By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
This week we will a three day Euroleague show! We start off on Wednesday with two games in Germany and the 10th Top16 gameday will be completed on Friday. After nine weeks many things are already clear, but there are still some important scores to be settled. After the end of the week we will know which teams will be still on the road for the home court advantage in the play offs and the contrary, which teams will lose the chance to stay alive in the play offs race.
Eurohoops game of the week: Olympiacos – Barcelona
It’s an easy choice when you have to title contenders that are expected to be on the play offs. The Catalans with a 8-1 record are on the driver’s seat of the group and they are visiting Piraeus for a replay of last season’s Euroleague semifinal. The defending champions started the Top16 out of synch but they have a 5 wins streak and a 6-3 record.
Olympiacos has dropped only one game at home in Top16 and Barcelona has lost only one road game this Euroleague season! For the Reds it’s a key game in their quest for the home court advantage in the play offs – the same applies for the next one against Siena – and visiting coach Pascual proved the importance of the match up by choosing to rest Juan Carlos Navarro in Liga Endesa’s derby against Caja Laboral, which defeated Barcelona on the road.
The two opponents have similar stats so far, meaning that defense, the control of the tempo and maybe an explosion of their starts on the court will make all the difference. After losing in Barcelona by eight points, Olympiacos would love to protect its paint more efficiently against the Catalans’ pick and roll.
Honorable mention: Unicaja – Panathinaikos
If Malaga had prevailed last week against Zalgiris, then this could be the game of the week. However, once more Unicaja didn’t demonstrate the mentality of team with character and didn’t had the heart to win a game that could be the key for something big. The Spaniards lost, the advantage they had by winning on the road CSKA is now gone and they are two wins (4-5) behind the Greeks (6-3).
On the contrary, despite being on rebuilding mode Panathinaikos has honored his tradition, has won every important game within its potential and the qualification to the play offs is more than a possibility. The Athenian club can lock this qualification with a win in Malaga against a team with 3 home defeats in a row. So far, it seems that the first ever Euroleague “trade” of Panko and Gist, favors the Greeks, at least on the results.
The open war: Zalgiris Kaunas – Real Madrid and Rudy
Coach Juan Plaza faces his old team and Zalgiris needs the win after beating Unicaja in order to get a 5-5 record and stay alive in play offs race. The Lithuanians have their back against the wall and no owner at this point – at least officially – after Romanov’s disappearing act. It will be a tense game, like the first one which was decided by a three pointer of Sergio Rodriguez, plus the crowd at “Zalgirio” Arena will have the chance to “welcome” Rudy Fernandez after his infamous behavior in the previous game between the two teams in Madrid. This time the was is not “unknown” as we used to write…
Russian advantage: Khimki – Siena
If you look at the standings you might disagree. Siena is second with a 7-2 record, Khimki is fourth with 5-4. However we bet our money to Khimki. The reason is quite simple. Khimki lost last week at home after 2,5 years and it will be a surprise to lose again, while Siena hit a slump, lost Hackett due to injury and has a smaller rotation that the team of coach Kurtinaitis.
The big difference is the front line. Khimki is one of the best low post teams in the league – not only because of its “bigs”, but also because of Planinic’s creation – it will use this advantage and Siena will have a hard time to hold up, unless its zone defense provide a miracle.
Opposite directions: Fenerbahce/ Ulker – Maccabi T.A.
You can write much else about the disappointing season of Fener in Euroleague. The Turkish club qualified to the Top16 by tooth and claw, but this proved to be a torment which coach Pianigiani couldn’t bear. At this point they have no Euroleague future and and they only thing they can do is to be the adjuster of the group.
The same was the story for Maccabi until the 6th Top16 gameday, but the team of coach Blatt reacted and now has a 4-5 record. It needs more wins in order to catch either Olympiacos or Khimki, or even Siena is the Italian champs lose their steps for good. So the two opponents are going to opposite directions and that applies also in their number with Fener having the worst defense, giving up more than 90 points, while Maccabi has just 62ppg. on its victories.
Unfair: Brose Baskets – CSKA Moscow
CSKA Moscow has just a 6-3 record and the title contender from Russia is in a must win situation in the road game against Brose Baskets. The man of the first match between the two teams, Viktor Khryapa, traveled to Germany but he is not expected to play. In the meantime CSKA is still shaky, specially after losing its last VTB game against Nizhny Novgorod.
Can the defending champions of Germany win? They have lost their last three games by three points or less. Last year, they lost at home to CSKA by a buzzer beater of Milos Teodosic. It seems unfair for Brose Baskets to not have a win at this point and after adding Massey and Walsh they are even stronger.
A trap: Alba Berlin – Anadolu Efes
We have two games in German soil this week on Wednesday. Besides Brose Baskets, Alba Berlin is hosting Anadolu Efes. The Berliners have a 1-8 record and no play offs hope, Efes lost in Athens after 7 wins in a row and with a 7-2 record needs the road win in order to stay on the second place of its group standings. We expect a low scoring, slow tempo game and the level of Efes’ focus will decide if the Turks will survive the trap of Berlin.
Time to win: Betiktas – Caja Laboral
After getting the win in Barcelona for Liga Endesa and coming from 5 straight defeats in Top16, Caja Laboral (4-5) is visiting the weakest team of the competition and of course this game is a must win situation for the Basques in order to stay on the play offs race. They will also have to beat Khimki in Moscow, but this is a story for the future. For now, they have to win in Istanbul and celebrate after a long time. What if Besiktas upsets them despite having a miserable 0-9 record? Well, our title applies both ways.