NBA

EuroLeague: Faltering R Madrid need to find their A-game against champions-elect Fenerbahce

March 6, 2019January 6th, 2022

IF a European title is to be paraded at the Bernabeu this season, then it will be earned on the basketball court rather than the football field.

Money cannot buy another Champions League for Real Madrid. But their ambitions to defend their EuroLeague crown are very much still alive, even if they badly need to make a statement when leaders Fenerbahce visit the Spanish capital on Thursday in a rematch of last season’s final.

It is not as if the Turks are running on a tight budget. Jan Vesely and Gigi Datome come with the price premium of NBA experience.

It’s just that Real, who are now 4.00 for the title, expect and demand success – and enjoyed enough of late to believe it should be theirs.

Underwhelming years from the likes of Fabien Causeur and Jeffery Taylor haven’t helped. Nor has a quest for real chemistry that’s left Anthony Randolph as the only ever-present starter.

Third place in the regular season standings, with just six rounds left, is not where they wished to be. And Real, three defeats behind Fener on 18-6 record, are faltering at just the wrong time with two losses in their last three in Europe including last week’s 77-70 dent in El Clasico against FC Barcelona.

Scoring at home has never been a problem for the Madrilenos. They put up a league-high 91.67 points per game on their own court, 13 above their road average, and enough for a home differential of +14.

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But Fenerbahce have been locks on their travels, holding rivals to a league-low 74.17 points on their own floor. And their top-ranked defence was in evidence when they eeked out a 65-63 victory over Real in Istanbul earlier in the campaign, with Datome notching a game-winning three-pointer with 6.6 seconds left.

Stop Madrid’s offense, up the odds. In their six reverses, they have scored just 73.67 per game. Contrast that with the pacesetters, who still collect 82.33 in defeats, of which there have been precious few.

It underlined why Fener, the 2.75 EuroLeague favourites, have already clinched homecourt advantage in the playoffs when it knocked off fourth-placed Efes Istanbul by 18 last week.

And in what should be a contest that offers pointers to what lies ahead, the visitors look great value at 2.60 for a victory.

Best bet:  Go under 159.5 total points in Real Madrid – Fenerbahce at 1.91

Could fourth place – and a vital playoff tiebreaker – be decided on Friday when FC Barcelona travel to Efes Istanbul in a battle of two 15-9 teams who are currently scheduled to square off again in the post-season?

The Turks have lost three of their last five while Barca has won four straight with a fifth allowed them to move them above their hosts.

The Catalan giants possess the second-best defence in the league, conceding 75.7 ppg. and they’ve conceded just 66 per during their winning streak.

However, Efes, who are 1.70 to win, remain very solid on their home floor even though there’s better value in going under 155.5 total points.

EFES V BARCELONA: FULL MATCH BETTING