Zeljko Obradovic leads his Partizan Belgrade team to Athens to take on his former club Panathinaikos in a big Euroleague Basketball battle
It’s been 11 years yet every return of Zeljko Obradovic to Athens to take on Panathinaikos still feels special. On Friday, he guides his Partizan Belgrade team into the Oaka for Euroleague Basketball action.
Who: Panathinaikos (13-8) vs Partizan Belgrade (11-10)
Where: Oaka, Athens
When: Friday 18 January at 20.15 CET, 19.15 UK/Ireland, 14.15 EST
Last time out
It was a resounding win for Ergin Ataman’s Panathinaikos side as they wiped the floor with AS Monaco in the Oaka. That win means they hold the fourth and final home court slot in the Euroleague Basketball playoff race.
Partizan Belgrade meanwhile bounced back from losing their previous two games with an important win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. That victory put Partizan in 9th place overall in the standings and one of four teams tied on 11-10. All four of those teams occupy the play-in spots right now.
When you look at Panathinaikos, you can’t look past Mathias Lessort. He has been brilliant for them this season. The big man isn’t just about the points and rebounds, although he impresses in both respects. Lessort is a grit machine, with a ridiculous work rate that helps open up the floor for others around him.
Lessort being the key piece for Panathinaikos won’t surprise anyone, least of all Partizan. The Frenchman was a vital piece for Obradovic prior to departing in the summer and the legendary coach will have him well-scouted.
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Need to know
Aside from it being a return for Obradovic and a chance for Lessort to meet up with his old running buddies, this game has huge implications for the postseason. Only two wins separate Panathinaikos and Partizan Belgrade right now. Despite that, it feels like the two clubs are in different battles in Euroleague Basketball.
For Panathinaikos, the goal is home court in the playoffs. For Partizan, it feels like the goal is avoiding the playoffs and ensuring a top six spot. In both cases, their situations are fragile. This is a crowded league.
What the bookies think
Panathinaikos are clear favourites in this one at 4/11 on most markets. Partizan Belgrade are reasonably priced at 2/1. That’s a nicely balanced book and one that gives value to bettors in my mind.
The point spread is interesting at -5.5 in favour of Panathinaikos in most markets. That’s the market I’d keep my eye on the most ahead of tipoff on Friday night.
What we think
There’s a lot to like here in terms of the strategic battle between Ataman and Obradovic. The two of them are about as experienced at this level as it gets. They also have the championships to back it up.
Home court is such a big issue for Panathinaikos in their first season under the former Anadolu Efes coach. That has me leaning towards them making the big step forward in this one.
This sounds like a fudge but it is not. I genuinely believe that the winner of this game is tough to call. I also genuinely believe that if Panathinaikos win, they will win it clearly. That means I’m going to take them to get it done with a little room to spare at the end.
Pick: Panathinaikos -5.5.