By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
We confess, we are addicted to Euroleague. The 4th gameday of Top16 makes more excited for three reasons. First of all, there are many interesting games where anything can happen. Also after the buzzer we will have for the first time a clear image about the qualification to the play offs, specially about the teams that will be stuck on the bottom of the standings.
The third reason? For the first time – ok, it’s just a coincidence – we will have games spread into three games, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday! What could be better? Only a closed league divided into conferences with big games every day.
The game of the week: Fenerbahce – Caja Laboral
A team searching for its first win in Top16 is hosting the “train” named Caja which counts 15 consecutive victories! Coach Pianigiani is feeling insecure in his new club, while coach Tabak could evolved for Caja to what Pianigiani was for Siena! According to simple logic, Fenerbahce/ Ulker has to win sooner or later and Caja Laboral has to lose. However, there is also basketball logic.
That basketball logic was underestimated by the Turkish club and also by the Italian coach and now they are paying the price. Fener is the worst Euroleague team in rebounding, has a problem in creation and a lack of athleticism and energy in its front line. Caja has a golden opportunity to take advantage of the pressure Fener feels and take a huge step towards the play offs home court advantage. The Turks should show their character and win in order to stay alive. If they don’t, then they will be in a very awkward position and the criticism outside and… inside the team will grow into unprecedented levels.
It’s a European derby with a special stature. CSKA already lost this season at Zalgiris‘ home court for VTB League, but this time goes to Kaunas having a 3-0 record. The team of coach Plaza is hosting the “army team”, having a 1-2 record after losing two games on the last shot by Panathinaikos and Real Madrid, as Darjus Lavrinovic and Marko Popovic lost the chance to be heroes! It will be a beautiful game in one of the most beautiful arenas in Europe and can’t be missed.
We have a hunch that this game will be decided by the backcourts. Zalgiris has the quality needed, but coach Messina seems to be, at least in the last two weeks, a fan of small ball, using three guards on the same time. Also, Darjus Lavrinovic is expected to miss the game, as also Voronchevich.
The last chance: Alba Berlin – Panathinaikos
This is the Wednesday’s game. Alba already proved its worth by qualifying to Top16, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want more. But with a 0-3 record and two home defeats, one more lost game in Berlin will make its position extremely difficult, even with 10 games left. There is hope because Panathinaikos traveled without Dimitris Diamantidis. Alba should also find a way to score and rebound more against the formidable Green front line. It’s the first meeting of the two teams in Euroleague after 12 years, however Panathinaikos will feel right at home in the gym where they won their 5th Euroleague title.
The unknown war: Khimki – Maccabi Tel Aviv
We proved to be quite the oracle by putting the game under this title last week the game between Real and Zalgiris, but this time the war is known to everybody and it concerns only one team. Khimki hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Russians are still undefeated in a lot more balanced as a team compared to the unit of coach Blatt. However, Khimki’s players are unpaid for the last three months, they are training individually for the game and they are at odds with the team’s front office.
Our prediction? Khimki’s players will present themselves on the court focused and strong. If Maccabi finds its rhythm, then it can achieve almost anything, but against an opponent who has a solid defense and high basketball IQ, it will not be easy for the Israelis.
Together again: Olympiacos – Siena
Those two teams played each other 8 times the last two seasons in Euroleague’s play off. Both times the team that didn’t had the home court advantage prevailed. Siena has a new face, Olympiacos is almost the same. Siena is still undefeated, the defending champions has just a 1-2 record, but has lost this season only one game in Piraeus against Zalgiris. We will pick Olympiacos for the win and here’s why.
Siena seemed tired in its last Legabasket game against Sassari, despite having by far the best offense in Euroleague. The Reds are coming from a slump, they have to win and in order to do so, their first priority should be defense. As it was proven many times, defense in Europe has a better chance of beating offense. What we are eager to see? The backcourt battle between Vassilis Spanoulis and Bobby Brown.
Is it time for a change? Besiktas – Barcelona
Those two opponents met also in the regular season, with Barcelona winning both encounters – in Turkey by +30 points. The defending champions of Turkey just don’t match up well with the team of coach Pascual. Navarro is injured and as it was proven in the domestic game against Estudiantes, that’s bad news for the Catalans. On the other hand the reigning Spanish champions have to bounce back, that will be their extra motive and it’s bad news for the Turks who are searching their first Top16 win.
It’s an all Spanish battle in Eurolague! It will be a game of rhythm, something that usually is decided by the defense and the shooting efficiency. Unicaja has a 1-2 record and needs the win, after failing to qualify to the “Copa Del Rey”, its domestic cup final eight. Real is still and wants to remain undefeated, hoping for a Zalgiris’ win against CSKA. It’s hard to predict anything, other than Unicaja will be under pressure and during the last seasons, pressure never been its friend…
It seems strange, but it’s the first time those two clubs play each other. Anadolu Efes wants its third straight Top16 win, Brose Baskets has a 0-3 record, but this number doesn’t tell the truth about the German champions. The team is much improved, specially compared to the start of the season and the quality work of coach Fleming is starting to show itself.
Αnadolu Efes, like Jordan Farmar, is back on form, but the road game in Bamberg is a dangerous trap. The team of coach Mahmuti will have to play up to its full potential in order to win and that also means stopping Boki Nachbar. Yes, the start of Brose Bamberg who almost went unnoticed during his two season (2009-2011) in Efes‘ roster.