By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The stakes are high and that usually means that Olympiacos will be ready to roll. Anadolu Efes is trying to get in its first Final Four of the modern era – Efes was the first Turkish team to participate in a Final Four in the last season of the FIBA organized Euroleague in 2000 – and the last time they reached the playoffs back, two years ago, they were eliminated by Real Madrid.
In 2013 they were eliminated by Olympiacos in Game 5 and the scenery is pretty much the same. Olympiacos, at that time the defending champ, remains the more experienced and battle-tested team, while Anadolu Efes has to break the home court advantage in order to advance.
That’s not going to be easy, but the two clubs have a long history that includes road wins for both. Still at this point of the season, Anadolu Efes never managed to get the job done and advance to the Final Four.
Can this season be different? There are some indications about that with Anadolu Efes being probably the most athletic team of the league and maybe mature enough to upset the Greeks. Still if there’s one team that has the know-how in comebacks and Final Four qualification in recent years, that’s Olympiacos.
Key match-up: Spanoulis vs Heurtel
Matt Lojeski will be missing for Olympiacos, Tyler Honeycutt’s presence is also in question at least for the first couple of games and specially Olympiacos has taken during the season many things from players not named Vasilis Spanoulis.
But as long as “Kill Bill” is on the floor, there can be no other player as important as him for the Reds, with the only possible exception of Giorgos Printezis (that’s where Honeycutt is really needed). Spanoulis will be guarded both from Jason Granger and Thomas Heurtel.
And while Granger closed the season playing great, what makes specially this year Spanoulis and Heurtel so similar – and important – is their passing ability. Spanoulis averaged 6 assists per game as only Milos Teodosic passes better than him, while Heurtel is fourth with 5.8 assists per game. They are also pretty close as scoring with Heurtel averaging 13,2 and Spanoulis 11,85 points per game.
I know what you did in the Regular Season
In the first home game of Olympiacos for the season and after a 18 points road defeat by Real Madrid the Reds destroyed Anadolu Efes by 24 points (90-66) setting the tone for things to come.
In the second to last game of the regular season Anadolu Efes beat Olympiacos 77-69 at Istanbul, however the Greeks had already secured the home court advantage. It goes without saying that those two games don’t mean anything for the playoffs. The stakes are now really high.
Prediction of the series: Olympiacos in the Final Four
It’s clear that Anadolu Efes is the underdog and Olympiacos despite missing Lojeski is having the first and probably the last word in this series. Spanoulis is healthy again, Patrick Young is playing his best basketball for the season and the Greeks seem ready to return to Istanbul for a Final Four after their 2012 triumph.
Anadolu Efes during the last month is also producing great basketball, however it seems that the best thing they can do is to push the series to a Game 5.