This Week: Direct clashes can shake up the playoff race


The race for the playoffs is hotter than ever in probably the most aggressive Turkish Airways EuroLeague Common Season in historical past and a number of other rivals will meet head-to-head in Spherical 30. Here’s what it’s worthwhile to look out for on this week’s video games.

Zenit seeks house consolation

With key victories final week by TD Methods Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and Valencia Basket coupled with defeats for Actual Madrid, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, Zenit St Petersburg and Zalgiris Kaunas, the playoff race has additional intensified with these six groups now separated by simply two wins. And a few them sq. off in Spherical 30’s opening tip on Thursday when host Zenit (16-12) makes an attempt to bounce again into kind in opposition to Baskonia (15-14), which goals to keep up momentum following a victory over FC Bayern Munich.

Earlier within the season, Zenit was struggling to win at house however almost all the time triumphing on the street. That has completely modified now, although, with Coach Xavi Pascual’s males dropping 5 of their final six away video games whereas profitable six of eight on their house courtroom. The excellent news for Zenit is that 5 of its six remaining video games will likely be staged in St Petersburg. So this week’s host will purpose to start out that sequence in the best means by gaining a win which might additionally safe the potential head-to-head tiebreaker, having already crushed Baskonia in Vitoria in November.


Final probability for Zalgiris to remain alive?

One other direct battle for a spot within the prime eight will unfold on Thursday in Istanbul, the place Fenerbahce (17-12) and Zalgiris (15-14) will search to bounce again from disappointing outcomes final week. Fenerbahce was restricted to its lowest factors whole since 2009 in a 66-52 defeat to Valencia, the place Coach Igor Kokoskov’s crew was held to simply 3 three-pointers on 23 makes an attempt. The Turkish crew additionally dedicated 18 turnovers on a horrible offensive night time, not helped by the absence of Marko Guduric with an ankle harm. Fenerbahce is 12-1 with Guduric this season and 5-11 with out him, so Kokoskov will likely be desperate to see the swingman again in motion on Thursday.

Zalgiris, in the meantime, is aware of the sport is a final real looking probability to revive its flagging playoff hopes. The Lithuanian champ suffered a pummelling in Istanbul final week by the hands of Anadolu Efes and has now misplaced 5 of its final seven video games, with 4 of the defeats approaching the street. Zalgiris has solely averaged 67.7 factors over these seven video games and badly wants to start out making photographs from the get-go to forestall Fenerbahce from feeling snug.

Pink-hot Efes playoffs-bound?

The week’s motion begins early on Tuesday with a rearranged Spherical 23 sport between Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv (11-16) and Efes (18-10), which may concurrently assist the guests safe a spot within the playoffs whereas leaving the out-of-form hosts on the point of elimination. Efes is in magnificent kind, having gained seven consecutive video games to climb from exterior the highest eight into fourth place. Coach Ergin Ataman’s crew may even qualify for the playoffs this week by profitable at Maccabi on Tuesday after which overcoming Bayern (18-11) on the street in a key sport on Friday, however provided that Baskonia, Valencia and Zalgiris all lose in Spherical 30.

No matter occurs this week, although, it’s certainly only a matter of time earlier than Efes punches its post-season ticket as a result of the crew is having fun with one of the vital dominant spells of kind ever witnessed within the competitors: Efes’s seven straight wins have include a mean margin of 20.9 factors whereas netting a outstanding 92.0 factors per sport. Trying to cease that juggernaut on Tuesday will likely be a Maccabi crew that has misplaced 5 of its final six and should win each remaining sport to have any probability of the playoffs.

Struggling giants collide

An enormous battle will likely be staged on Thursday night time within the Spanish capital, the place two struggling giants will meet as Actual Madrid (17-12) hosts CSKA Moscow (18-10). These titans of the European sport, each two-time title winners within the final decade, are sore after struggling powerful losses final week. Actual went down at house to archrival FC Barcelona, permitting the visiting crew to rejoice advancing to the playoffs. Coach Pablo Laso’s crew has misplaced 4 of its final six video games and now faces a frightening conclusion to the common season with each Istanbul groups nonetheless mendacity in wait.

CSKA, in the meantime, has set a really undesirable report twice within the area of two video games: in Spherical 28, the Russian crew’s first-quarter deficit of 18 factors (31-13) in opposition to Efes was the worst ever recorded by the membership in a EuroLeague quarter. However that mark solely stayed in place for one sport, as a result of final week’s loss at house to AX Armani Alternate Milan noticed the Italian crew race right into a 20-point lead (10-30) on the finish of the opening quarter. In that context, it’s truthful to say CSKA will likely be focusing on a powerful begin to this week’s showdown in Madrid.


Can Punter fireplace Milan previous Barca?

These large victories final week for Milan (19-10) and Barcelona (21-8) see them respectively occupy second and first place within the standings forward of Friday’s assembly within the Italian style capital which may simply show to be a gown rehearsal for the Closing 4. Milan can solely qualify for the playoffs this week by way of an advanced sequence of outcomes together with no less than three different groups dropping, however at the start, Coach Ettore Messina’s males should win to keep up a powerful place within the all-important prime 4. The important thing man may show to be capturing guard Kevin Punter, who leads the crew in scoring with 15.0 factors per sport, together with a career-high 32 factors to encourage final week’s win over CSKA.

Punter was restricted to simply 6 factors, changing solely 2-of-11 discipline aim makes an attempt, when his crew was crushed convincingly, 87-71, at Barcelona in December, so he’ll really feel that he has one thing to show in opposition to a visiting crew which will likely be desperate to seal homecourt benefit within the playoffs as quickly as doable – although that can’t mathematically occur this week.

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