Mike James has had tough games against Fenerbahçe Istanbul, largely due to Nick Calathes’ excellent defense. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Mike James has had tough games against Fenerbahçe Istanbul, largely due to Nick Calathes’ excellent defense. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

EuroLeague playoffs preview: will James show his MVP caliber?

Basketball OlyBet 06.05.2024

Three game-five matchups in the EuroLeague quarterfinals will determine the three clubs that will join Real Madrid at the Final Four, taking place in Berlin during the last weekend of May. Find out in our preview what could be decisive in the final matches of these series.

Panathinaikos Athens vs Maccabi Tel Aviv (7 May, 21:15 EET)

There are injury concerns in Maccabi’s backcourt, as the team leader, Wade Baldwin, will definitely miss the game, and John DiBartolomeo injured his shoulder in Sunday’s Israeli league match. Whether he will take to the court against Panathinaikos is currently unclear. However, it is certain that Lorenzo Brown and Tamir Blatt will play significant roles on Tuesday evening.

The success formula for both teams is simple, at least in theory. Panathinaikos must hold firm defensively because Maccabi struggles to contain opponents and scoring against Oded Kattash’s men isn’t a major issue. Additionally, rebounding must be controlled as Maccabi generates many second-chance points and is one of the top teams in offensive rebounding in the EuroLeague.

For Maccabi to overcome Panathinaikos, they must essentially play a flawless game, particularly on offense. The series has shown that when Maccabi can make the game fast-paced and open, Panathinaikos struggles, as the Israeli giant’s offensive firepower is formidable.

Maccabi must also hope for an off day from Panathinaikos’ leaders. Like Kostas Sloukas, who was held scoreless in the third game but has otherwise been fantastic in this series, averaging 15.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.3 rebounds, with excellent shooting percentages.

Maccabi’s task is further complicated by the fact that the fifth game will be played at Panathinaikos’ home arena. Greek media reported that over 80,000 people expressed interest in buying tickets for the match, but unfortunately, only just under 20,000 spectators will attend. The home-court advantage cannot be ignored, especially considering Panathinaikos has won a remarkable 14 out of the last 16 games played at OAKA.

Monaco vs Fenerbahçe Istanbul (8 May, 20:00 EET)

Monaco is in its third season in the EuroLeague, its third time in the quarterfinals, and for the third time, they will have to take the court for a game five in the series. Last season, they managed to defeat Maccabi at home, while the season before they lost away to Olympiacos.

This series has been peculiar in the sense that in the first four games, the winner scored either over 90 points or slightly below, but the fourth match was a complete defensive battle: Monaco won 65-62 in Turkey, and in EuroLeague history, there haven’t been many games where both teams’ offenses were so individualistic due to simply outstanding defense. Considering the significance of Wednesday’s battle, it wouldn’t be surprising if this game turned into a defensive struggle as well.

And if that’s the case, it’s crucial for Monaco that one of EuroLeague’s best defenders, John Brown III, returns to the court. The American injured his shoulder in the second game of the series and hasn’t played since. Fenerbahçe eagerly awaits the return of Johnathan Motley, who has missed the first four games but can be unstoppable on a good day.

It’s clear that Monaco’s chance of reaching the final four is significantly higher if Mike James delivers an MVP-worthy performance. Fenerbahçe has done an excellent job of containing the American, as James, who averages 11.3 points, has only hit 29% of his shots from the field.

Fenerbahçe has operated very evenly on offense, but one player surely needs to be more effective: Nigel Hayes-Davis has averaged 12.3 points, but like James, his shooting accuracy has been poor.

Barcelona vs Olympiacos (8 May, 22:00 EET)

The clubs head into the decisive game with vastly different backgrounds, as the fourth match of the series was incredibly one-sided: Olympiacos won at home by a whopping 34 points. Additionally, they welcomed back captain Kostas Papanikolaou from illness, who extinguished any remaining hopes for Barcelona with three consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter.

That game served as a vivid example of what happens when Olympiacos’ defense operates smoothly. Barcelona managed to score only 58 points, with just 35 points accumulated in the last 30 minutes of play.

Barcelona’s head coach, Roger Grimau, couldn’t turn the game around, and as his last resort, he turned to Dario Brizuela. While the Spanish international is a solid player, he’s not Markus Howard, who can explode on any given night and light up the scoreboard. In other words, if Olympiacos can maintain suffocating defense on Wednesday, Grimau needs to come up with something better than hoping Brizuela can save Barcelona.

At least the Catalans have home-court advantage, as they’ve lost only three out of the last 28 games played in Barcelona. Olympiacos is strong on the road, having won six out of the last eight encounters.

If Olympiacos buries Barcelona in defense, the hosts likely have no escape from defeat on Wednesday night. If Barcelona can maintain a relatively high tempo and shine offensively, Olympiacos will have a tough time because offense isn’t their forte.’


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