Euroleague basketball predictions included under each mini game preview.
Round 21 tips off with a clash of titans between 2016 EuroLeague champion CSKA Moscow and 2015 winner Real Madrid. Two hours later, the 2017 finalists, Olympiacos Piraeus and Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul will duel in Greece. On Friday, Khimki Moscow Region point guard Stefan Markovic will welcome his former team, Unicaja Malaga, to the Russian capital.
Khimki Moscow vs Unicaja Malaga
Khimki (11-9) welcomes Unicaja (8-12) for a game with major potential ramifications for the playoffs picture. The Russian team has been wildly unpredictable in recent weeks, especially at home with its last four games resulting in blowout wins by 28 and 18 points and heavy losses by 14 points and 17 points. Attempting to exploit that vulnerability is a Unicaja team full of frustration after losing three of its last five games by just 2 points, all with the outcome decided on the game’s final play. Unicaja is the league’s second-best offensive rebounding team, averaging 12.8 per game, largely thanks to a man who will be on familiar territory: ex-Khimki center James Augustine.
Brose Bamberg vs Panathinaikos
Brose (7-13) will look to give its playoffs ambitions fresh life against a Panathinaikos (13-7) team that has been fraying its fans’ nerves perhaps more than any other team: no less than 10 of the Greens’ games have been settled by 6 points or fewer. Panathinaikos ranks third in the competition in steals with 6.8 per game, while Brose is a long way last in that category with just 4.7 per game. The German team also trails the competition in shots blocked, with just 1.7 rejections per game compared to Panathinaikos’s average of 2.9.
Baskonia vs Crvena Zvezda
Two teams with serious aspirations of pushing towards the top half close the week with a must-win battle in Vitoria. Baskonia (9-11) has won once and lost twice on the final buzzer in the last three weeks, while Zvezda (8-12) will have renewed confidence after ending a three-game losing streak with last week’s win over Olympiacos. Baskonia is the league’s third-best shot-blocking team with an average of 3.4 rejections, but Zvezda often seeks success further away from the rim, attempting the third-highest number of three-point shots in the competition (25.2 per game). Expect maximum intensity in a game with playoffs-like significance.
Euroleague Basketball Tips
CSKA Moscow vs Real Madrid
The week tips off in style as league-leading CSKA (16-4) hosts a Madrid (13-7) team that has won eight of its last nine games and is eager to maintain a place in the top four. CSKA will want revenge after a heavy Round 2 loss in the Spanish capital and has Leo Westermann back from injury to bolster a backcourt also containing ex-Madrid star Sergio Rodriguez. The visitors will look to use the size of in-form Walter Tavares to dominate the paint against another player going up against his old team, Othello Hunter. Los Blancos expect to also welcome former All-EuroLeague big man Anthony Randolph back after more than two months. It’s a meeting between the league’s two highest-scoring teams (CSKA 88.6 points per game; Madrid 84.1 ppg.), so expect fireworks!
Anadolu Efes vs Valencia
A basement battle gives injury-plagued Valencia (7-13) – which lost San Van Rossom in last week’s win over Khimki – another chance to boost its faint playoffs hopes with a trip to face last-placed Efes (5-15). Van Rossom joins fellow point men Antoine Diot and Guillem Vives on the sidelines, but the Spanish team has still managed to win four of its last six games to revive its season. Efes has not lost by more than 5 points at home since Round 4, so Valencia certainly won’t have it easy, and the home team will look to profit from its offensive rebounding abilities (12.6 per game, third-best in the league).
Barcelona vs Olimpia Milan
An early tip-off in Barcelona will see the hosts (7-13) attempt to make a fast start against a Milan team (6-14) that has been offensively potent in recent weeks, scoring at least 80 points in each of its last six games and averaging 89.2 points during that period. Indeed, three of Milan’s last four games have seen at least one team reach triple figures. That will suit Barcelona’s fast-paced offense, which leads the league in assists with an average of 20.9 per game. So everything is pointing towards a high-scoring shoot-out in a game that has to be won to preserve even faint hopes of joining the playoffs race.
Zalgiris vs Maccabi Tel Aviv
After gaining its first road win in six attempts last week, Maccabi (11-9) will now try to double up and join Zalgiris on 12 wins for the season. Zalgiris would like to win by at least 8 points to ensure control of the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams. Maccabi again showcased its open style by scoring 31 two-pointers – the fifth-highest of the season – in last week’s win at Milan, with many of those coming in fastbreak or transition situations. Zalgiris has won six straight at home and boasts much more accurate shooting than Maccabi across the board, making 55% of two-pointers, 40% of triples and 78.5% of free throws against the Israeli team’s respective figures of 51.2%, 36.6% and 69.7%.
Olympiacos vs Fenerbahce
A hotly-anticipated rematch of last season’s championship game carries huge significance for Olympiacos (13-7), which has dropped down the standings with a run of four consecutive road defeats. But the Reds have still excelled at home with five straight victories in Piraeus, so Fenerbahce (14-6) faces a major challenge to extend its winning run to six games. It is a meeting between the league’s top two defenses, with Fenerbahce allowing 72.5 points per game and Olympiacos only fractionally worse with 73.3 ppg conceded. But Olympiacos must find a way to stop red-hot Brad Wanamaker, the league’s MVP for the last two rounds.
Basketball Tips: livetipster.com