It’s playoff time with two fantastic match-ups, one we are a little shaky on, and a fourth we are worried will be a blow-out.
The Euroleague playoffs tip-off tomorrow, following a thrilling end to the Top 16 despite not one team changing positions in the playoff rankings in the final round of games. There was drama but we also learned a lot. Here’s how BiE sees the four series going, ranked from most to least exciting.
Fenerbahce vs Maccabi Tel Aviv
If you don’t have this marked down as the series most likely to go five games then you really haven’t been watching these teams. There’s no question that Fenerbahce have a seriously talented side but that’s been true for three seasons and this is the first time they have turned that playoff quality into a playoff place. Maccabi, for their part, are not the team that lifted the Euroleague title last season but around this time last year a huge chunk of us figured Milano would stop them from getting back to, well, Milano. Picking a series to go 5 is way riskier than picking a sweep but this one just screams of an absolute slobberknocker to me. It’s going the distance.
Pick: Fenerbahce in 5
Barcelona vs Olympiacos
Here we have two teams where there’s a lot to like and just enough to terrify you. When either is hot, they are really hot, but both are prone to lapses out of absolutely nowhere. What makes Barca and the Reds so compelling is that we won’t know which version of each team is going to turn up on a given night. It’s reasonable to assume that each has two to three good nights in them but how and where they show up is another matter entirely. With Barca, it’s home advantage that has them as the favourites here but it wouldn’t exactly be jaw-dropping to see the Blaugrana bow out at this stage. It’s Barcelona’s greater reliability on the road that has me just stopping of picking another one going the distance here.
Pick: Barcelona in 4.
CSKA Moscow vs Panathinaikos
This is one where everyone is just that little bit worried about a sweep. The Greens managed to make the playoffs despite losing to Alba Berlin at home in the penultimate round and a Crvena Zvezda team with nothing to play for last Thursday. The good news for Panathinaikos is that there’s no Boban Marjanovic to worry about this time around. The bad news is that CSKA look deservedly favourites to win it all. A win in the OAKA at the first attempt isn’t unthinkable. The Greens should have enough to make a fight of this but I don’t see it going the distance.
Pick: CSKA in 4
Real Madrid vs Anadolu Efes
Eugh. Efes, really? Don’t get me wrong, this team has a great coach and some serious talent but it’s not exactly been filling anyone with confidence lately. Backing its way into the playoffs thanks to Unicaja Malaga taking down Baskonia in a game Malaga really didn’t need to care about isn’t exactly the way to inspire confidence. Real Madrid have looked more vulnerable than last year’s edition but this is still a talented line-up with the firepower to take down Efes with room to spare. Only one pick here I’m afraid.
Pick: Real Madrid in 3