By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With only two gameday left in Top16, it’s time to see who will get past the finish line in time and whose effort simply will not be enough. And mind you, there’s no rest before the play offs, since they start in two weeks from now. Here’s an idea about the qualification chances in Group E and Group F and let’s get started.
It’s an all Green final. That’s the color of both teams, however one one of them will be smiling at the end. Panathinaikos with a 6-6 record needs one more win in order to secure a place in the play offs, since Malaga is at 5-7 and the Greeks have also the tie breaking advantage against Fenerbahce/ Ulker (5-7).
If the Spaniards beat Panathinaikos, then the two teams will be tied, but Unicaja will have the tie breaking advantage, having won both games against the Greek champions. That’s how Malaga will have its luck in its hands in the last gameday against already qualified in the second spot of the standings EA7 Milano.
On the court, Panathinaikos seems to be better, because they have tradition on their side, the extra push of their home gym and better quality in its roster. They will try to impose a low tempo, defense-oriented game and on a decent shooting day of the hosts that may be enough for the win.
Unicaja hops to replicate its great game from the first Top16 round, when everything worked to its favor. The key player of that win, Nik Caner Medley will be on the court after returning from injury and that’s a plus for the guests.
Honorable mention: Bayern – Maccabi Tel Aviv
The second most important game of this week will be played at Munich. Bayern (5-7) needs to beat Maccabi (7-5) in order to stay alive in the play offs race and also hopes for two defeats of Lokomotiv and Galatasaray by Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow. In that case the qualification of the Germans will be decided next week in Russia.l
The Israelis have already said goodbye to the home court advantage after losing last week to Real Madrid and now needs the road win in order to secure mathematically the play offs qualification, or else there’s even the possibility of missing the next phase can’t be excluded. Despite the big stakes, we expect a spectacular run and gun game, since both teams excel in that kind of play and everything is possible. And we have a hunch that Malcolm Delaney will have a big game.
They have a long history and since the 2011-12 season, those two opponents are playing each other on a regular basis when things get heated. This time Efes (2-10) doesn’t have play offs ambitions and after losing Balbay to injury things got even more complicated. The solution for coach Aggelou is simple, defense, rebounds and low tempo, however the fate of the game seems to depend on Olympiacos‘ day.
The champs (6-6) have a biggest motive, since the win can lead them to the play offs, they have proven that they can play defense and also they have much more talent in the offense. So things are simple. If Olympiacos can play the same defense like last week at Malaga, Efes doesn’t have any chance. If the Reds decide to play with fire, then the outcome may be not the one they desire.
Last chance: Laboral Kutxa – Fenerbahce/ Ulker
Laboral (3-9) is out of the play offs and as it was proven on Sunday during the defeat at Malaga in Liga Endesa, has many basketball problems to solve. Fenerbahce (5-7) after the defeat by Milano and the unprecedented outburst of Zeljko Obradovic has slim chances for the play offs. Still Zoc and his players are expected to fight and in this match up, Fener has more quality and bigger motives, despite its defensive issues.
CSKA Moscow (10-2) is still almost at a total tie with Real Madrid (10-2) and needs to win the Turkish champions (6-6) in order to keep fighting for the top spot of Group F. Galatasaray has already survived a series of injuries, had played excellent despite its woes with the back against the wall and travels to Moscow in order to do its best. Stil, against CSKA a road win need more that just the “best” of Galata, so we expect that in the end the Russians will prevail.
Overachieving (1): Real Madrid – Lokomotiv Kuban
It’s the exact same case! Real Madrid (10-2) can’t give up anything, Lokomotiv (6-6) will its best, but the Russians already know in the back of their mind that the most important game for the play offs will be next week’s home game against Bayern. We expect the usual uptempo performance of Real and that means Loko will have to try very hard not to stay behind.
A rarity: EA7 Milano – Barcelona
We had to wait until the 13th Top16 week in order to find a game in which both opponents are really indifferent for the result and really happy about what they have already achieved. A game which will be played on Wednesday between EA7 Milano (9-3) and unbeaten Barcelona. Both teams have already locked the top and the second spot of Group E, the result can’t change anything and this can be a match which could be repeated in the Final Four against a team which at the moment missed Keith Langford due to injury and Barca, which always plays to win, specially in Top16.
For pride: Partizan – Zalgiris Kaunas
Two of the most traditional names in European basketball history are playing each other and despite being out of the play offs, they will put up a show. Partizan (3-9) at home in front of a lively crowd just has to fight, while Zalgiris (1-11) always try to do the same. We will see once again some young stars that will be a permanent Euroleague fixture for years to come and that also applies to American guard Justin Dentmon.