Thomas Walkup is not a good three-point shooter, and this could again prove to be fatal for Olympiacos. Source: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Thomas Walkup is not a good three-point shooter, and this could again prove to be fatal for Olympiacos. Source: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

EuroLeague Final Four preview: The Greeks have significant question marks

Basketball OlyBet 22.05.2024

Finally, the time has come! This weekend, the most important matches of the EuroLeague season will take place. The Final Four tournament in Berlin features the semifinals on Friday and the championship game on Sunday. Find out who to watch and what to look out for in our preview!

Panathinaikos Athens vs. Fenerbahce Istanbul (24 May, 19:00 EET)

Both clubs are making their first appearance in the Final Four in a long time. Fenerbahce last reached the top four in 2019, while Panathinaikos hasn’t made it this far in 12 years.

In their two regular-season meetings, the home teams won: Fenerbahce triumphed 83-69 in Istanbul, and Panathinaikos won 74-63 in Athens. However, with three and a half months having passed since their last encounter, these results aren’t indicative of how the semifinal might play out.

Fenerbahce has had no injury issues since the EuroLeague quarterfinals, whereas Panathinaikos has rested several players due to health concerns. Key backcourt stars Kendrick Nunn and Kostas Sloukas have been sidelined but will play in Berlin.

It will be interesting to see whether the semifinal will feature defensive basketball or a scoring shootout, as both teams are capable of either. Over the season, Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos have both been above-average offensive and defensive teams.

Panathinaikos’ success largely hinges on the effectiveness of their backcourt. Nunn and Sloukas have been in excellent form during the playoffs, with the former NBA player Nunn scoring at least 25 points in four of the last six games. Nunn was also the biggest factor in Panathinaikos’ victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the deciding game of the quarterfinals.

However, Nunn’s efficiency has been inconsistent. He might score 20 points but could take 20 shots to do so, making Panathinaikos’ offense not as smooth.

While Fenerbahce needs to be wary of Nunn and Sloukas, they have a player who can contain one of them: former Panathinaikos point guard Nick Calathes. Calathes effectively shut down EuroLeague’s all-time leading scorer Mike James in the quarterfinals.

It will also be interesting to see if Panathinaikos leaves Calathes open at the three-point line, as Monaco did. It’s well-known that the Greek-American isn’t a sharpshooter, and teams often help defensively off him. However, in the decisive quarterfinal game, Calathes hit two crucial threes, securing Fenerbahce’s spot in the top four.

Besides the backcourt battle, the fight in the paint will be crucial. Panathinaikos’ center Mathias Lessort is one of the best in the EuroLeague, but Fenerbahce’s Johnathan Motley is also very active and an excellent rebounder. Both teams lack quality backup centers, so Lessort and Motley need to avoid foul trouble, which is a weakness for Motley.

Lessort’s free-throw shooting is a concern. In the quarterfinals against Maccabi, he made only 21 of 51 free throws, including missing 11 in one game. In four Greek league games since then, he made 15 of 17 free throws in the first three but hit just 3 of 10 in the fourth.

A pattern emerged in those games: when Lessort shot free throws well, Panathinaikos had no trouble winning. But when he struggled, they had difficulties. Panathinaikos will have a much easier time if Lessort can at least shoot free throws reasonably well.

Real Madrid vs. Olympiacos (24 May, 22:00 EET)

This will be the fourth time Real and Olympiacos face off in the Final Four. The Greek powerhouse remembers their last loss vividly, as Sergio Llull’s difficult mid-range shot over the towering Moustapha Fall in the final seconds of last season’s final snatched the title from them.

Real won both regular-season games. They edged out Olympiacos 77-71 in Greece and secured a 90-85 victory in Madrid. Notably, Real was leading by 24 points in the third quarter of the Madrid game before Olympiacos captain Kostas Papanikolaou staged a comeback for his team.

Olympiacos will be at full strength on Friday against Real, with Nigel Williams-Goss, Shaquielle McKissic, and Filip Petrušev all recovered from illnesses and injuries. The defending champions, Real, will be without Gabriel Deck due to a knee injury. Although Deck is a significant name in European basketball, his absence is not a huge loss given his inconsistent and largely underwhelming season.

For Olympiacos to defeat Real, they must play exceptional defense. In an open game, the Spanish club can easily score at least 85 points, a daunting target for Georgios Bartzokas’s team, which lacks the offensive firepower to compete in a high-scoring game.

Olympiacos aims to slow the pace, while Real prefers a faster game. However, Real is versatile and can adapt to a defense-oriented style. Controlling the rebounding battle is crucial for both teams. Real excels on the offensive boards, and Olympiacos cannot afford to give up easy second-chance points. Conversely, if Real can control their defensive rebounds, they can push the pace and cause problems for Olympiacos.

Guerschon Yabusele could be a key player for Real in the semifinal. With Deck out, Yabusele is expected to get ample minutes, and Olympiacos lacks a player who can effectively challenge the powerful and skilled Frenchman one-on-one.

For Olympiacos, it’s crucial that their main point guard, Thomas Walkup, is a threat from beyond the arc. While he is an excellent defender and playmaker, opponents often leave him open on the perimeter due to his unreliable shooting. For instance, in the quarterfinals against Barcelona, he made only 4 of 20 three-pointers. In last year’s final, Real allowed him many open shots, but he missed all five of his three-point attempts.

If Walkup struggles offensively, the burden will fall heavily on former Real player Williams-Goss. Although he is a skilled scorer who can heat up quickly, he is not very consistent.


This piece of content has been lovingly crafted by the hard-working sports people of OlyBet. Hope you like it!