By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Two rounds left before the curtain drops in the Top16! Three open tickets, battles for final standings and two huge games in Barcelona and Moscow, together write this week’s fascinating scenario.
Game of the week: Barcelona – Real (April 2 20:45 CET)
The ultimate derby! Barcelona (9-3) hosts Real (10-2) and seeks above all else revenge for the heavy 97-73 defeat by Madrid! It is, after all, a science fiction scenario a change of places for the first two of the group with the Madrilenos leading and the Catalans following second, since Laso’s team would have to lose from Zalgiris at home too.
The “Whites” are scoring almost 4 points more on average and also tallies 3 extra assists. On all other counts the two eternal rivals of Spanish sport walk hand in hand. The home team has to control the pace, to force the game to more of a frontcourt set play, to prevent Real from making any transitions and just for once to increase their scoring percentage. Τhe bad news for Barca is that Justin Doellman (photo) will miss the game due to injury.
Honorable mention: CSKA – Olympiakos (April 3 19:00 CET)
This is where the second place and the home advantage in the group will be decided! CSKA (10-2) hosts Olympiakos (9-3) and the team that wins will finish second. The home team is clearly more productive when it comes to scoring, creation and accuracy in free throws, two-point and three-point field goals, but Olympiakos has a more solid defense and that’s the weapon that they want to use in Russia in order to curtail the scoring of Itoudis’s team – like they did in Athens – and maximize their chances to contend for the win until the end. It’s also important whether Spanoulis and Sloukas will have the chance to play, with the last one almost guaranteed to be thrown in the battle.
The question: Panathinaikos – Alba (April 2 20:45 CET)
Panathinaikos (7-5) hosts Alba (6-6) at OAKA, where this year they have only lost from Barcelona (twice)! It’s simple. With a win the greens mathematically secure qualification and push the Berliners one step closer to elimination. In case something goes wrong, it’s important for them to maintain the 6-point lead of the first encounter (59-65) in Germany. At home Panathinaikos shoots diabolically well and is impressively efficient in defense. Obradovic’s team has to have their best night in order to be able to outdo themselves.
Under the microscope: Laboral Kutxa – Fenerbahce (April 2 21:00 CET)
A very important game, especially for Laboral (5-7) who need a win at all costs in order to stay alive in the battle for qualification against Efes until the last round! Fenerbahce (10-2) needs one win to mathematically secure the home advantage and it’s worth noting that both teams had two great losses with Davis Bertans and Ricky Hickman knocked out until the end of the season. In Vitoria the home team can overcome any opposition, but Obradovic’s team has forgotten how to lose in the Top16 and tallies 9 wins in a row!
The rest of the games
Efes (5-7) hosts Armani Milano (4-8) and needs the win, wishing for a giveaway from Fenerbahce in Vitoria, in order to advance to the playoffs! The Italian champions are in good condition, but they had a slow start in their group and they need two wins by the end and an impressive combination of results in order to qualify, since they have already lost their tie with Laboral and their game in Milan to Efes.
Nizhny Novgorod – Malaga (April 2 19:00 CET)
The successful “Cinderella” (3-9) of the season hosts Malaga (2-10) in Novgorod and needs the win in order to keep going and go out with their head held high in this year’s amazing adventure in the Euroleague.
The European champions (7-5) are expecting Galatasaray (2-10), the team of a thousand problems, and are aiming for the win, in order to secure qualification and chase to the end the 3rd place of the group.
The youthful Zalgiris (4-8) have put together a respectable run in this year’s Euroleague and they host Crvena Zvezda (3-9), a team that couldn’t do justice in the Top16 to the expectations they had created during the regular season. In any case, we’re talking about basketball clubs with loyal fans that always play for the win and their pride.