The final game of the Euroleague Playoffs is tonight as Power Electronics Valencia goes to Real Madrid in a decisive game five matchup – and the seventh time the teams have faced off this season. Tipoff is set for 8.45pm CET and without further ado, let’s open up the BallinEurope notebook on the series by recapping the first four games first…
• Game one: Real Madrid 71, PE Valencia 65
Emanuele Molin depended on his starters plus sixth man Nikola Mirotic and D’Or Fischer to do all the work, with these the only Blancos to play more than nine minutes. Ante Tomic was high scorer with 14 points, while Felipe Reyes recorded a near double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds – eight of which were an offense (!) – in just 20 minutes on the court. (For highlights of this one, you’ll have to click here.)
• Game two: PE Valencia 81, Real Madrid 75
Valencia teed off for 54.5% on threes, led by a career night from Omar Cook, who nailed a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc. Authorities are still searching for the awesome perimeter defense Madrid brought in game one, which apparently utterly disappeared at some point before this match.
• Game three: Real Madrid 75, PE Valencia 66
Who knew D’Or Fischer was such a crunch-time guy? Madrid completed a late comeback (and key away win) buoyed by Fischer’s 13 points and one big block in the fourth quarter.
• Game four: PE Valencia 81, Real Madrid 72
Adapting to Fischer, Valencia lengthened the court on offense; Robertas Javtokas rediscovered his short-range touch and got the better of Madrid’s big man with a nice 12-point, seven-board, two-steal performance.
So, what to expect in tonight’s game? A few notes gathered from ‘round the interwebs follow.
• According to Europa Press, the equation is thought to be simple: An offense-first game favors Valencia, while a defense-first mentality is to Real Madrid’s advantage. (“El grupo necesita frenar la irregularidad que le acosa en los últimos partidos, tras haber sufrido un bajón en sus espléndidos números en defensa…”)
• (Though the writer seems to have forgotten this particular match from earlier in the season … on the other hand, the ‘Press might just have attributed that low score to general sloppiness rather than stellar defense from either side.)
• Stat monkeys and basketball history buffs, prepare to take note. Two of Euroleague.net editorial director Frank Lawlor’s three doom-and-gloom statistics on low seeds and away teams in the EL playoffs are still relevant for tonight’s game (maybe):
“Since the Euroleague playoffs started in 2005, lower-seeded teams without homecourt advantage lost 21 out of 24 three- and five-game series,” and “Likewise, 21 out of the 24 of the teams that lost Game 1 in those series failed to advance to the Final Four.”
Valencia, of course, meets both those requirements.
• Reported injuries: Madrid still doesn’t have Sergio Rodríguez and James Augustine, but Sergio Llull will play. Injury-prone Valencia saw Nando De Colo – perhaps the Electronics’ MVP in game four – sit out last weekend’s ACB win at Cajasol, while Serhiy Lishchuk left the game early; both are expected to play tonight, however.
• Speaking of injuries, Valencia coach Svetislav Pesic reassures that “The team isn’t in the best possible shape going into the game against Real Madrid, but we will try to make up for it.”
And Svetislav may earn the sobriquet “Svengali” if he’s got his squad as mentally prepared as he claims that “…the motivation of the team is maximum. Our head is already in the game and on wanting to play our game in Madrid.”
All right, then. (Hey, are you gonna argue with this guy in 2010-11?)
• Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™: Forget the history, the too-small defense, the injuries and the numbers … and remember which side has Pesic. BiE’s not getting off this horse yet: Valencia 77, Real Madrid 75.