Kostas Sloukas plays a very important role in the offense of Panathinaikos Athens. The experienced point guard reached excellent form towards the end of the regular season. Source: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Kostas Sloukas plays a very important role in the offense of Panathinaikos Athens. The experienced point guard reached excellent form towards the end of the regular season. Source: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

EuroLeague playoff preview: what and who to look out for?

Basketball OlyBet 22.04.2024

As we inch closer to May’s Final Four, the EuroLeague is reaching its pivotal stage. This week marks the start of four quarterfinal series, where even the most lopsided matchup promises excitement.

Eight teams, comprising the top six from the regular season and the two victors of the Play-In Showdown, will clash in best-of-five playoff series from Tuesday, April 23 to Wednesday, May 8. The higher-ranked teams from the regular season will host the first two games and, if necessary, the decisive fifth game in each series. The victors of these series will progress to the Final Four, set to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany, from May 24th to 26th.

Panathinaikos Athens vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (23 April, 20:30 EET, 25 April, 21:15 EET)

Panathinaikos has brilliantly capitalized on their home-court advantage in the latter half of the regular season, securing nine consecutive wins at OAKA. Meanwhile, Maccabi has also been in fine form, winning eight out of their last nine EuroLeague matches.

The foundation of the Israeli club’s success lies in their offense. In 2024, Maccabi has averaged an impressive 90.3 points per game, the best in the EuroLeague. Under Oded Kattash’s guidance, the team has excelled both beyond the arc and in two-point shooting, averaging a remarkable 21.8 assists per game in their last four matches.

Driving Maccabi’s offensive engine is their backcourt. Wade Baldwin leads the charge as the team’s alpha, while Lorenzo Brown’s stellar performance of 29 points and seven three-pointers against Baskonia marked his season’s highlight. Additionally, Tamir Blatt ranks among EuroLeague’s finest backup point guards.

On the other hand, Panathinaikos ranked second defensively during the regular season. Led by Jerian Grant, they have effectively stifled notable opponents like Mike James and Shane Larkin.

However, in the final three rounds of the regular season, Panathinaikos displayed vulnerability in defense, allowing a staggering 46.7% three-point shooting against them, a concerning statistic even in a small sample size.

Securing rebounds will also be crucial for Panathinaikos, as Maccabi poses a significant threat on the offensive glass, often capitalizing on easy second-chance points. By the way, Maccabi won both encounters against Panathinaikos during the regular season.

Real Madrid vs. Baskonia (23 and 25 April, 22:00 EET)

Both games during the regular season were tightly contested affairs: Real clinched a narrow victory early in the season on the road, while Baskonia secured a decisive win away towards the end of the season. In their sole meeting in the Spanish league this season so far, Real won by 14 points.

Analyzing recent performances, Baskonia’s recipe for success appears straightforward: Markus Howard needs to deliver around 30 points, and then Duško Ivanović’s squad stands a chance. While it might seem overly simplistic, the reality is if Howard fails to find his rhythm, Baskonia’s chances diminish significantly.

According to local media reports, fatigue is rampant among Baskonia’s players, which comes as no surprise. Unlike Real, who has a very deep roster, Baskonia lacks such depth.

Complicating matters further is the uncertainty surrounding key player Chima Moneke’s ankle injury sustained in the play-in against Maccabi. While the forward has had an impressive season thus far, it remains unclear whether he will be available for the first two matches against Real.

Although Real Madrid holds the title of defending champions and claimed the top spot in the regular season standings, it’s important not to underestimate this matchup. As we’ve witnessed during the regular season, Baskonia has the potential to be a formidable opponent.

One of the key players is Matt Costello. The American big man’s proficiency beyond the arc can draw Real’s twin towers Walter Tavares and Vincent Poirier to the perimeter and away from the paint, providing Baskonia with better opportunities to attack the rim and secure offensive rebounds.

Moreover, Baskonia thrives on playing at a fast pace, and during the regular season, Real sometimes struggled against such opponents, committing numerous turnovers. In the quarterfinals, focus must improve, and such errors cannot be repeated.

On the other hand, Baskonia must somehow stop Real’s transition game on offense. This necessitates controlling the battle on the boards, but even if the players from the Spanish capital manage to get fast break opportunities, they must be fouled quickly. In their regular-season meeting in Madrid, Baskonia failed to execute timely fouls, resulting in Real scoring numerous easy points.

Monaco vs. Fenerbahce Istanbul (24 and 26 April, 20:00 EET)

During the regular season, Monaco did manage to overcome Fenerbahce in the Principality, but historically, the Turkish powerhouse has proven to be a challenging opponent, with Monaco winning just two out of six encounters. However, current form is in Monaco’s favor, as they have triumphed in an impressive 12 out of their last 13 EuroLeague matches.

Monaco’s leader, Mike James, may not have been as stellar towards the end of the regular season as he was in the first half, but against Fenerbahce, the American has been exceptional. Over the last nine games, he has averaged a remarkable 20.4 points against the Turkish club.

Upon delving into the statistics, the teams are quite evenly matched in various aspects. However, one significant factor that stands out is the three-point shooting.

Monaco concluded the regular season with the fewest attempted and lowest percentage of three-pointers made in the last three games. Defensively, they allowed opponents to shoot 28.3 times from beyond the arc and the opposing team’s shooting percentage of 36.5% was well above average.

Fenerbahce is a team that favors long-range shooting. In the final three rounds of the regular season, they attempted an average of 31.3 three-pointers, the highest in the EuroLeague, with a very respectable shooting percentage of 38.3%.

Barcelona vs. Olympiacos (24 and 26 April, 22:00 EET)

For Olympiacos, who lost both of their regular-season games against Barcelona, defense is paramount. They boast one of the best defensive teams in the EuroLeague and truth be told, there’s little concern that Olympiacos’ defense will falter. However, when considering the series ahead, their offense is a question mark.

In the playoffs, the need for skilled one-on-one players is inevitable. As defenses become more aggressive, the value of individually talented players who can dismantle defenses and generate opportunities for themselves and their teammates increases. Unfortunately, Olympiacos lacks such a player. For instance, in the previous season, Kostas Sloukas played a pivotal role in the playoffs. However, with his departure to Panathinaikos over the summer, his role remained vacant.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if Olympiacos struggles offensively against Barcelona, especially as the Spanish club boasts a strong defense.

The final three rounds of the regular season provide reasons to consider two more factors. Firstly, can Olympiacos establish themselves on the glass? During that period, they were the weakest team in the EuroLeague both defensively and offensively on the boards, while Barcelona was one of the strongest.

Secondly, Barcelona faced defensive challenges, particularly in containing assists, showing vulnerabilities especially in pick-and-roll situations and defending cuts, areas where Olympiacos excels.

Incidentally, home-court advantage could prove pivotal in this series. Barcelona has an impressive record, winning 24 out of their last 26 EuroLeague home games.


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