NBA

EuroLeague Betting: Court is in session and Baskonia face a trial by ordeal as they travel to mighty Moscow

April 15, 2019January 6th, 2022

FOLLOWING the lead of the NBA, it’s the turn of the EuroLeague to tip off its playoffs this week.

Unlike their American counterpart, only the quarter-finals are decided in series – a best of five duel to determine who reaches next month’s Final Four in Vitoria.

And while two of the match-ups look highly predictable, the other pairings have a real air of uncertainty which should make them fascinating to watch.

Kept apart at this stage, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona always bear lofty expectations but Spain’s grand old rivals face genuine battles to survive and advance.

In the case of Real, they host Panathinaikos in Wednesday’s Game 1 with the Greeks granted the role of threatening upstarts following their late-season revival under Rick Pitino.

The Greens of Athens have caught fire when it counted, winning six out of seven and rounding it off with a rare triple-double by Nick Calathes in a rout of Buducnost.

Their lone loss? By a single point at … Real Madrid, thanks to Rudy Fernandez’s Hail Mary on the buzzer which gave the hosts a 2-0 sweep.

But after an 8-0 start to the continental campaign, the Spaniards lost four of their last nine (throw in also a Copa Del Rey final defeat to Barca) and were held under 78 points in all but one of those reverses.

Throw in also the injury cloud hanging over Sergio Llull (he may sit out the start) and the scoring inconsistency of Facundo Campazzo (whose duel with Calathes is pivotal) and Panathinaikos look great value at 3.35 to pinch an early advantage.

Of late, they’ve been able to match different situations against high-level opponents, holding Efes to 75, CSKA to 78 and Madrid to 73, a trend which suggests this will be a series of low margins.

Real, mired in second place in the ACB, haven’t regained their verve of the autumn. Pitino, a magician for all his faults, may be able to rouse his men again.

By contrast, FC Barcelona start as the underdogs on Tuesday at the outset of their quarters with Anadolu Efes Istanbul by virtue of finishing one place below in the regular season in fifth place. Too close to call, ultimately, even though the Turks dished out a 92-70 rout last month behind a 37-point tirade from Shane Larkin.

Not entirely predictive, with Barca shooting only 3-23 from three-point range. And neither side has been unable to over-achieve all season, going 1-5 against the top three while boosting their respective statuses by picking off lower-ranked teams.

History is against Efes, who have never won a playoff series but who have gained home advantage for the first time with their highest-ever placing.

If defence counts more in the post-season, then Barcelona will take confidence from allowing only 76.4 points per game during the regular season, second-fewest in the competition. Efes, averaging 85.4 points, could find their transition pushed into a slower gear.

FULL EUROLEAGUE BETTING

And if that happens, there is the chance that – as on the domestic front – FC Barcelona outlasts Real Madrid once again.

The other two series have the potential for quick kills.

Fenerbahce has won 17 EuroLeague games in a row on its own floor dating back to last season and the reigning champions will not fear Zalgiris Kaunas despite the six-game winning streak from the Lithuanians which catapulted them into the playoffs at the very last – benefitting from a soft schedule and a Real side with nothing at stake.

The quarter-final tie is a repeat of the 2018 semi-finals, won by Fener 76-67 with the regular season champions victorious in both meetings with Zalgiris by an average of 12 points, which makes going over 154.5 total points worth a punt at 2.16.

Tuesday’s other opening gambit pits Baskonia against a CSKA Moscow side who have yet to lose a playoff series this century. The Russians’ two victories against the Basque outfit came by a total of only seven points this term including an 82-78 triumph two weeks ago with their visitors potentially offering a pay-out on a handicap of +6 at 2.40.

And although CSKA’s frailties could leave the door open to a slippage, Baskonia – who have lost 14 in a row in Moscow – don’t have enough surely to pay them pay.

PREDICTIONS

  • (1) Fenerbahce v (8) Zalgiris Kaunas
  • Prediction: Fenerbahce win 3-0
  • (2) CSKA Moscow v (7) Baskonia
  • Prediction: CSKA win 3-1
  • (3) Real Madrid v (6) Panathinaikos
  • Prediction: Panathinaikos win 3-2
  • (4) Efes Istanbul v (5) FC Barcelona
  • Prediction: Barcelona win 3-1

Best bet: Go under 159.5 total points in Game 1 of Real Madrid – Panathinaikos at 2.23