WHILE the world’s best basketball league is down to its final two teams, the second-best national competition has cut its list of contenders to four.
And while three of the four semi-finalists in the ACB Playoffs were predicted to reach this stage from their regular campaign position, one interloper will attempt to create another giant upset when the penultimate round begins this weekend.
Real Madrid – seeking solace for the loss of their EuroLeague crown – tip off their best of five series with Valencia on Thursday as the 1.38 favourites to retain their title and claim Spain’s championship for the 35th time.
Sports royals are regulars at basketball games across Europe. Pep Guardiola was a marquee guest at Manresa – Real Madrid game.pic.twitter.com/IfoMtWerPv
— Dmitry Planidin (@DmitryPlanidin) June 2, 2019
Their rivals – winners two years ago – came from behind to oust Unicaja Malaga in the quarters. But they head to the capital as 4.25 underdogs for Game 1 after losing both league meetings with Real, one by 88-70 on the back of a Sergio Llull tirade and the other 83-77.
Since their Euro disaster, Madrid’s goliaths have returned to form. Hammering Manresa in the previous round, they averaged 93 points per game and conceded a mere 74. Valencia’s fine shooting gives them a shot but they will need to win the centre battle between Bojan Dubljevic and Walter Tavares and hope that Real can be worn down with their defence.
And – who else! – but FC Barcelona will probably await them in the Finals. The Catalans are an astonishing 1.12 favourites to win Game 1 on Friday against surprise packets Zaragoza, who stunned Baskonia 2-0 to make the last quartet.
The outsiders are 6.25 for an opening upset with Barca claiming their two triumphs against Badalona by an average of 22.5. Their own defence has improved markedly since the turn of 2019 and going under 157 total points at 3.30 is worth a punt.
And with both series rotating almost every night over a nine-day spell, the extra potential rest that Barcelona may receive could justify a bet on them at 3.25 for a first title since 2016.
France will also determine its LNB Playoff finalists in the days ahead with Asvel Villeurbanne and Monaco poised to advance.
The duo hold 2-0 cushions over Nanterre and Dijon respectively and, having finished in the top two in the league, it would be a shock if they slipped up.
However, Dijon now head home for the next two games in order to save their season with Game 3 on Thursday. They are 1.86 to triumph and if they can keep the combined points total under 154, also available at 1.86, they should have a shot at prolonging their bid.
The other giant league heading towards its conclusion is down to three with beaten EuroLeague finalists sealing their spot in the Turkish Superleague finals by polishing off Galatasaray in a 3-0 sweep.
Dethroned Euro champions Fenerbahce have the opportunity to join them and are 1.22 to kill off the challenge of Tofas on Thursday after holding the outsiders to 64 and 68 points in the previous two meetings.