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 Matjaz Smodis, a three-time EuroLeague champion; Manuel Moreno, the former long-time EuroLeague writer for Sport newspaper in Spain; Semih Tuna, editor of Eurohoops Turkish edition; and Igor Petrinovic, Editor at Euroleague.net. Check out their opinions on three key questions before Round 21 of the regular season!
What team got the biggest boost from last week's double round, and why?
"Winning is always important, so winning two games is huge for all teams. The confidence boost and tranquility are something that is essential going forward. Making it to the playoffs is the goal. The season is still far from over, but Valencia and Panathinaikos are the two teams that benefited most for me in the last double-header week."
"Winning two games the same week is always a good thing and helps for a boost in the standings and morale. So, ALBA, CSKA, Efes, Maccabi, Panathinaikos and Valencia came out strong from last week. It allows ALBA and especially Valencia to keep dreaming of a playoffs berth, while CSKA, Efes, Maccabi and Panathinaikos get settled in the top eight spots. I think that CSKA is probably the team that got the most out of the two wins, especially because one was against Real Madrid, a direct rival. The team from Moscow, with 14 wins, is close to qualifying and looks now for one of the top four spots. This week also helped them solidify the leadership of Mike James on the team. His 19 points against Real and 33 against Baskonia are revealing figures. CSKA, a familiar face in the Final Four, is getting close to being there again."
"This is most definitely one of the most challenging seasons for many teams, and it really is not easy to go on a winning streak. Even though Maccabi won against two great teams in Barcelona and Milan, I have to go with ALBA Berlin, considering their rise in the standings and rebirth of hope for a possible playoff run."
"I think that Maccabi got a massive boost with its two wins, for many reasons. Not only did they start another winning streak, but Maccabi beat two of its direct rivals in a race for home-court advantage in the playoffs, Barcelona and Milan. It was a high-scoring affair against Barcelona, and a low-scoring game against Milan, after which Maccabi not only moved four games in front of eighth-place Milan but also earned tiebreak advantage thanks to its six-point win. Maccabi really had a big week."
What team was hurt most by last week's double round, and why?
"Well, Milan is the sore loser for me from last week. After standing 10-8 and looking very much in control of things, they've complicated their season a little bit now. With seven teams two victories apart and battling for probably two playoff spots, it's going to be a very tough last part of the season, and every win will be precious."
"Without a doubt, Milan. It is true that it had two difficult trips but its losses to Efes (88-68) and Maccabi (69-63) could leave the team out of the playoffs. Ettore Messina's team is now eighth with 10 wins and is pressured by two teams with one fewer victory, Zvezda and Khimki, and three more teams with two fewer, Fenerbahce, Olympiacos and ASVEL. Milan could recover a bit these next weeks by beating Fenerbahce away and Bayern at home, but I get the feeling that the Italian team made life difficult for itself when it looked it was a done deal due to their good level of play in the first leg of the regular season."
"Despite the fact that Real Madrid's record-breaking winning streak came to a dramatic end against CSKA Moscow and was followed by another loss at the hands of Khimki Moscow, Real Madrid has the talent and experience to get back together. And yet, Milan, as a new team, is still struggling to get up from the sharp fall of theirs after the first two months. And clearly their earlier win against Panathinaikos was not a sign of resurgence, either. Milan got pretty badly hurt in Istanbul and Tel Aviv."
"The only team that lost not one but both games on home floor last week was Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, which had seemed to hit its stride with a four-game winning streak good for eighth place entering Round 19, but lost all of that momentum with losses to Zalgiris and ALBA. Worse, that was the easier part of Zvezda's schedule, which next brings a trip to Barcelona, home tilts with Efes and Panathinaikos, then an away game at Khimki."
What team had the best split in last week's double round, and why?
"Barcelona had the best double-header week with 1-1 split. They are tied for third place with Maccabi and CSKA, and they play Zvezda at home in the next game. They are looking very good to me."
"It doesn't look like a 1-1 record last week could do much for Zalgiris and Zenit, both with six wins and far from the playoff spots, even if they showed that they belong in the EuroLeague. For Fenerbahce, Khimki and Olympiacos, winning one of the two games allows them to maintain all options. I think that Barcelona is the one who could get the most out of its single win at Fenerbahce. Svetislav Pesic's men arrived to the game after two straight losses to Efes and Maccabi, and a third one could have made things difficult. However, Barca dominated the game at all times to stay among the best and with aspirations to be one of the top four teams. Barcelona needs wins to leave behind all the inconsistencies it has shown in the first leg."
"Fenerbahce had an opportunity to have all its players available after who knows how long a time. Their win against ASVEL was so big that their fans considered it a sign of a huge comeback. Despite the fact that they fell short against Barcelona in Istanbul, they still fought till the end and they showed what they are capable of doing vs. one of the biggest contenders."
"If Khimki's home loss against Valencia was highly disappointing, its win and performance over Real Madrid was very promising. With Alexey Shved shining, Khimki scored 102 points and led by as many as 24 points to snap its four-game losing streak. It was a reminder what this team is capable off, and a much-needed win that has allowed Khimki not to fall too far behind in what is shaping up to be another incredible playoff race."