Herbalife Gran Canaria aims to reward its fans with a final home win when it hosts Olympiacos Piraeus in the last home game of its first EuroLeague season ever. Olympiacos, meanwhile, could boost its playoffs hopes by winning its last road game of the regular season. This will mark the first trip ever to the islands by Olympiacos, which has not won consecutive games since the first week of January but can complete a double-round sweep just when it most needs momentum.
Earlier this season
Playing Gran Canaria will bring back good memories for an Olympiacos team that had its highest point total of the season in a 98-77 home win when these teams met back in Round 14. Vassilis scored 21 points, his highest point total of the season, for a PIR of 31, his best in four years, that night. However, Spanoulis is not making this trip, and neither is backcourt mate Janis Strelnieks. Siim-Sander Vene was Gran Canaria's top scorer the first time around, with 15 points in his second EuroLeague appearance with the team, but for this game, several players injured then or acquired since will be in the lineup for the hosts.
A pair of earthmovers in the paint, Ondrej Balvin of Gran Canaria and Nikola Milutinov for the visitors, will be one hub around which this game revolves. The 2.17-meter Balvin, a couple of centimeters taller and years older than his counterpart, has been quiet of late after a mid-season run of six double-digit scoring games out of 10, but his seventh-ranked rebounding per-minute (11.0 pro-rated over 40 minutes) will give Milutinov, the league leader on the boards, some competition. The Olympiacos center is scoring 11.4 points per game, almost double that of Balvin, but both make about two-thirds of their three-point shots, so whichever gets the best of the other on Thursday will put his team in a good position.
Keys to victory: Gran Canaria
The hosts are coming off a 29-point loss in Barcelona and surely gearing up to give the home fans one last hurrah in the EuroLeague. To accomplish that, they'll need to be more aggressive than just getting to the foul line 3 times on Tuesday and to defend the three-point line better after giving up 19 threes to Barcelona. Gran Canaria can't rely on being more comfortable at home because Olympiacos will come with a dagger between its teeth. This is far from a consolation game for the visitors, so Gran Canaria had better treat it similarly if it wishes to win.
Keys to victory: Olympiacos
The competiton's third-best defense (76.7 points allowed) will be even more essential for Olympiacos, playing on the road without two veteran guards. Primary goals of that defense will be to keep Gran Canaria's big men off the offensive glass and keep its shooters from getting comfortable from the three-point line. Guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Vangelis Mantzaris will be tasked with imposing a deliberate Olympiacos so as not to get into a running game with Gran Canaria, which tends to thrive at home when shots are flying fast.