The playoffs are here and Euroleague has put together a couple of familiar pairings, one way too familiar, as 8 teams battle it out for a trip to the Final Four. Emmet Ryan breaks down the pairings
For any of you who somehow have come across this piece and don’t know who is playing who in the Best-of-5 Euroleague 2018-19 playoffs, here are the match-ups:
CSKA Moscow vs Baskonia
Fenerbahce vs Zalgiris
Anadolu Efes vs Barcelona
Real Madrid vs Panathinaikos
Can we just ban this match-up?
CSKA Moscow are facing Baskonia in the playoffs again because CSKA Moscow and Baskonia are destined to meet forever in the post-season even though, they’ve actually only met once in the last three times before now that Baskonia have made the playoffs. 2017 saw CSKA sweep the Basque club, having also beaten them 3-1 in the 2013 playoffs, and 3-1 in 2010. They don’t actually meet that often yet it’s the inevitability of these two in a series, especially given CSKA’s 9-2 record in those clashes, that really gives little hope for joy. Baskonia will need every break to go their way in this one, despite having an edge at the 5, but it’s tough to see them even taking a game in this one.
Pick: CSKA Moscow 3-0
The music stops
Zalgiris needed to win their last six games to have any hope of making the post-season. They did. They needed a bunch of favours along the way in games outside of their control. They got them. Now they have a sell-out in the books for Game 3 in Kaunas and you know the Lithuanian fans are going to go mad for it. They just have to beat Fenerbahce. While the long-term health situation around their bigs could be an issue for Fener in Vitoria, it’s hard to see Zalgiris stopping them from getting there. The 25-5 delivery of the regular season’s best record is not what you get from a flukey team living and dying with the health of a single player or two. Fener are built to win a series, any series for that matter. They are going to win this one and it’s tough to see Zalgiris doing anything but landing a couple of promising yet futile punches in Game 3.
Pick: Fenerbahce 3-0
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Feed. Me. More.
Oh I’ve been waiting for this series. Barcelona and Efes are just going to pound each other into the ground in an absolute war. There’s a series with potential to top it for drama but nothing will match the fun of this one. The talent is there, so our the multiple redemption storylines, this is some straight up high end wrestling booking as pairings go. This series has easily the best chance of going the distance and I could see both sides picking up road wins in the series. For the call, it frankly comes down to the slightest of edges. Efes gets Game 5 at home. I think this one goes the distance. In that scenario, it’s really hard to look past whoever has that home court advantage on the last night. Don’t be surprised if this looks a lot like the last series Barca had, where they went down in 5 to Lokomotiv Kuban. There’s just enough here for me to see Ergin Ataman forcing an Istanbul derby in the Final Four.
Pick: Efes 3-2
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Is Nick Calathes Superman?
That’s what it is going to take. Rick Pitino is a serious coach of the year candidate, not least for him resurrecting Papagiannis, but PAO’s hopes will live and die with Nick Calathes. He’s delivered another MVP calibre season and, unlike last year, Real don’t have Luka Doncic. What Real do have is a really talented roster that looks capable of repeating and back-to-back titles don’t happen often. Los Blancos won’t be intimidated by the OAKA crowd, they’ve already shown they can get the job done there. That’s going to matter a lot because PAO have the talent to strike on the road. This is the series where those of us who aren’t convinced of Panathinaikos have been trying to talk ourselves into them winning but, even if they make it go the distance, I just can’t see them closing the deal.
Pick: Real Madrid 3-2
If you want to tear into my opinions even more, check out the latest episode of the Euroleague Sweet 16 podcast where I joined Aris Barkas of Eurohoops and Moshe Barda of Team Scout to break down the playoffs. Tune in below:
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