is in position to sweep a series. Fenerbahce looks to capitalize on that opportunity when it welcomes Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens for Game 3 on Tuesday. Fenerbahce has now won eight consecutive playoffs games and already was the only team to have swept consecutive best-of-five playoff series (2015 and 2016). With a win in Game 3, it would make an unprecedented three consecutive sweeps in as many years! Meanwhile, Fenerbahce’s Bogdan Bogdanovic has accumulated performance index ratings of 35 in each of the two games last week and claimed back-to-back MVP honors. Bogdanovic can now become the first MVP of three playoffs games in the same series.
Speaking of unprecedented, CSKA needs one victory in Vitoria to reach its 14th Final Four in 15 years. The first chance for the Russian powerhouse will be on Tuesday in Game 3 and if it falls in that contest, another chance comes on Thursday in Game 4, if necessary. However, Baskonia held on strong in the first two games in Moscow and edged CSKA 79-78 in their Round 26 clash in Vitoria during the regular season. So, the reigning champs have plenty of work left to do, but they are a win away from re-writing the history books.
De Colo's century mark
Game 3 in Vitoria will be Turkish Airlines EuroLeague appearance number 100 for CSKA's Nando De Colo, who has left a mark like few players before him in his first 100 games. Last season De Colo made history as the first EuroLeague player ever to win the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy and to be voted both the full-season and Final Four MVP. After being the scoring leader last season, he is the second-best scorer this season. He has scored in double figures in 17 straight games and 27 of his last 28 games, and De Colo just was his streak of having recorded a performance index rating in double figures in 55 of his last 56 EuroLeague games broken. There are 187 players who have already played at least 100 EuroLeague games since the turn of the century, yet going into this week De Colo ranks 39th in accumulated performance index rating (1,824), 40th in total points scored (1,609), 37th in total assists (351), and 20th in free throws made (434) in addition to being the EuroLeague's all-time leader in free throw shooting at 93.33%. There is only one player with fewer than 130 games who has scored more points than De Colo: this season's EuroLeague top scorer Keith Langford with 2,022 points in 118 games. The only player with fewer than 100 games ahead of De Colo in accumulated index rating? Another former MVP, Anthony Parker, who played 90 games and has a 1,927 career index rating.
New and rare territory
Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul will host Madrid in the first playoff games at home in club history on Wednesday. If Darussafaka protects its home floor in both games, it will claim its first Final Four berth. Coach David Blatt’s men rallied from an early double-digit deficit to top Madrid 81-68 at home in Round 12 behind Brad Wanamaker, who scored 27 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting in that victory. It’s important to note that Madrid missed both Sergio Llull and Anthony Randolph in that regular season game. The other Istanbul team, Anadolu Efes, won its first ever road game in the playoffs last week. If Efes can protect Abdi Ipekci Arena twice this week, Efes will claim its first Final Four berth in more than 15 years. And Efes head coach Velimir Perasovic could become the first coach since Dusko Ivanovic in 2006 to reach the Final Four in consecutive seasons with two different teams, after reaching the semifinals with Baskonia last year. Ivanovic qualified with Tau Ceramica Vitoria to the 2005 Final Four and with Barcelona in 2006. The other coaches to have previously accomplished this feat were Bozidar Maljkovic with Split (1990) and Barcelona (1991), Zeljko Obradovic with Joventut (1994) and Madrid (1995) and Ettore Messina with Kinder Bologna (2002) and Benetton Treviso (2003).
Records and Milestones
Bogdan Bogdanovic hit 10 three-pointers in his two games combined last week, 5 in each of Fenerbahce’s two victories. It moved him into a tie for first place in average three-pointers made in playoffs history with 2.88 triples through eight games. Interestingly, Bogdanovic has never lost a playoff game, having won all eight he has appeared in with Fenerbahce and his 10 triples in those two games put him in position to set a record for three-pointers made in a single playoff series. That record is held by Juan Carlos Navarro with 16 triples in five games in the 2012-13 playoffs series against Panathinaikos. If Bogdanovic keeps making shots and Fenerbahce keeps winning, he might run out of games to set that record. The record for three-pointers made in a best-of-five playoff sweep is 12, set last season by Darius Adams of Baskonia.
Last week, with 22 points in Game 2, Sergio Llull moved into 10th place on the all-time EuroLeague scoring charts. He has 2,464 career points and needs 1 more to catch Zalgiris Kaunas forward Paulius Jankunas (2,465) for ninth place and 31 more to catch retired Panathinaikos legend Dimitris Diamantidis (2,495) for eighth. We also have a new all-time playoffs assists after Olympiacos guard Vassilis Spanoulis passed countryman and former teammate Diamantidis. Spanoulis now has 151 career playoff assists, which is 4 more than Diamantidis. And third-place Milos Teodosic (143 assists) of CSKA could overtake Diamantidis this week. Meanwhile Llull (106) is in sixth in those same rankings and well within reach of Navarro (107 in fifth) and Theo Papaloukas (115 in fourth).
A large group of players moved into the top 10 of all-time games playoff appearances last week and those players will keep moving up those charts this week. Spanoulis is now fourth with 31 playoff games played and Sergio Llull is tied with Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Theo Papaloukas for fifth with 30 playoff games for his career. Milos Teodosic and Ioannis Bourousis have 29 games apiece, and need one more to tie Schortsanitis and Papaloukas. Georgios Printezis and Victor Khrypa have appeared in 28 playoff games, and will each move into the top 10 with their next appearance.