As is tradition on this site, we’re taking the playoffs in reverse order. Emmet Ryan is going to take on each series over the next four days to give his take on who makes it to Istanbul. Today we begin with top seeds Real Madrid against Darussafaka Dogus
Everybody figured Real were going to be good but Los Blancos exceeded expectations this season. Top slot with a 23-7 and some utterly dominant performances along the way was not on the cards pre-season. Before this year started we all wondered how they would adapt sans Chacho (turns out they were grand) and whether they could cope with CSKA and Fenerbahce in the arms race (yup again).
A whole bunch of things came together. Sergio Llull seemed to embrace the pressure of an increased role, Luca Doncic took the step we all expected him to and more, Anthony Randolph could blend big nights with a supporting role, and the supporting cast was just focused throughout. This was a team that could beat you in business-like fashion or turn it up to deliver one of those big-time whuppings that Real can do.
By contrast Dacka had a rather Efes of a season. Brad Wanamaker put up MVP level numbers, Will Clyburn looked more than capable of the step up in competition, and the mid-season arrival of Ante Zizic was a big boost, but for most of the year this side was on the wrong side of the playoff picture. It took overtime at Bamberg and a couple of scares in the season finale against Crvena Zvezda to punch this ticket. At no point could you really trust this team to be consistent and the BSL form of the side only reinforced that view, with Dacka at 18-7 and fighting to secure home-court in the first round of the playoffs there.
The subtext for casual observers will be Zizic, going up against NBA experienced talent in the form of Randolph and Gustavo Ayon. The combined speed of the American and straight ahead power of Ayon is going to pose questions ahead of his somewhat expected move to the Boston Celtics in the summer. Zizic’s game will, frankly, be over-analysed in a horribly narrow context of such a series. The body of work up to now should speak far more and that’s a lot more promising. There’s also the small matter that for most people watching, where one player goes next isn’t really of concern to them. They just want to see what he does in this series not what he might do in another country.
Normally, when it’s David Blatt in playoff ball, I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt here but this is just a mismatch. While Darussafaka managed to get a home W over Real in the regular season, it’s really hard to see them stretching this one out. Real look poised to commit one absolute whupping in the two home games, my money is on Game 2 but they might make the statement win early, and if they go to Istanbul up 2-0 I can’t see the tame Dacka crowd being enough to stop the sweep.
Fearless prediction: Real Madrid in a 3-0 sweep