Round 24 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague was a pivotal one, as some teams dramatically increased their chances to reach the playoffs by downing direct opponents in the fight to finish in the top half of the regular season standings. AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan edged Khimki Moscow Region 88-90 to stay sixth in the standings. Five players scored in double digits, Milan recorded its fifth consecutive win, and Mike James was chosen as the EuroLeague MVP for February. He is the first Milan player to get the award: congratulations! In another battle between playoffs contenders, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz topped Zalgiris Kaunas 80-73 at Fernando Buesa Arena. The best two teams in the standings had very convincing wins: Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul thrashed Anadolu Efes Istanbul 84-66 and CSKA Moscow downed Olympiacos Piraeus 81-97 with a double-double from Sergio Rodriguez. In El Clásico, FC Barcelona Lassa defeated Real Madrid 77-70, rounding out a special night that had started with Juan Carlos Navarro's jersey retirement. Panathinaikos OPAP Athens downed Herbalife Gran Canaria for its first road win in many months; FC Bayern Munich topped Buducnost VOLI Podgorica away; and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv bested Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul at home. Maccabi and Panathinaikos are only one win away from playoffs territory, and just two from sixth place. Fasten your seat belts and get ready for some exciting basketball from now until the end of the regular season.
Exciting games usually bring solid individual performances, and that is always good news for EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. Here are our five suggestions before Round 25:
Ante Tomic, FC Barcelona Lassa (1.34 million) – In his best moment this season, Tomic had a monster game – 22 points, 13 rebounds – against Real Madrid last week. Antic usually plays really well at this time of the year; he was the February MVP twice and March MVP once in his career. He will be asked to step up again in a critical game against Efes.
Shavon Shields, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (1.50 million) – Shields had his first career double-double against Zalgiris last week, setting new career highs in rebounds (10), assists (4) and steals (3). He had a PIR of 13 or better in each of his team's last four games, getting 27 against Zalgiris.
Cory Higgins, CSKA Moscow (1.11 million) – Surprisingly cheap for a player of his caliber, Higgins was solid against Olympiacos, finishing with 18 points and a PIR of 22. CSKA faces Milan and earlier on this season, Higgins had 23 points and a PIR of 28 against the Italian powerhouse.
Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (2.12 million) – Panathinaikos is on a roll, partly because Calathes is running the show very efficiently. He has averaged 15 points and 10 assists in each of his team's last two wins. Calathes should be ready for another solid performance against Darussafaka this week.
Tarik Black, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1.66 million) – Few big men are more efficient than Black. In a low-scoring night for Maccabi against Darussafaka, Black had 17 points, 8 rebounds and a PIR of 23 in just 20 minutes. Black had a PIR of 23 or higher in half of the last six games, too.