Experts Round Table: Playoffs predictions

Apr 11, 2019 by Euroleague.net Print

Welcome back to the Experts Round Table, where we ask a variety of the most knowledgeable Turkish Airlines EuroLeague followers across the continent their opinions on the topics of the day. This week's panel includes Dusan Ivkovic, a two-time EuroLeague champion coach and and Euroleague Basketball Legend; Arale Weisberg of Israeli website Walla and commentator on Israel radio Kan; Vladimir Stankovic, veteran journalist and longtime EuroLeague.net collaborator; Lefteris Moutis of Eurohoops; and Javier Gancedo, EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge guru and Editorial Senior Manager for EuroLeague.net. Check out their opinions on four key questions about the EuroLeague Playoffs!




Which team will win the playoff series Fenerbahce vs. Zalgiris, in how many games, and why?

Dusan Ivkovic

"Fenerbahce, 3-1. Zalgiris has improved its form and – for the second year running – is in the playoffs. That makes them an uncomfortable opponent, but the advantage that Fenerbahce has is not just its home court, but its bench, too. Zeljko Obradovic, with all his experience, makes the difference."

Arale Weisberg

"One team has been in first place for 21 weeks in a row, while the other just reached the eighth position a couple of games ago. One coach is the GOAT with a historic 19-1 record in European playoff series, while the other is his former player and in the knockout stage only for the second time. Allegedly, there is no way other than Fenerbahce winning, but I'm sure that it's not going to be easy at all. The spirit of Zalgiris, the character, the hot fans and its rising coach will cause a lot of damage to the regular season champs, even if they don't win. I'll say 3-1 for Fenerbahce."

Vladimir Stankovic

Fenerbahce, 3-1. Fener has registered the best regular season of any team under the new format. It has various players who can decide a game, but depends a lot on the rebounding and scoring of Jan Vesely. His physical status could be key. Zalgiris will look for its opportunity in one of the first two games, as it's a team that almost always plays better as a visitor. Its last two wins at Olympiacos and at Madrid confirm that. What's more, Fenerbahce won both their games in the regular season.

Lefteris Moutis

"Of all the teams that will take part in the playoffs, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul is perhaps the most likely to qualify for the Final Four. They are the only team in recent years to have been undefeated at home all season and definitely have a considerable advantage to get two home wins and end the series in Kaunas in three or four games, with the most possible scenario being the four games. Zalgiris Kaunas is a tough team that knows how to read the game and adapt to its needs, but so is Fenerbahce, only the Turkish champs have much more talent and more basketball personalities who can step up in crucial moments."

Javier Gancedo

"Fenerbahce in three games. Zalgiris arrives to this series on a six-game winning streak and nothing will come easy for the Turkish champion, but Fenerbahce proved in Milan that even without its best players, the team can be very competitive. Fenerbahce is undefeated at home this season and I expect it to stay that way as the basketball atmosphere at Ulker Sports Arena will be electric. I also expect a big basketball party in Kaunas, but up 2-0, Fenerbahce will be ready to punch its Final Four ticket as soon as possible. Nikola Kalinic is arguably in the best moment of his career and an extra weapon for Coach Obradovic."




Which team will win the playoff series CSKA vs. Baskonia, in how many games, and why?

Dusan Ivkovic

"CSKA 3-2. I have the impression that CSKA in recent games has shown a little fatigue, above all on the perimeter with its guards and shooters. Baskonia, with Shengelia back, has its options. Due to home-court advantage, though, I predict 3-2 for CSKA."

Arale Weisberg

"Last week, when Baskonia played in Moscow and led by a significant margin, there was a point in which I thought: 'If they are such a tough opponent, maybe CSKA is better off losing this game and avoiding meeting them in the playoffs.' But the Russian team was not interested in calculations and Will Clyburn got the win, which brought those two teams back together again. Baskonia is the Final Four host and boosted by Toko Shengelia's return. Even though CSKA doesn't seem as superior as it was, and it will make its 15th Final Four in 16 years. 3-1."

Vladimir Stankovic

CSKA 3-1. I believe that the team from Moscow is the biggest favorite in all the quarterfinals. CSKA has had stable form throughout the season, it has the home-court advantage and less of a dependence on one or two players. Its biggest weapon is its 40% three-point shooting.

Lefteris Moutis

"CSKA Moscow has not been defeated at home in a playoff game in the last 10 years and this definitely shows something about how big of a favorite they are once again this season in the series against KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. Even when they’re struggling, the Russians manage to win and so it seems that the hosts of this season’s Final Four, Baskonia, have little chance of pulling off the upset, even though Baskonia looks capable of dragging the series out to five games. CSKA has the experience when it comes to the playoffs since it is the only team that has never been eliminated in a series, though Baskonia is a combative team that can fight for every game. Because of the quality and depth of the CSKA roster, I’d say that it has the upper hand for qualification with the most possible scenario being that the series ends in four games."

Javier Gancedo

"CSKA Moscow in five games. I truly expect Baskonia to win its two home games. The Final Four will be at Fernando Buesa Arena and all Baskonia fans will be ready to push their team to new heights. Toko Shengelia is back and that is always great news for the club, which will surely feel strong in front of its fans. But this is CSKA Moscow, the king of playoffs. One home loss in 13 playoffs appearances, all of them with the home-court advantage. Simply put, CSKA never loses at home, and I expect that to be the case again."




Which team will win the playoff series Real Madrid vs. Panathinaikos, in how many games, and why?

Dusan Ivkovic

"Real Madrid is a team that, thanks to the work of Pablo Laso, always raises its level in the crucial moments of the season. If there are no extenuating circumstances like injuries, for instance, I believe that Madrid will win 3-2."

Arale Weisberg

"Panathinaikos hasn't won in Madrid in six years. It's lost its last 11 road games in the EuroLeague Playoffs. And now the Greens face the defending champs. No-brainer? Hmmm, not really. Who can bet against Coach Rick Pitino nowadays? Nick Calathes is in his prime, while Los Blancos are playing without Sergio Llull for now (and unlike last season, they are without Luka Doncic!). History proves that in a balanced battle between high-quality teams, it's difficult to win the first two games back-to-back at home. I believe that one of these games is going to be very tight, and Panathinaikos will have a chance of stealing the home-court advantage. This could be the difference between a sweep for Real and a surprising overall win for the Greek champs. It's anybody's series, and my bet is as good as any other… For the record, and for keeping the Pitino legend alive, I'll go with Panathinaikos in four games."

Vladimir Stankovic

Madrid 3-2. A rematch from last year, with the same winner, I believe. This time Real Madrid has the home-court advantage. We hope to see a great duel between Sergio Llull, if he's healthy, and Nick Calathes, two born leaders. Apart from the home-court advantage, Madrid has a slight advantage in rebounds.

Lefteris Moutis

"The playoffs are often more a matter of momentum and form. Panathinaikos OPAP Athens have experienced this first-hand in a bad way in the previous two seasons when they were knocked out despite having the home-court advantage. This season they are the outsiders against Real Madrid, but with seven wins in their last eight games (with the only defeat being the one that came from Rudy Fernandez’s crazy buzzer-beater), no one can underestimate them. Real Madrid have a slight advantage for qualification because of their full roster and the variety of solutions in the frontline where Panathinaikos look like they're falling short. Sergio Llull's presence will play an important role, but, in any case, the European champions should advance and the most likely possibility is that they will go to a fifth game."

Javier Gancedo

"Real Madrid in five games. I expect this to be the most balanced series in this year’s playoffs. I would say Madrid would be the favorite if everyone were healthy, but without Sergio Llull, anything can happen. Madrid has been left with Facu Campazzo as its only pure point guard. Panathinaikos knows that and Nick Calathes is ready to push him into foul trouble. At the same time, if Madrid is able to connect consistently with its big men, it will have a big advantage. Anthony Randolph, Gustavo Ayon and Felipe Reyes have a lot of experience and Edy Tavares can change any game with his blocked shots and intimidation. A very close one, I expect it to go down to the wire – and for Madrid to win the series at home."




Which team will win the playoff series Efes vs. Barcelona, in how many games, and why?

Dusan Ivkovic

"Efes vs. Barcelona is the most equal of the series and no result will be a surprise. Efes has had a great season and deserves the home-court advantage. The tempo is dictated by their guards, Micic and Larkin, two very different players who are equally useful for the team. I expect five tense games with chances for both teams."

Arale Weisberg

"The last two EuroLeague champions went all the way from fifth place in the regular season to the trophy. That wasn't a coincidence as we were talking about elite teams, Fenerbahce and Real Madrid, and Barcelona has already proven to be prepared after beating its archrival from the Spanish capital in the Copa del Rey final. Yet, I am going with Anadolu Efes. They are eager to be back at the top, some of their players are in their best moments (Vasilije Micic, Adrien Moerman, Shane Larkin) and I believe that they have a good matchup with Barcelona. One way or another, Coach Ergin Ataman and Svetislav Pesic will return to the Final Four for the 1st time since 2003! I say Efes, 3-2."

Vladimir Stankovic

Efes 3-2 or Barcelona 2-3. Probably the most uncertain matchup. In the regular season, Barcelona won at home by 15 points. In Istanbul, Efes won by 22. Efes is the biggest pleasant surprise of the season, while Barcelona has come on strong at the finish of the regular season. Barcelona depends a lot on the physical shape of Kevin Seraphin. We'll have an interesting duel between Vasilije Micic and Thomas Heurtel, two of the best point guards in the EuroLeague. A slight advantage for Efes, above all for its home-court advantage, but if it ends up 2-3 instead of 3-2, it won't be a surprise.

Lefteris Moutis

"If I gave one of the teams in the most unpredictable pair of this season’s playoffs even 1% more chances to qualify, it would be Anadolu Efes Istanbul. They have never qualified in a playoff series in the modern era of the EuroLeague and this may count when the ball is hot, but perhaps the time for Efes to reach uncharted territory has come. This season Efes has presented a very attractive team with an excellent backcourt and many solutions for different types of games. FC Barcelona Lassa looks solid but vulnerable when the game becomes fast-paced. Because of their talent in offense and their pace, Efes has a slight advantage for qualification, which may be decided in five games."

Javier Gancedo

"Anadolu Efes in four games. I like Coach Ataman's team a lot; they have a lot of versatility and depth and kept improving during the season. In these teams' last matchup, Shane Larkin made the difference with 36 points. Having former players like Adrien Moerman and Tibor Pleiss definitely helps Efes, as well as the home-court advantage. The point guard battle – Larkin and Vasilije Micic vs. Thomas Heurtel and Kevin Pangos – will be the key to this series. Efes has only struggled when Moerman doesn't find his rhythm and Barcelona is aware of that, but overall, I see Efes with more resources, experienced players and the motivation to reach the Final Four for the first time in 18 years."