It will be an all-Spanish showdown on Friday when KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz welcomes defending champs Real Madrid to the home of the 2019 Final Four. Real Madrid already clinched home-court advantage in the playoffs, but Baskonia is right in still in search of qualification, tied with three other teams at 14-13, so the hosts' future could depend on the outcome of this game. Baskonia lost its three-game winning streak when it lost Wednesday to Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on the road despite almost being able to erase a 23-point deficit. Madrid completed its comeback to win at home against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, marking its consecutive victory.
Earlier this season
Aport from the countless times these teams have faced each other in domestic competitions, this will be the eighth time they meet in the EuroLeague despite combining for a total 857 games this century in the competition. Baskonia leads the series 4-3, but in their last meeting, Madrid won at home 97-79 in Round 3. Sergio Llull led the way with his 23 points, while Marcelinho Huertas had 14 for the guests.
It will be a major duel in the paint when Vincent Poirier and Walter Tavares step on the court on Friday. Poirier is having his best season yet with Baskonia, averaging 11.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 27 appearances, 22 of them as a starter. Tavares is also a major presence inside for Madrid in his 27 appearances, with also 22 as a starter. Tavares averages 7.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Keys to victory: Baskonia
Baskonia cannot qualify nor get eliminated with this game, but in such a tight race as this season's, a win could help the hosts immensely going forward. Playing against the third-best offense in the league will be a challenge, however. Real Madrid ranks among the top teams in many stats categories, all of them summarized by a league-best 105.7 average PIR. Playing without key injured players like Toko Shengelia, Jayson Grancer and Patricio Garino is just another hurdle for Baskonia, but the hosts showed that they can compete in Athens, and they will have to repeat that effort, this time with the crowd on their side, if they want to have a shot at toppling the champs.
Keys to victory: Real Madrid
Real Madrid is honing in on its best moment of the season. Los Blancos showed great focus and comeback capacities against Milan a couple of days ago, which is just another virtue to add to a team that is accustomed to playing from ahead in the games. Baskonia is solid in rebounds (35.4 rpg.) and assists (18.8 apg.) ranking among the top three in these categories but, of course, Madrid is first in both. On paper, it looks good for the guests, but knowing what's at stake for Baskonia, Real Madrid will have to pay attention if it wants to keep its positive momentum building.